The Difference Between Health and Wellness
The concept of wellness is relatively new and is a mystery to some people. It is often confused with health even though the two terms are not synonymous. Yet most of us want to be well and healthy. But what exactly is the difference between health and wellness?
Being healthy refers to being disease free, both physically and mentally. Some of the ways to be healthy include exercising, eating nutritious food, avoiding foods that cause disease, maintaining normal blood pressure, reducing our body fat, maintaining proper weight, getting sufficient sleep every day, not smoking, avoiding harmful substances like drugs, limiting alcohol intake, etc.
Wellness, on the other hand, is more all-encompassing. It involves various aspects of well-being, specifically physical, emotional, occupational, spiritual, social, environmental, and intellectual. It includes physical health, but it also is so much more than that.
True wellness is not a state we reach. Rather, it is a balance we try to maintain. Exercising, stopping smoking, or losing weight will make you healthier, but it does not mean that you are well in the ‘wellness’ sense. You can be healthy (free of disease) but also have other areas of your life that are out of balance, meaning that you are not truly well. Let’s look at the different aspects of wellness.
As we pointed out, being healthy means that your body and mind are free of disease. Regular exercise, eating healthy food, losing weight, taking your daily vitamins, avoiding smoking and drugs, getting adequate rest, maintaining proper blood pressure, and limiting your alcohol intake all contribute towards being healthy. It is one of the components of wellness.
Our emotions are another component of wellness. It includes being happy, mindful, positive, optimistic, content, free of stress, forgiving, equanimous, and at peace. When the emotional aspect of our lives is out of whack, we are not experiencing real wellness. People who are not emotionally well are codependent, miserable, stressed, always wanting, pessimistic, and resentful.
This aspect of wellness has to do with our careers and work. Are you happy going to work? Do you derive satisfaction from your job? Does your career afford you meaning, a sense of purpose and the opportunity for growth? Do you make enough money to make you happy? Are you rewarded appropriately? Are you a workaholic? Many people loathe their jobs and merely go through the motions daily in order to secure a paycheck. Since our occupations require a large portion of our time, it is a vital part of wellness.
Spiritual wellness is something that many people overlook, yet it is important. It does not have to include religion, although it can. It is concerned with the meaning of our lives, making time for daily reflection, being aware of our connection to others, nature, and the world at large, being able to forgive when we are wronged, being kind, helping others, our core beliefs, empathy, compassion, our life purpose, and our sense of wrong and right.
Social wellness includes the quality of our relationships with others, having free time to socialize with those we care about, our ability to be who we are when we are with others, being involved in our community, experiencing love, having a loving family and a deep connection with each member, learning from others, trust, honesty, and helping others while also receiving help from them. There are some people who are miserable because they do not have a deep connection with others and are lonely.
This is probably the most overlooked aspect of wellness. Do you care about the environment and respect the fact that its resources are limited? Do you make an effort to have as little an impact as possible on the environment? Do you replenish what you take? Do you do your part to keep the world healthy for your children and future generations? Are you aware of your daily habits that impact our surroundings? Do you cast your vote responsibly by purchasing products from manufacturers that do not exploit the earth? All these factors affect our planet and therefore, affect us and everyone else.
Intellectual wellness is important because human beings are designed to grow intellectually. Are you able to think critically and fairly? Are you exposed to new ideas and concepts? Do you appreciate and accept people who are different from you? Are you able to formulate effective ideas and solve problems in a logical manner? Do you stimulate your mind by engaging in activities such as reading and problem solving? Do you leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself? Do you improve your creativity using art, music and other creative pursuits?
There are a lot of people who are healthy but not well. For example, I go to the gym five days a week to exercise, generally eat healthy, take my daily vitamins and get enough sleep. But I also have to work on the other six aspects of wellness if I want to be truly well. We all know people who might make a lot of money and are wealthy, yet they are severely deficient in other aspects of their lives. They may be incredibly lonely, or angry most of the time, or they do not have time to relax and reflect, or they myopically deplete and destroy the environment, or they spend all their time in bars and do not stimulate their intellect, or they are miserable every day at work. That is one reason why so many famous and successful people commit suicide, are addicted to drugs and alcohol, and are unhappy or unfulfilled. It is not that money or success are bad, but they are useless and unfulfilling without authentic wellness.
If your mind and body are free of disease, you are probably healthy. But remember that wellness is a balance that we must constantly strive to maintain. It is this delicate balancing act between the physical, emotional, occupational, spiritual, social, environmental, and intellectual aspects of our lives that dictates our wellness. It is not a destination point you reach. It requires daily effort. It can also be likened to authentic success in that both concepts are constant works in progress rather than fixed goals to achieve. Once we understand and grasp the difference between wellness and health, we can not only make the effort to be healthy, but also aim to experience real wellness. This allows us to exploit our full potential and to lead magnificent lives. I wish you well.