Why Wellness?

Sick of being bombarded by “wellness” everywhere you turn? You’re not alone. BUT, before you write it off completely, we’re here to explain what it really is, and why you should care. 


It’s no secret that the idea of holistic health and wellness has become a major topic in recent years, and, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely come across the term wellness a few (or a million) times. While the concept of well-being – the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy – certainly isn’t new (it actually dates back to the 16th century) [1], the term wellness – the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal [2] – is much more recent, not really showing up until the mid 20th century.[3] But, wow, has it become pervasive in the years since. Today, “wellness” is a societal buzzword, often used by marketers to sell a product or service with promises of a better, healthier, more holistic life. Often, the word wellness is tied to aspirational figures who seem to have it all figured out, and even more often, wellness comes with a price tag. From celebrities sharing their newest diets and workout regimens, to influencers posting their aesthetic morning routines and journaling prompts, the term wellness has expanded to take on many different meanings. Here, we aim to break through all the noise and break down what wellness really is, why it’s so important, and why you should care. 


What is Wellness? 


At its core, wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving. While the origins of wellness can be traced back to ancient times, the modern version of wellness that we think of today can be dated back to the 1950s, specifically to a book written by physician Halbert L. Dunn called High Level Wellness.[4] In his work, Dunn was innovative in promoting the novel idea that there was more to health than just the absence of disease. This work was crucial in creating the comprehensive models of wellness that are still in use today. 


When defining wellness, it is important to note the distinction between wellness and health. The two are inherently connected, but still different. According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”[5] In short, health is a state of being, while wellness is the state of actively living a healthy lifestyle. The good thing is, if you’re practicing wellness, you’re inherently improving your physical, mental and emotional health! According data gathered by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, women who practiced wellness by adopting healthy habits based on the Dimensions of Wellness(we’ll get into that later) extended their lifespan by an average of 10 years, and men who adopted healthy habits added an a extra eight years to their lifespan.[6] Let that sink in…


What’s the right way to practice wellness? 


So, now you know what wellness means and how it’s related to your overall health. Next up, how can you incorporate it into your life in a way that will help you feel better? The quick answer is, it’s not that hard. There are more ways to practice wellness than you think. Several key areas of our lives are connected to wellness, and these areas usually show up in one of eight pillars that you can always turn to. These eight Dimensions of Wellness were created by Dr. Margaret Swarbrick, and include physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental, financial, occupational and spiritual wellness.[7] Practicing wellness within each of these pillars can holistically improve your health, and in turn lead to a longer, happier life. If you want to learn more about each pillar of wellness and find ideas on how to optimally practice wellness within these pillars, you can check out Dr. Swarbrick’s booklet Wellness in Eight Dimensions here


Why Is Wellness So Important? 


The research clearly shows that wellness is more than a trendy buzzword; it’s crucial to a long and healthy life. Our overall state of wellness impacts everything we think, do, and feel and, in turn, is also impacted by our thoughts and actions – – it’s a constant feedback loop! So, why wellness? To reduce the risk of illness, ensure positive interactions, guarantee emotional harmony, and to live a long and fruitful life. 


[1] https://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227050#:~:text=1.,Hoby%20tr.
[3] https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=7&case_insensitive=on&content=wellness
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1372807/?page=1
[5] https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution
[6] https://time.com/5761592/how-to-live-longer-and-healthier/
[7] https://www.center4healthandsdc.org