Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind-body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being. It has been used in the context of alternative medicine since Halbert L. Dunn, M.D. began using the phrase high level wellness in the fifties, based on a series of lectures at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington, Virginia, in the United States. The modern concept of wellness did not, however, become popular until the 1970’s.
Dunn defined wellness as “an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable. It requires that the individual maintain a continuum of balance and purposeful direction within the environment where he is functioning.” He also stated that “wellness is a direction in progress toward an ever-higher potential of functioning”.
The term has been defined by the Singapore-based National Wellness Association as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence. This is consistent with a shift in focus away from illness in viewing human health, typical of contexts where the term wellness is used. In other words, wellness is a view of health that emphasizes the state of the entire being and its ongoing development.
The phrase can also be seen as an analogue to the medical term “homeostasis”.
Wellness can also be described as “the constant, conscious pursuit of living life to its fullest potential.”
Alternative approaches to wellness are often denoted by the use of two difference phrases: health and wellness, and wellness programs. These kind of wellness programs offer alternative medicine techniques to improve wellness. Whether these techniques actually improve physical health is controversial and a subject of much debate. James Randi and the James Randi Educational
Foundation are outspoken critics of this alternative new age concept of wellness. The behaviors in the pursuit of wellness often include many health related practices, such as natural therapies.
Wellness, as a luxury pursuit, is found obviously in the more affluent societies because it involves managing the body state after the basic needs of food, shelter and basic medical care have already been met. Many of the practices applied in the pursuit of wellness, in fact, are aimed at controlling the side effects of affluence, such as obesity and inactivity. Wellness grew as a popular concept starting in the 19th century, just as the middle class began emerging in the industrialized world, and a time when a newly prosperous public had the time and the resources to pursue wellness and other forms of self-improvement.
Wellness can be described as a state that combines health and happiness. Thus those factors that contribute to being healthy and happy also will be contributing to being well. Factors that contribute to health and happiness are known, at least since the time of Ancient Greeks. In order to achieve a state of wellness one has to work on its determinants. The determinants of wellness are: feeling of control of destiny, health practices, spirituality, family, environment, work, money and security, health services, social support and leisure.
Definitions of wellness vary depending upon who is promoting it. These wellness promoters try to facilitate a healthier population and a higher quality of life. Wellness can be defined as the pursuit of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Wellness, as an alternative concept, is generally thought to mean more than the mere absence of disease; rather it is an optimal state of health. Wellness is pursued by people interested in recovering from ill health or specific health conditions or by those interested in optimizing their already good state of health.
Supporters of these programs believe that many factors contribute to wellness: living in a clean environment, eating organic food, regularly engaging in physical exercise, balance in career; family; and relationships, and developing religious faith. But, there are two basic widely different approaches to wellness. The original faith-based wellness programs offer a spiritual approach which is in opposition to the more recent secular wellness promoters.