Note: This post was written several months back, but never posted. At the last minute, I wrote Wellness Equals Happiness: It’s really that simple and posted that instead. So, here’s the original post on what wellness means to me:

A friend recently asked me to define wellness. Although I talk about it everyday, the conversations usually focus on helping my clients define wellness for themselves. The question prompted me to revisit my own thoughts on wellness.

Webster’s Dictionary defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.” A decent definition, but I like the University of Illinois’ McKinley Institute‘s better: “wellness is a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential.

Physical health is obviously central to wellness–without it, the quality of our experiences in all areas of life is diminished. But, physical health is only one aspect of wellness. Wellness encompasses body, mind and spirit–each of which requires nourishment, challenge, and time and space for recovery. Wellness applies to all areas of our lives:

  • Physical Body
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Environment
  • Emotions & Attitudes
  • Occupation or Purpose

For me, wellness requires applying several core principles and values to each area of my life:

Responsibility–Achieving wellness requires accepting responsibility for the areas I can influence and relinquishing responsibility for those I can’t. I believe that each of us is responsible for our own health and happiness. We cannot, however, take on responsibility for the health and happiness of our loved ones–as much as we may want to do so. Instead, we can support, encourage, and lead by example.

Commitment–Wellness requires ongoing learning, introspection, and growth. It’s not a goal that we can achieve and then set aside. It is a series of choices made every day.

Balance–Years ago I observed that sometimes when I achieved success in one area of my life, another suffered. Ping-ponging back and forth from one area to another is exhausting. The trick to wellness is balancing success in all areas. That may mean achieving less in one area to ensure that another doesn’t suffer.

Authenticity–I don’t believe wellness is possible unless one is living a life that expresses who s/he truly is. Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert described the events leading to her journey of self discovery as “the realization that the life I was living on the outside didn’t match who I was on the inside.” To me, part of wellness is matching my life on the outside to what’s inside.

Flexibility–I believe wellness is a journey. Our wellness goals grow and evolve as we grow and evolve. My definition of wellness changes as I learn more about health, wellness, and–most importantly–myself.

So, this is where I am with wellness today. It’s not exactly where I was yesterday and it likely won’t be where I am tomorrow. I begin every day from where I am. In the coming months, I will be talking with others about what wellness means to them and sharing their thoughts and ideas here. What does wellness mean to you?

Be well!