The words wellbeing and wellness are often used interchangeably when referring to how you feel, how healthy you are, your happiness or how you’re doing overall with respect to living a balanced life. The difference between the two, however, can be significant. Whereas wellbeing refers to any one aspect of wellness, and is a large part of it, overall wellness brings forward the concept of balanced living in all major aspects of your life.
When I think of wellbeing I commonly think about my happiness. If I’m working on my wellbeing, then I’m working on my happiness. In addition, my overall wellbeing refers to how balanced I am in terms of feeling good and how well I respond to and interact with the ups and downs of every day life. So, for example, if I rate my wellbeing as ‘high’, then what I’m saying is that I feel I’m very happy, feel ‘well’ (mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically) , and feel confident that I am dealing well with both the positives and negatives of life. Overall, I feel balanced.
What wellbeing doesn’t refer to however, is the comprehensiveness of every integral aspect of my life and experience. For example, when I rate my wellbeing, although I’m considering my subjective measure of ‘balance’, I’m not necessarily thinking about my financial situation, my relationship with money, my specific relationship dimensions with my spouse, or even how I’m challenging myself and growing in the realm of learning (intellectually or otherwise). So to me, although wellbeing is an absolute critical aspect of overall wellness, wellbeing more so refers to the subjective level of my emotional or physical health, which are only a couple aspects in the overall picture of what I should be thinking about when I think of my overall wellness journey.
According to the Oxford dictionary, wellness, defined, is the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. Although I agree this definition provides a starting point to truly define wellness, it only provides a general acknowledgement as to what wellness is all about. When most people refer to ‘good health’, most assume the reference relates to physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental wellbeing or wellness. Yes, these are all great, helpful, positive and accurate definitions of what wellness means, yet there is more to it than just that. So in addition to this basic definition of wellness, I encourage you to open your mind and understanding that not only is this definition limited to somewhat of a general, subjective and basic reference, it also leaves out the critical details that ultimately define what wellness really is.
Here, in my opinion, and with the help of other reputable sources and people, is what truly defines wellness:
Being well or obtaining wellness means that one has obtained balance and congruence across all aspects of life. Here are the aspects that define all the major categories that intertwine wellness as a whole:
- Physical and emotional health (wellbeing)
- Mental and emotional outlook and attitude
- Partner/spouse relationships (love)
- Personal life mission
When it comes to wellness, there are multiple aspects in which we all strive to achieve balance, success and congruency. While wellbeing is a critical and necessary aspect of overall wellness, wellness refers to wellbeing plus the many other aspects of life we all experience and hope to grow and succeed with. Not only that, but wellness means these achievements and successes are present at various levels in order to elevate our overall life satisfaction.
Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.