For the past five or so years of my life, I have dedicated my time to understanding health. My reference to health is not simply the absence of pain or a diagnosable disease. Health is something more. Over these five years, I have noticed the word wellness thrown around with different ideas of what it means. This pushed me to explore within myself to find my definition of wellness.
So, after attending hundreds of hours of classes and lectures and spending more time than I would like to admit reading various articles, books and papers, this is what I have come up with.
Wellness cannot be offered in a single service or purchased at a store. Wellness is much more than that. The best definition that I have found is written by The National Wellness Association and they define wellness as “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.”
This definition is a great start to defining such a vague, but valuable term. I have come to understand that wellness is a journey towards true health. The wellness lifestyle does not focus on quick fixes for aches and pains or covering up the symptoms of the flu. The wellness lifestyle is focused on getting the most out of life.
While in chiropractic school, I was introduced to the idea of ‘Innate Intelligence.’ The concept is truly quite simple. Our bodies respond to sickness and dis-ease in an intelligent and coordinated way. So, the more I studied wellness, the more I came to understand that it is about staying out of our own way. It is about making decisions today, which allow us to have a better tomorrow. Wellness is about being PRO-ACTIVE rather than RE-AC TIVE.
With this concept of “Innate Intelligence” in mind, the question became, “How do we provide our bodies with what it needs to express itself in the healthiest way possible?” If we examine our body’s needs, we can identify a few things that are vitally important to achieve true wellness. We all know that without providing ourselves with nutrients, the body will break down quickly and we will quickly parish. So, it is quite clear that Eating Right is a very important part of wellness. But we also know that we can eat right, but still develop many diseases. So, what else does the body need? Movement. Regular movement is essential in order for the body to be able to express itself as a healthy being. Imagine a long day at work. As an 8 hour workday passes while sitting in front of a computer, we all become more and more tired. By the end of the day, we are exhausted. But what did we do that warrants the fatigue? The lack of movement is actually a stressful situation for your body, because it requires exercise in order to coordinate its functions.
While working with patients over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work with people who take the time to make sure they are eating foods that will help the body get sufficient amounts of nutrients, and they spend adequate amounts of time in the fitness center, but yet still find themselves with some state of discomfort and disease. These people typically have what I commonly refer to as a “Toxic Thought Process.” A toxic thought process can be described as poor self-talk and a general pessimistic point of view. There is a field of scientific study that is called psychoneuroimmunology, which studies how thoughts affect the body’s physiology. The scientists are finding that the thought of a stressful event actually causes the stress response.
In order for our bodies to maintain a level of homeostasis, or a state of wellness, we must understand how to give it what it needs. To give our bodies what they need, we must Eat Right, Exercise Regularly and Think Positively. It is important to understand too, that without all three of these things working together, the body will not express health to its fullest potential.
It really is a simple idea. Imagine being on a continuum. At one end it true health, and at the other end is death. We can imagine that we are on this continuum and the choices we make dictate our position. If we chose a 45 minute jog with our partner, we move towards health. If we decide to sit down to 3 hours of Sit-coms, we move towards death. It is a simple idea that helps to keep our choices in perspective.
So, what is Wellness? Wellness is a lifestyle. Wellness means understanding that our bodies have needs and are perfectly capable of expressing health and vitality beyond our wildest dreams. We just have to be sure to give it the things it needs to express true health and avoid giving it the things that prohibit it from being able to show how incredible we can feel. Wellness is not just about adding years to your life, it is about adding LIFE to your years!