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A Guide to Health and Wellness

What is Health and Wellness?

The term Health and Wellness is thrown around a lot, especially these days.  But what does it actually mean and represent? The meaning and origin of each term is different but generally, both terms are used interchangeably. 

Health is referred to as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.  This description was established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the 1940s. 

Wellness, on the other hand, is “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence”.  This definition of wellness was set out by the National Wellness Institute (NWI).  

The key difference between health and wellness is health is a state of being, and wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle. You cannot have health without striving for wellness.  The two go hand in hand. 

The main determinants of health include social, economic, & physical environments and the person’s individual characteristics and behaviours.  Achieving, maintaining, and improving health relies on the efforts and smart lifestyle choices of a person, as well as environmental or external factors.  Health heavily depends on wellness.

There are 8 pillars of wellness:

  1. Physical,
  2. Spiritual,
  3. Social,
  4. Intellectual,
  5. Emotional/Mental,
  6. Occupational,
  7. Environmental,
  8. Financial.

Wellness is self-directed and is a continuous process of achieving full potential in a multidimensional manner (8 pillars of wellness). 

Health and wellness is for everyone.  Everyone can aim to lead a healthy life with wellness at the forefront.  It is a personal, conscious decision to achieve wellness, and the benefits you will reap will be affirming and positive.

Roots & Evolution of Wellness

The term health has been around for a long time, but it was partly inspired by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948 when they first defined health. 

On the other hand, wellness can be traced back to the 16th century (1650s to be precise).  The concept of wellness was populated by a physicist called Dr. Halbert L. Dunn in the 1950s.  He published his work in 1961, called ‘High-Level Wellness’.  Dr. Dunn brought the term ‘wellness’ to use in the U.S.  

A woman called Margaret Swarbrick created the 8 dimensions of wellness.  With ancient roots, the idea of wellness has evolved through the 20th century as a modern concept, practiced by millions all over the world.

A holistic method called Ayurveda began in 3,000-1,500 B.C. and originated in ancient India.  Ayurveda means knowledge of life and longevity & comes from the ancient body of spiritual teachings known as the Vedas (religious text of ancient India).  This 5,000-year-old system is aimed to provide lifestyle & food guidance.  Ayurveda is based on eating certain foods according to your body type, in hope to boost wellness and manage weight, hence, improving health.  Using the correct food to create balance, results in harmony in the body, mind, and spirit.

In the 19th century, new intellectual, spiritual practices evolved, such as homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, and hydrotherapy.   These practices are widely used in Europe and the U.S.  These practices encourage positive lifestyle measures such as diet & exercise to help and improve health & wellness.   

Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, created Homeopathy in 1796.  Homeopathy promotes self-healing responses in the body by utilising natural substances.  In the 1860s, a German priest called Sebastian Kneipp discovered hydrotherapy, and is known as the father of hydrotherapy.  Hydrotherapy is the use of water as treatment, and Kneipp believed that any disease could be treated using water and to eliminate waste from the body.  In modern day, hydrotherapy is in the form of baths, saunas, showers, physical therapy tanks, hot tubs and swimming pools.  A doctor called Andrew Taylor Still founded osteopathy in the 1870s, and it involves the physical manipulation of the body’s tissues, joints, and muscles.  Osteopaths are practitioners who perform osteopathy.  In the 1880s, a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner, completed his nutritional research, and advocated for a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.  He was a pioneer nutritionist who popularised raw food vegetarianism.  Daniel David Palmer was the founder Chiropractic, discovered in the 1890s.  Chiropractic is based on the body’s structure and functioning. 

In the 20th century, Dr. John Travis, Don Ardell, Dr. Bill Hettler, and others were known as the ‘fathers of the wellness movement’.   In 1970, the wellness fathers embraced the previous work of Dr. Halbert Dunn but adapted his work to create their own comprehensive, modern models of wellness. 

The world’s first wellness centre was opened in California by Dr. John Travis in 1970s.  Dr. John Travis published a 12-dimension wellness assessment tool, The Wellness Inventory (1975) and The Wellness Workbook (1977).  Both are still widely used today.  They also opened the first university campus wellness centre, and founded the National Wellness Institute and National Wellness Conference in the U.S.

From 1980-2000, the wellness movement begins to gain momentum, and wellness is brought into the mainstream.  This time, it is taken more seriously by the medical, academic, and corporate organisations.   At the latter end of the 20th century, many corporations began developing workplace wellness programs.

From 2011-2018, new laws were created and introduced all over the world to tax water and juice-based drinks.  This was aimed at reducing obesity and diabetes as they were and continue to skyrocket.  In Ireland, the sugar tax on drinks was implemented in 2018 and between 2016-2018 for the UK. 

The first UN World Happiness Report was published in 2012 by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.  It is now an annual report.  It is a ground-breaking publication that accumulates data from the Gallup World Poll, to measure the amount of happiness in 155 countries.  It also identifies what causes happiness & misery in these areas.  

In 2014, research was conducted and released by The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) stating that the global wellness industry was worth $3.4 trillion and was 3.4 times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry! Wow.

In January 2018, the Global Wellness Institute performed the first comprehensive research to examine the $134 billion global wellness real estate and communities’ sector.  The report is called Build Well to Live Well, and it discovered that real estate and communities that deliberately put people’s health at the centre of design, creation and redevelopment are the next frontiers in real estate.  

As we are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, health and wellness are more important than ever.  Health and wellness focuses on promoting physical activity, healthy eating, and spiritual discoveries, in order to combat poor historic lifestyle choices which can lead to depression and sub-optimal wellbeing.  Self-discovery involves taking small, consistent steps in the right direction every day to lead to transformative results in the bigger picture. 

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