The concept of wellness is not new.
Most of us have a basic idea of what it means – in its contemporary connotation – but let’s check and see if this modern vision of wellness coincides with the traditional meaning of the word.
The first definition we found reads like this:
The quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.
That foregrounds the traditional definition and hints at the new concept of wellness.
Here’s the second definition we found. It has two parts:
- The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
- An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.
That one covers all the bases.
Wellness is the state of being healthy mind and body: that’s our traditional understanding. The idea that enhancing the health of body and mind together – and calling it wellness – is what we think of when we hear the word wellness in 2021. And the second part of that second definition shows us that the contemporary concept of wellness is now an integral part of our culture. It informs our approach to healthy living, healthcare, and the practice of healing, which we also call the practice of medicine.
We’ll take a leap and offer our concept of wellness. It includes the things we mentioned above, with our own angle:
Wellness is a practice that promotes the integrated health of the mind, body, and soul.
We’ll expand on that below, because that’s a simplified version of wellness. We discovered a comprehensive definition of the contemporary concept of wellness that we’ll share in a moment. First, we’ll talk briefly about National Wellness Month.
What is National Wellness Month?
National Wellness month was founded by the Live Love Spa in 2018 “…to foster community, connection, and commerce in the wellness industry.” The registrar at the National Day Calendar determined National Wellness month would be held every year during the month of August, in order to “inspire consumers to focus on wellness and provide a platform for wellness companies to highlight their services and benefits.”
Here’s what the founders of National Wellness Day advise. These are simple, easy ways to increase wellness in your daily life:
- Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day.
- Improve your diet by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Practice proper sleep hygiene.
- Start practicing healthy habits by joining a yoga class, a group exercise class, or a walking group.
- To manage stress, try mindful meditation.
Those are great tips. We think everyone should try them – especially people new to the concept of wellness and the idea of self-care.
To expand our understanding of wellness, we dug a little deeper. We found a resource that expands the concept of wellness and offers an excellent explanation of the breadth and depth of the concept: The Global Wellness Institute. For a complete history of wellness, click this link and read the page. It traces the concept of wellness all the way from its origins in Ayurvedic Medicine in India around 3000 B.C.E. to its inclusion in mainstream healthcare in the 21st century.
What we want to share with you, however, is their holistic definition of wellness and what they identify as the six core dimensions of wellness.
Wellness: A Comprehensive Definition + The Six Dimensions of Wellness
Here’s their definition of wellness, which encompasses both the traditional and modern facets of the concept. Wellness is:
- A conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential
- Multidimensional and holistic. It encompasses lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment
- Positive and affirming
That definition resonates with us, because it’s consonant with our own definition. It also aligns with our approach to mental health and addiction treatment for adolescents. We believe in a positive, affirming approach to teen treatment. We believe in a multidimensional, integrated approach to support for mental health and addiction disorders in teens. Finally, we believe that when recovery is conscious and self-directed, it allows our teens to achieve their full potential. In the words of Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – which we use in all of our teen treatment programs – it helps teens create “a life worth living.”
That sounds like what wellness advocates want for all of us: a way to create a life worth living.
That’s what we want for all of our teens, too.
Now we’re ready to present the dimensions of wellness, as defined by the Global Wellness Institute.
The Six Dimensions of Wellness
This dimension of wellness applies to the things we do to keep our bodies strong, healthy, and resilient. Wellness involves the recognition that regular physical activity promotes and supports a fulfilling life. The core tenets of the physical dimension of wellness include a recognition that consuming nutritious foods and beverages promotes good health and the idea that being in good physical condition supports overall wellness better than being in poor physical condition.
This dimension of wellness applies to the things we do to help the overall health of our environment and our community. The social dimension implies an understanding of the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, including people with one another, and the connection of people to the natural world. The core tenets of social wellness include a recognition that contributing to the common welfare of our communities is beneficial for everyone, and that living in harmony with our environment is more productive than living in conflict with it.
This dimension of wellness applies to the things we do to stimulate our mind and enhance our personal creativity in a way that’s meaningful to us. This involves embarking on a path of self-discovery, while sharing the fruits of that journey with our friends, family, and community. The core tenets of intellectual wellness include understanding that a continuous process of learning and creativity benefits us in the long run, and that applying our intellect to solve problems in new and innovative ways support both our happiness and the health of our communities in general.
This dimension of wellness involves our search for meaning and purpose in our lives. It may involve traditional religious and spiritual practices, and it may not: the choice is up to the individual. Spiritual wellness means developing an “a deep appreciation for the depth and expanse of life an natural forces that exist in the universe.” The core tenets of spiritual wellness include the understanding that a genuine curiosity about the meaning of life contributes to our overall happiness, that tolerance for the manner of other’s curiosity helps us all, and that we’re happiest when we live in a way that’s consistent with our personal values and beliefs.
This dimension of wellness prioritizes our ability to identify, understand, and accept our own feelings and internal life. It involves our ability to express our feelings effectively, and in turn, listen to and understand the feelings of others with empathy and compassion. When we can do these things, we’re able to make choices and engage in behaviors that lead to harmony between our heart and mind. The core tenets of emotional wellness include the idea that accepting our true emotions is a more productive choice then denying them, and that recognizing the reality and validity of other’s emotions enriches our lives by enhancing our capacity for empathy and compassion.
This dimension of wellness applies to the work we choose to do in our lives. An occupation that serves our wellness is one that aligns with our values, interests, and personal beliefs. Staying active and involved in an occupation we believe in serves our overall wellness.
Wellness and Mental Health Treatment for Teens
A contemporary approach to mental health treatment for teens includes the concept of wellness we describe in several ways throughout this article. This includes treatment for depression, anxiety, addiction, and behavioral disorders. When a mental health practitioner says they treat the whole person one thing they mean is that in addition to treating the specific disorder or disorders for which an individual receives a diagnosis, they also take steps to support and improve the other aspects of that person’s life – especially those that promote recovery.
That means addressing their physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and occupational health in addition to the psychological and behavioral health. That’s why it’s standard practice for mental health practitioners to develop a complete biopsychosocial profile of a teen in treatment. A biopsychosocial profile includes a wellness component, which contributes to overall wellbeing and is a cornerstone of total health.
Wellness and Complementary Activities: The Connection
For instance, an integrated treatment program for a teenager may include – in addition to therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI) – complementary activities that augment more traditional therapies. Many of these activities are exactly what wellness practitioners advise their peers and clients to adopt to improve their overall quality of life, such as:
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- Music, art, drama
- General exercise
Clinicians use these activities to teach teens in mental health treatment practical ways to manage stress and productive ways to process their emotions that are time-tested, durable, and effective. Once a teen learns mindfulness skills, they own them. The same is true for leaning how to stay in shape, learning yoga, or learning meditation. The knowledge becomes personalized, and is useful throughout their lives, in situations related to their mental health disorder – and to almost any situation they face.
That’s why we think everyone should practice wellness and celebrate National Wellness Month. The skills are easy to learn, and can help anyone improve their quality of life, throughout their entire life: that’s amazing.