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What is Wellness ?

September 29, 2022

What is Wellness?

Wellness is a modern word with ancient roots. The key tenets of wellness as both preventive and holistic can be traced back to ancient civilizations from the East (India, China) to the West (Greece, Rome). In 19th-century Europe and the United States, a variety of intellectual, religious, and medical movements developed in parallel with conventional medicine. With their focus on holistic and natural approaches, self-healing, and preventive care, these movements have provided a firm foundation for wellness today. Wellness-focused and holistic modalities have gained more visibility since the 1960s and 1970s under the writings and thought leadership of an informal network of US physicians and thinkers, As these have evolved, proliferated, and gone mainstream, they have informed the healthy-living, self-help, self-care, fitness, nutrition, diet, and spiritual practises that have become a flourishing wellness movement in the 21st century.

There are two important aspects to this definition. First, wellness is not a passive or static state but rather an “active pursuit” that is associated with intentions, choices, and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health and wellbeing. Second, wellness is linked to holistic health—that is, it extends beyond physical health and incorporates many different dimensions that should work in harmony.

Wellness is an individual pursuit—we have self-responsibility for our own choices, behaviors, and lifestyles—but it is also significantly influenced by the physical, social, and cultural environments in which we live.

Wellness is often confused with terms such as health, wellbeing, and happiness. While there are common elements among them, wellness is distinguished by not referring to a static state of being (i.e., being happy, in good health, or a state of wellbeing). Rather, wellness is associated with an active process of being aware and making choices that lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and wellbeing.

Wellness vs. Wellbeing

The terms “wellness,” “wellbeing” and “happiness” have often been used together or interchangeably by businesses, researchers and the media. This graphic outlines what they share in common and how these terms differ in concept, usage, and association.

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