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

Moving Toward Global Wellness: Where We Are Versus Where The Wellness Movement Might Need To Go (Part One)

Wednesday February 27, 2008

Wellness is a philosophy founded on personal responsibility and quality of life. It has multiple dimensions and skill areas. It also has multiple interpretations and definitions.

My view is that the wellness philosophy is a mindset consciously chosen to provide the best in health, satisfaction, love, meaning and exuberant living.

In the next few days, I plan to write essays urging a shift in the way wellness is viewed, explained and, most important of all, a change in the vision of wellness promoters. Since the earliest days of the wellness era beginning in the late 1970's, wellness has been an ambitious, positive lifestyle idea for a few promoters of the concept, but a limited risk reduction program within institutions. However, now efforts are underway to promote the wellness idea on an international scale, and a different interpretation of the wellness philosophy may be in order. I plan to describe what I believe can and ought to be viewed as the global wellness mission in the days to come. 

The term wellness describes a lifestyle but it is also associated with a movement to promote healthier behavioral choices in institutional settings, such as workplaces. In the latter instance, wellness is put forward by a wide variety of professionals. The varied backgrounds of wellness promoters affect the way the concept is explained, managed and implemented. Such programs are seldom focused on positive change for increased life quality as an end in itself. Instead, worksite wellness programs are oriented to risk reduction, disease management and the alleviation of negative choices (such as smoking, lack of exercise, weight management, stress). Changes in poor habits can save companies a lot of money by tempering the ever-rising costs associated with employee medical (health insurance) benefits. Thus, corporate leaders are justifiably attracted to support such endeavors. However, while convincing employees to minimize or avoid harmful patterns also boosts quality of life, such an emphasis is fundamentally different from wellness enhancement. The latter would entail efforts to pursue wellness for life-enriching gains, such as high performance, more happiness, greater personal satisfaction, better relationships, improved decision making, more meaning in life and so on.

When wellness initiatives originate from individuals, the latter objectives are more common than those objectives pursued in worksite settings. 

For these reasons and others, wellness is usually called health promotion or something similar in a corporate setting. More significantly, wellness is not the positive, quality of life-enhancing philosophy perceived as it's own reward that an individual might embrace, apart from institutional cost-containment motives. The National Wellness Institute offers certifications in this latter form of wellness promotion. The trainings teach specialists how to design, develop and implement worksite programs. Topics include gaining top management support, assessing needs, selecting a program model, using biometric screenings and so on. In my view, this is all well and good but not quite the kind of wellness advances that Halbert L. Dunn, John Travis and others identified or what I address under the heading REAL wellness (as suggested in the title of this essay).

The wellness movement in American institutions (companies and entrepreneurs, such as fitness and medical professionals) has focused largely on physical health. However, a wellness mindset for high quality of life necessitates more. I believe it's time to expand the wellness movement beyond matters of health, however important the health dimension. An effective wellness philosophy should address global well-being, including the physical concerns of the individual. The scope of wellness thinking should be the well and the unwell, those in developing as well as advanced nations, free and secular societies. Wellness thinking and wellness policies should also be devoted to assisting the oppressed living in authoritarian theocracies and dictatorships. No, we don't know how to do this, but a first step might be to decide that a wellness mindset can apply below the top tiers of Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. Those at the bottom struggling to deal with safety and security, survival and other basic needs might also enjoy a higher quality of life just like the rest of us. The wellness agenda can address these ideas. 

In future essays, the theme of REAL wellness applied globally will be continued.

Meanwhile, be well and always look on the bright side of life.

Domain: physical
Subdomain: applied wellness

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