The term “wellness” has ancient roots yet is contemporary. The foundational ideas of health, which are comprehensive and preventative, date back to the ancient East (India, China) and West (Greece, Rome). A multitude of intellectual, religious, and medical movements emerged alongside traditional medicine in 19th-century Europe and the United States. These movements, which emphasize natural and holistic methods, self-healing, and preventative treatment, have laid a solid basis for wellness that exists today. Thanks to the writings and thought leadership of an informal network of US physicians and intellectuals (including Halbert Dunn, Jack Travis, Don Ardell, Bill Hettler, and others), wellness-focused and holistic approaches have become increasingly well-known during the 1960s and 1970s. These have influenced the healthy-living, self-help, self-care, exercise, nutrition, food, and spiritual practices that have grown into a thriving wellness movement in the twenty-first century as they have developed, multiplied, and entered the mainstream.
This definition involves two key elements. First of all, wellness is a “active pursuit” that involves goals, decisions, and deeds as we strive for the best possible state of health and wellbeing rather than a passive or static one. Second, holistic health—which includes many distinct aspects that should coexist—is connected to wellbeing. Holistic health goes beyond physical health.
Although we are all responsible for our own decisions, actions, and lifestyles, wellness is also greatly impacted by the social, cultural, and physical contexts in which we live.
Terms like health, happiness, and well-being are frequently used interchangeably with wellness. Although they have certain similarities, wellness differs in that it does not relate to a fixed state of being (such as happiness, good health, or a state of wellbeing). Instead, wellness is linked to a proactive process of awareness and decision-making that results in the best possible overall health and well-being.
The Continuum of Wellbeing
Seeing health as a continuum that stretches from sickness to a state of maximum wellbeing is one approach to conceptualize wellness. On the one hand, sick individuals use the medical paradigm to treat their ailments; they communicate with medical professionals in a reactive and episodic manner. On the other extreme, individuals prioritize being as healthy as possible and taking preventative measures. They take up behaviors and attitudes that promote wellness, ward off illness, and raise their standard of living. Put differently, wellness is centered on self-responsibility, prevention, and preventative measures. Wellness is expanding as a result of these consumer values and worldviews.
Health care is not the same as wellness. Our healthcare systems focus on the causes, effects, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses and injuries, using a pathogenic and reactive approach. In contrast, wellness is a salutogenic and proactive strategy, focusing on prevention, healthy lifestyles and the pursuit of optimal wellbeing. In the end, a strong foundation for wellness aids in the prevention and treatment of disease, both now and in the future.
Health versus Welfare
Researchers, corporations, and the media have frequently used the phrases “wellness,” “wellbeing,” and “happiness” in the same sentence or interchangeably. This diagram shows the differences in idea, use, and relationship between these phrases as well as their commonalities.