Wellness is More Than the Absence of Illness – A Holistic Approach to Well-Being

Take a deep breath, inhaling completely. Exhale, letting all of the air – and all of your tension – escape.

Do it again and remember the last time you felt REALLY good…

That feeling is “wellness.” It is a little different for every individual, but the point is that each person knows – intuitively – what it is for him or her. People seem to describe wellness as a feeling that their body, mind and spirit are in tune with one another and with their environment. The goal of wellness education is to help you make your own image of well-being an ongoing reality. Making that happen is a process that takes effort on your part, but the results couldn’t be more rewarding.

Wellness is more than the absence of illness. It is, to quote John Travis, M.D., a graduate of the Johns Hopkins preventive medicine program, an “ever-expanding experience of purposeful, enjoyable living…a lifestyle you design to achieve your highest potential….” Just as pleasure is more than absence of pain, wellness is more than freedom from flu or heart disease or herpes.

IT MIGHT help to understand that much of modern disease-oriented medicine is patterned on a corollary to Murphy’s Law that says: “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The last time you visited a doctor, you probably felt bad; maybe you fell prey to a bug and wanted some medicine to get rid of it.

But that’s not what doctors say they’re treating most these days. According to Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., one-third of all Americans have a chronic disease, such as increased blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis. Charles Stroebel, M.D., Ph.D., who directed the Institute for Living, said that between 50 to 70 percent of the leading causes of death – heart disease, cerebral vascular diseases, diabetes, arteriosclerosis and cirrhosis – are generally believed to be diet related.

The culprit in modern illness isn’t usually a germ. Many times it’s a habit, or even an attitude. You don’t walk down the street and catch obesity. There are a lot of reasons to change your lifestyle. A great starting place is to understand what ways YOU wish to improve your whole person, and formulate your own plan for developing any additional skills you may need toward that end. Along the way you will need to increase your awareness of your physical, mental and spiritual health, and address nutrition, exercise, stress relief, relationships and other heath issues. It will also involve taking a look at social, environmental and occupational health issues. You will need to develop both a strong will to health and an equally tough “won’t.” It is helpful to devote 30 minutes a week to concentrating on being well. The time spent will extend your well-being day by day for the rest of your life.

Glenn Burdick, MA, LMSW, has more than 25 years of experience in helping people cope with the problems of daily living. He was the co-founder and Director of the Institute for Psychology & Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, and was a Heal

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