They’re terms that many people use interchangeably – wellness and well-being – yet they’re very different in meaning. Which we give precedence to and how we think about it can make a big difference to our lives and those of people with whom we interact. This article sets out to explore how the subjects are interpreted and why we need to take good care of both elements.
The simpler of the two terms – at least at first glance – is wellness. It applies to our bodies’ general health and (depending on who you talk to) our minds. There’s a 1976 model developed by the National Wellness Institute, which identifies six dimensions of wellness, including occupational, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects. Still, today most people understand wellness primarily in terms of the condition of the body. This isn’t just about avoiding or minimizing illness. It’s about eating well, staying hydrated, exercising enough to remain in good shape, and taking care of the skin and hair. It’s about prioritizing the body when facing many demands and doing what’s needed to optimize health both in the present and over the long term.
Well-being is always used in a more holistic way. It’s about the overall state of being, and it always incorporates mental health. As well as the concepts referenced above, it includes a focus on financial health and general insecurity because it’s not possible to be entirely well if you’re living in poverty or if you’re always afraid that the security you have in life is going to fall away. Increasingly, well-being is the term used in public policy because it’s a better measure of the overall situation of an individual or a population.
A practical approach
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” wrote the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and when it comes to wellness and well-being, we all have to accept that some things are out of our control. We can’t choose the social and financial circumstances we’re born into, and factors like disability and illness can affect us no matter how well we take care of ourselves. That said, we can all try to do our best with the cards that life deals us.
Taking a practical approach to wellness and well-being means not trying to follow a set way of doing things but finding a strategy that works for you. It begins with working out how your specific needs fit into the larger aims described above. You might need to focus on particular forms of exercise or, if you lead a life with a lot of unavoidable stress, spend extra time on meditation. Whether you’re just starting a meditation practice, or you’re an advanced practitioner, Mala beads are a great tool to help focus your attention. You might benefit from wellness tinctures like the increasingly popular CBD wellness tincture, or you might need to adjust your diet. Taking a holistic approach doesn’t mean trying to solve everything at once. You will need to think through the different ways in which you can take better care of yourself and work out the most practical way to prioritize them.
Finding a balance
The difficult truth about improving your wellness and well-being is that sometimes they can clash with each other. For instance, looking after your mental health might require more downtime, while looking after your financial well-being might require you to work more. The most important thing is to find a balance, but that doesn’t mean simply trying to do a bit of everything. Instead, you need to work out the set of priorities that will benefit you most overall. Taking the time you need to get into a good place emotionally, even if it means living on the breadline for a few months, might mean that you can then return to work with renewed vigor. Because you can then work more efficiently, you can make money more easily without exhausting yourself.
When you strike the right balance in some areas, you’ll find that things come together more easily in others. For instance, finding spiritual peace can improve your overall wellness by reducing feelings of stress and related physical symptoms. Improving your social situation can improve the intellectual opportunities available to you, empowering you to make better decisions about your health.
Supporting the wellness and well-being of others
Helping loved ones to achieve wellness is a priority for most of us, and many people also work to promote wellness in their communities or through charities. The concept of well-being helps us to put that into a broader context. It makes it easier to recognize that we all have different needs and that we need to take multiple factors into account to make sure that our efforts are meaningful. For instance, if trying to help somebody get enough food, you need to recognize that their spiritual concerns might make some foods inappropriate for them.
Taking wellness and well-being into account helps us improve life in substantial, meaningful ways for ourselves and others. Ultimately, it allows us to work towards the development of a more healthy and prosperous society.