Wellness: The elusive yet omnipresent word that continues to permeate our daily lives. But what is wellness, exactly?
A quick google search of the word “wellness” yields results that vary widely. Some sites provide tangible definitions of the word, while others insist you must enroll in a seven-day retreat to Mexico in order to fully embody wellness. Additionally, there are a handful of platforms that classify ideas into a wellness “category,” each consisting of must-read articles that range from detox and our planet, to spirituality and well-being.
More so than not, health and wellness have been grouped into a single category and used interchangeably. But what is wellness? Is it the same as health? Although the two are very much related, it is also important to note that they are not synonymous with one another. Identifying the differences is key to understanding what wellness is and what it isn’t.
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, in the absence of disease or infirmity.
Psychology Today describes wellness as a “proactive state”, in which one is engaged in constantly adapting to various important aspects of life.
What we can impart from both of these sources is that health and wellness build upon one another; if you encompass a positive mindset and actively strengthen your mind, body and soul, your health is going to reflect that. Because wellness truly is a state of physical, mental and social well-being, it is important to look at each of those in more detail before putting them together.
Upon hearing the question, “what is wellness?” your mind may immediately jump to images of physically fit individuals. As a society, we have become conditioned to believe that the more time you spend at the gym, the better you will look and feel.
Physical wellness may also conjure up images of people on specific diets. Those who eat kale salads for lunch are deemed more physically healthy than those reaching for a hamburger or a quesadilla.
It is important to note that physical wellness should and will look different for each person, and that bio-individuality is key. Yoga and brisk walks may be the best medicine for someone looking to lower cortisol levels in the morning, while higher intensity training may help energize someone else to start their day.
There will also be differences in physical wellness depending on your gender and age. Because men’s hormones follow the same pattern every day and women’s hormones and metabolism fluctuate, types and timing of optimal exercise will vary. Listening to your body to maximize a fitness routine is key.
Ways to Improve Physical Wellness
Although physical wellness differs for each individual, listening to your body and trying out different strategies to improve this area of wellness can be beneficial. The following list of ideas can help to support an individual’s physical wellness:
- Consuming a balanced diet low in sugar and high in nutrient-dense foods
- Prioritizing good sleep routines
- Going to bed at a similar time each night
- Drinking plenty of water (think at least half your weight in ounces each day!)
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Partnering with a doctor who listens
- Getting outside and immersing yourself in nature
- Being active
Emotional wellness has to do with our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. When we are emotionally “well,” we can recognize and accept our feelings (both positive and negative). Fleeting thoughts become just that; we can separate our thoughts from who we are as individuals. But what do you do when stress and anxiety are at their highest? What is wellness then?
In life, it is inevitable that adversity, stress and change will arise. Some even argue that these negative things help us to learn and grow. When we embody a sense of emotional wellness, we feel adaptable and open-minded in adverse situations.
Emotional wellness is also strongly correlated with our relationships with other people. When we are in tune with our own feelings and behaviors, we are also aware of the way they may impact others around us. Being emotionally aware enables us to shift perspective, actively listen to others, and empathize.
Ways to Improve Emotional Wellness
Thankfully, there are many ways to work on your emotional wellness. It takes effort, like anything else in life, but can yield rewarding results. The following list may help you to shift away from anxiety and negativity and move towards acceptance:
- Limit screen time
- Practice mindfulness and/or meditation techniques
- Spend more time outdoors
- Practice listening to others and asking questions
- Manage stress through positive coping mechanisms
- Practice affirmations and positive self-talk
- Give yourself grace if you feed into negativity. It takes time and practice to truly become more mindful!
Humans are an innately social species that seek connection and relationships. Social wellness is the ability to form connections with others and maintain those connections over time.
You may be wondering, “what is wellness?” if I do not enjoy going out and interacting with others?” Recognizing this about yourself is actually a step in the direction towards social and emotional wellness! To continue to foster relationships with others, take the opportunity to reach out to a friend or family member over the phone once a week. Connecting with friends and family through conversation helps to combat feelings of loneliness, similarly to the way larger gatherings do.
Even if you consider yourself to be more introverted, still trying to maintain a sense of community has been shown to lower rates of anxiety and depression.
Ways to Improve Social Wellness
If we want to prioritize social wellness in our lives, there are various ways to do so. The following list of ideas can help to support our relationships with others:
- Implement Family Dinners: Research shows that family dinners help to foster relationships with children
- Call a friend
- Schedule FaceTime or Skype dates with loved ones simply to catch up
- Make an effort to build upon new relationships
- Recite some self-affirmations in the morning or before bed
- Get involved in a community project
- Acknowledge social activities that serve you and ones that do not
Although wellness comes in many different forms, all are deeply intertwined with one another. The next time someone tells you the retreat to Mexico is your real ticket to wellness, remind yourself that wellness comes from within. This understanding will elicit confidence, happiness, and acceptance, all of which will help you to embody what it means to be healthy and well.
Visit the TelMD Upstream Blog for more ways to achieve optimal wellness!
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