Health is not only the absence of infirmity and disease, but also a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing
–World Health Organization
We can also include other social determinants of health, such as environmental (a safe home, free from toxins and pollutants), spiritual (secure belief system, experiences beyond oneself, a connection with nature) , intellectual (access to school and learning), financial (a secure job, enough money to pay bills,) and political (free from oppression and violence) aspects. Health is holistic in nature and we need to view this larger picture in order to determine one’s true state of health.
All of these systems are connected in ways that affect one another.
For example, political or social exclusion can result in emotional turmoil —> emotional distress can manifest itself in physical symptoms —> physical symptoms and sickness can result in one having to take time off work and therefore not being able to pay bills.
We cannot limit our focus to only one or two of these aspects, such as how our western biomedical model of health asserts. Treating only physical symptoms of an illness compartmentalizes an individual and fails to trace back where these symptoms originate.
I will admit, I am a product of this culture and I usually expect a quick fix. I will take medication (though usually very apprehensively), but I will struggle to change my automatic thoughts that lead to my anxiety. that takes work! I am aware of how to go about doing it (I’ve read lots of information), but I have problems committing fully to something new, easily falling back into old familiar habits.
I’m perusing through a book right now which was actually given to my partner to read. It’s called the “Wellness Workbook” and they define the word Wellness as:
- a choice – a decision you make to move forward towards optimal health
- a way of life – a lifestyle you design to achieve your highest potential for well-being
- a process – developing awareness that there is no end point, but that health and happiness are possible in each moment, here and now
- an effective channelling of energy – energy received from the environment, transformed within you, and sent on to affect the world outside
- the integration of mind, body and spirit – the appreciation that everything you do, and think, and feel, and believe, has an impact on your state of health
- the loving acceptance of yourself
It’s nice to note that nothing here mentions anything about the presence or absence of physical disease or illness. It illustrates that an individual can be sick in the typical sense of the word, but still achieve wellness. Wellness has multiple definitions, multiple degrees and multiple experiences.
How would you define “wellness”?
*image credit: university of nebraska-lincoln, wellness initiative