Wellness and Mindfulness are buzzwords implied to be associated with Health. The terms seem to be everywhere: in print and social media, as labels of health and wellness centers, and as titles of corporate lectures geared to improving productivity. Associated visuals include yoga, herbs, stacked stones, greenery, and water. The words are often used together but what do they really mean, how do they relate, and, most importantly: what do they do for our health?
Wellness implies a lifestyle of overall happiness, good health and psychological fulfillment. Wellness has been identified as components numbering between 5 and 8 depending on the source. The most common five are listed here first:
Intellectual: creative and mental activities, learning, curiosity
Emotional: the ability to deal with stress, be flexible, have relationships and a positive outlook
Social: having supportive friends and or family, giving back to the community
Spiritual: prayer, meditation, religion including love and hopefulness
Occupational: personal and career satisfaction from work, family, or volunteer responsibilities
Environmental: having pleasant, healthy, stimulating surroundings
Financial: being satisfied with current and future financial status
Disease risks are suggested to go down as a benefit of wellness. Longevity is implied, along with a generalized improved feeling of energy, less illness, better mental health, and overall fitness ability. Wellness encompasses the non-objective measures of health that make you feel better internally. Wellness measures are individual to each person and are only valid if acceptable to the person they are for.
Mindfulness is the act of letting go of stressful, negative thought processes and slowing down to be more aware. It includes various techniques and practices such as:
Meditation: a technique used to calm the mind
Relaxation: being free from tension and anxiety
Self-reflection: thinking about ones’ thoughts and processing
Awareness: consciousness and realization
Gratitude: thankfulness and appreciation for the good around us
Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years as part of Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga. It has been brought into non-religious meditation practice and recognized by health providers as a key to stress reduction, stable mental health and overall positive outlook and attitude. Memory, attentiveness, productivity, creativity, and empathy all benefit from mindfulness.
There are differences between wellness, mindfulness and health. Objective state of health, as determined by a doctor, nurse or other medical professional can be measured: blood pressure, blood sugar, blood chemistries, weight, and negative tests for diseases. In contrast, wellness is a subjective state, thought of by some medical health professionals as counterproductive to overall health. Wellness is even associated with holistic and alternative health as a contrast to standard medical care. Mindfulness is often considered an aspect of wellness representing psychological health.
Unfortunately, statistics reveal that despite our new attention to wellness and mindfulness, the US population’s health has declined. Rates of depression, diabetes and cancer have increased in the past 20 years by 10-30%. If wellness is tied to alternative medicine, proceed with caution: alternative medicine ignores all standard medical practice including prescribed medications or regular MD visits and exams. To be clear, wellness and mindfulness are not substitutes for health.
Still, the ideas behind the words are valuable to living a fulfilling, peaceful and happy life. Addressing the components of wellness may not actually improve health measures, but will likely keep you feeling grounded and less stressed. Staying calm and focused through mindfulness techniques will reduce injuries and accidents. Wellness and mindfulness lifestyles reinforce healthy habits including sleep, nutrition, relaxation, avoiding toxins, spending quality time with friends or family, getting exercise and feeling grateful. These are unarguably a recipe for overall happiness, less stress and feelings of better health.