What is Wellness?
Wellness is one of those words that generates a variety of definitions depending upon who you ask. Webster’s dictionary defines wellness as “the fact or condition of being in maximum physical and mental health.”
Webster’s is an invaluable resource, however that definition is rather limited given that two important components are missing! Those components are 1) emotional, and 2) spiritual. Wellness is about balance and four components generally provide greater balance than two.
Let’s use a table as an example. In order for a table to achieve optimal strength, balance and stability, each of the four legs must be of equal length and possess similar strength. If one leg is longer, shorter or weaker than the others, poor balance and instability will surely result. Who hasn’t sat at a wobbly table in a restaurant that required a make shift wedge to temporarily create balance?
Imagine that one leg of the table is constructed from “Physical” materials and another leg is made of “Mental” components. The other two legs are individually composed of “Emotional” and “Spiritual” materials.
Before a person can be considered truly well, or to have complete wellness, it is essential that equal attention be paid to each leg of the table. It is well known that medical care in the United States spends the majority of its time and expense on the “Physical” leg of the table with little or no attention being applied to the remainder of the legs. By default, this approach leads to imbalance and a lack of wellness.
This default approach is preferred in the world of crisis management and emergency medicine as any physical injury or insult rightfully takes precedence. However, this default approach is of little benefit to the millions of people suffering from chronic illness and disease.
Therefore, true lasting wellness results from crafting, cultivating and nurturing each leg of that table.
The “Physical” leg of the table represents our physical body, with all of its complex components and circuitry in the form of tissues, organs, glands and vessels. The current dominant medical model in the U.S. focuses primarily upon the removal, repair or replacement of components and circuitry. Advances in this area have been nothing short of miraculous and certainly many thousands of people have reaped the benefit of those technological advances.
Unfortunately for millions of people, as the majority of energy and resources are applied to the “Physical” leg, the other three legs of the table are frequently ignored or considered less important.
Consider the “Mental” leg of the table which accounts for how people “think” about everything; themselves, others and their environment. Thoughts are pure energy. They are powerful beyond measure. What we we think on a daily basis has a direct impact upon our digestion, blood pressure, body temperature and pulse rate just to name a few. A single thought can make us fearful, jealous, happy, sad, depressed or anxious. In this light, to think is to create. We have the ability, consciously or not, to alter our personal biochemistry and physiology by the mental power that is thought.
On a similar note, the “Emotional” leg of the table reflects how we “feel” about things. Generally, our feelings are the result of life experiences and can be greatly influenced by our thoughts and our physical status. If our body is performing poorly, we may feel despondent about current limitations which ultimately can result in adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, indigestion, depression, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.
When people feel poorly, their diet generally becomes less healthy, activity levels tend to decrease and socialization and interaction with others becomes limited or strained. When these lifestyle and behavioral changes occur, the common diseases of modern Western civilization tend to become more frequently diagnosed. Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, allergies, asthma and many others can result when we feel poorly.
The fourth and final leg of the table is “Spiritual”. This relates to a persons “belief” in something or someone who is generally perceived to be much more grand and omnipresent than us mere mortals. It is not important whether one believes in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddism, Latter Day Saints or any of the many other distinguished conventional and less than conventional religious or spiritual belief systems.
The important thing is that we believe in something! The important thing is that we feel connected to people and places through a particular belief system. The connections and bonds created through the participation and belief in theological or spiritual programs results in directed and purposeful thoughts and feelings. This ultimately will result in varying degrees of inner peace, less depression and anxiety, and more energy and vitality.
Are you ignoring one or more legs on your table? If so you may benefit from some routine maintenance. Give each of the legs of your table some extra attention and see if you don’t experience greater balance and wellness.
In summary, wellness may be better defined as “having health, balance and synergy between and within the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms of human experience.”
I hope you enjoy exploring your new table of wellness.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Eric Hampton