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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

The Wellness Concept is First and Foremost a Quality-of-Life-Enriching Concept That Accentuates the Positive

Sunday May 24, 2015


I’ve been studying and promoting the wellness concept since 1973. For over 40 years, the idea that wellness represents a recognition and pursuit of above-average, positive levels of physical and mental wellbeing has been the foundation element in my newsletters, web and magazine articles, lectures and books describing the concept.

This notion, that wellness lifestyles are motivated by a desire to become “weller and weller” and remain that way for as long as possible, for its own sake (i.e., not so as to live longer or deal with or avoid problems), is what wellness is all about.

Yes, of course these just-noted ancillary benefits are recognized and welcomed. Yet, the positive focus sets wellness apart from all somewhat-related concepts. The latter include prevention, health education, holistic health, alternative/unconventional/ integrative medicine and other terms for complementary non-standard medical care care.

Good medical care is important; it’s complementary to, but not the same as wellness. Dealing with illnesses, crises and conflicts must be done, but doing so is different from wellness initiatives. Wellness enriches the quality of life and advances happiness and wellbeing. Wellness enhances existence and is always its own reward, as opposed to something done to solve or avoid a problem.

This idea matters because it increases the likelihood that the agenda of institutional services and programs billed as wellness contain life-improving, positive elements. I repeatedly emphasized this unique positive quality in my 1977 best-seller published by Rodale Press entitled, High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease.

Neglect of Positive Focus

Alas, this core element of wellness was overlooked in the decades that followed the initial embrace of the wellness concept. Programs with the name wellness are not, in fact, positive in nature. In a company wellness
program, for example, only a few of the activities on offer are designed for life enrichment. Most seek to address health or other problems, educate about high risk behaviors or assess medical status. In short, medicalized programs called wellness are actually designed to deal with troubling issues, not to promote reason, exuberance, athleticism or liberty—the dimensions of REAL (positive) wellbeing.There is near total neglect of a positive focus. A true wellness program would consist of classes, lectures, workshops, courses and such that promoted positive states and outcomes. Other initiatives, under a different banner (e.g., worksite prevention, can and should be available that provide assistance to workers that help prevent and/or treat problems and dysfunctions.  

Johnny Mercer Had the Right Idea in the Mid-1940’s

Accentuate the Positive was a hit tune near the end of WWII (composed by Harold Arlen; lyrics and initial recording by Johnny Mercer). The song lyrics suggest that “accentuating the positive” is the key to happiness. It can as well be claimed that “accentuating the positive” is the key to the wellness concept and the highest purpose of any programs that carry that name.

Other phrases in the song’s refrain offer sound wellness advice, as well:

You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister in-between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum …

Be well, look on the bright side and accentuate you-know-what.

Signed Don Ardell

(Ed. Note: Views expressed in this and other columns are those of the author and not necessarily those of the SeekWellness Editorial Board.)

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