Wellness and illness are like the North and South Pole on the continuum of wellbeing. The key definition of wellness is that it is more than the absence of disease, so imagine, if you will, that below the ‘equator’ there are increasingly severe levels of disease as you travel south. But what happens as you travel north?
Just above the ‘equator’, you may not feel sick. If you went for a check-up you’d get a clean bill of health, yet you may or may not feel well. In this space, modern medicine may have little to offer because there is not yet a disease to combat. In time, the ‘not feeling well’ can progress to an actual disease but just waiting for that to happen is surely not the best we can do.
It’s why many people turn to wellness for answers, because they want to do more than just get by. They want to be engaged with and proactive about their health. Wellness, like illness, is now big business: juice bars, meditation retreats, detox diets, meditation apps etc., are all mainstream success stories and some sceptics bristle at the thought that people turn away from mainstream medicine in the ‘false hope’ of feeling better. However, for increasingly many, the pursuit of wellness is a meaningful one. Albeit, the challenge still remains to navigate through all the options and find something that will really help.
How do we know something is helping our wellbeing? Illness can often be measured objectively such as via a blood test or a CT scan. Because it’s measurable, we can see if it’s getting better or worse and, crucially, we can evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention like a drug or surgical procedure. Wellness, on the other hand, is harder to assess. We can’t measure our vitality via a blood test. Wellness is also subjective because we can’t easily measure how I feel compared to how you feel. Ultimately, it comes down to an individual’s own calculation of what they find helpful. We each value those things that are meaningful to us, based on our own experience.
Most of us have an internal barometer of how well we are. It may be benchmarked against a time in your life when you remember feeling at your best, for example, when you had more energy, slept well, felt content and had low stress levels. We can be complacent about our wellness, only shocked into action when we actually get sick. Or, we may be jolted by life events; the birth of a child, a new job, a significant birthday. Whatever the reason, when you feel called to reevaluate and improve your wellness, then it’s a moment to celebrate.