What the Term Wellness Means to Me

Updated on March 14, 2019
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Anne has a BSc in Applied Psychology and is also a qualified Professional Sports and Holistic Massage Therapist in Dublin, Ireland.

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Definition of Wellness

To me, "wellness" is an awareness of the connection between our physical, mental and spiritual self. And from that awareness comes our desire to move towards the integration of all three.

What Is Our Spiritual Self?

By our spiritual self, I simply mean such things as our capacity to be moved by beauty or kindness, [1] to delight in nature, to fall in love, to have compassion and understanding for ourselves, and by extension for the people around us. The things that touch us to our core resonate with our spiritual self. [2]

Delight in Nature

Butterfly
Butterfly | Source

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health

We humans have reached some understanding of the connection between our mental health and our physical health. [3] But mental health is so much more than not being depressed, and so much more than being happy. It’s about mental resilience; the ability to bounce back from disappointments, setbacks and even disasters. [4]. It’s also the ability to manage our anxieties and worries so that they don’t become chronic and begin to affect our physical health.

Positive Psychology and Mindfulness became ubiquitous over the past twenty years or so when talking about mental health. But both are often misused and misunderstood.

Understanding Positive Psychology

In an article published in the Millennial Issue of the American Psychologist, two well known and respected psychologists, Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi contended that psychology, up to that time, focused almost entirely on mental illness rather than on prevention. They proposed a framework for a science of positive psychology which the 15 articles in that issue of American Psychologist outlined. They suggested that emotions and behaviours such as responsibility, perseverance, courage, hope, wisdom and even spirituality needed to be encouraged rather than ignored. [5]

Since then, the science of positive psychology has grown in strength and acceptance and is now mainstream in every area of the science.

And yet positive psychology is still often misunderstood. Google the phrase “Tyranny of Positive Thinking,” and you will get over 5000,000 results. That’s because people have mixed up positive psychology with relentless positive thinking and because that doesn’t work, they’ve damned the whole concept. Positive psychology is not relentless positive thinking. Positive psychology is actually...

A scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior with a focus on strengths instead of weakness, building the good in life instead of (only) repairing the bad...(Peterson, 2008).[6]

If you’d like to know more, there are some good articles on positive psychology here.

Tyranny of Positive Thinking

Over 5000,000 results
Over 5000,000 results | Source

Mindfulness: "It Is What It Is"

One of the tools in building that “good life” is Mindfulness. And mindfulness is also frequently misunderstood. It is often misrepresented as a fatalistic and powerless attitude towards life. How often have your heard the phrase “It is what it is” used as a reason to do nothing about a situation? But mindfulness is anything but powerless. Mindfulness is in fact empowering.

Mindfulness is often primarily associated with Buddhism, although you do not have to share the Buddhist philosophy in order to practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zin is one of the people responsible for bringing mindfulness to the western world, and he defines mindfulness as

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zin

We must acknowledge, allow and respect our uncomfortable emotions. But by constantly thinking about the circumstances that led to those uncomfortable emotions, we are creating a vicious circle of remembering and reacting. We are living in the past. Similarly, if we are constantly anxious and worried about the future, we are living in the future of our imagination.

Yet realistically, only the present exists. The past is gone, and the future is only in our imagination, so we must live in the present. And in the present, we can learn from the past, and we can plan and take action to make things better for the future.

If you’d like to know more about mindfulness, this is a good website.

Essential Life Skills for Health

Learning mindfulness and the use of positive psychology for our mental health takes training and practice. Yet for our mental health, they are essential life skills, just as learning how to cook nutritious meals and taking care of our body is essential for our physical health. And when our mind and body is healthy, we are better able to notice and appreciate those things in life that bring us joy and touch us to our core. That is the truly holistic approach to our health. That, to me, is "wellness."

References

  1. Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). "Witnessing excellence in action: the 'other-praising' emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration." Journal Of Positive Psychology, 4(2), 105-127. doi:10.1080/17439760802650519
  2. Kelly, A. (2013). "Investigating the Link between Spiritual Intelligence and Life Satisfaction." BSc Applied Psychology Final Year Research Project.
  3. Sheldon,K.M., Kashdan, T.B, & Steger, M.F ( 2011), (Eds.) Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward. Oxford. Oxford University Press
  4. Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). "Resilient Individuals Use Positive Emotions to Bounce Back From Negative Emotional Experiences." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(2), 320–333. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.86.2.320
  5. Seligman MEP, Csikszentmihalyi M (2000) (Eds.). "Special issue on happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning." American Psychologist 55: 5-183.
  6. Peterson, C. (2008). "What is positive psychology, and what is it not?" Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not
  7. Fredickson, B.L., (2001). "The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden and build theory of positive emotions." American Psychology, 56, 218-226.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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