What is Wellness?

What does it mean to be well? There are a number of explanations to be found on the net from self-appointed life-coaches, all of which begs the thought; “tell me something I don’t know.” They all seem to focus on similar common central concepts which are certainly valid and important.  But all feel lacking in potency of concept as they are either simple minded or so abstract that it leaves the reader confused,  asking “and what does that actually mean?”

For instance.  Well Being is
“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
– The World Health Organization

“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
– The National Wellness Institute

“a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential.”
-University of Illinois, McKinley Health Center

Actually, it’s much easier to define what it means to be unwell.  The obvious causes of being unwell are illness or injury. The tangible is always easy to identify.  But certainly, emotional distress or social stress often leads to feeling badly about living and thus feeling unwell.  Even financial or occupational stressors can leave us feeling sick to our stomachs, as it were.  But wellness, or being well, isn’t merely the absence of these ailments.  It is entirely possible to have a sound mind and body yet still exist in a state of being unwell.  That’s the rub.

We look healthy, act healthy, and behave in a manner that projects perfect wellness.  But for many, their illusory efforts cause additional strain to their already strained lives.  How often have you heard someone say, “he’s got all the money in the world yet he seems miserable”  or, “what does she have to complain about, she has a perfect life?”

But it seems that many of us suffer in silence, and understandably so.  Our daily interaction with others demand such an approach as spilling your soul to everyone who asks “how are you doing today” with “I’m horribly depressed” is not really socially acceptable.  Instead, we   respond with “I’m well”, even when we are not.

The simplest social norms we take for granted can carry the burden of meaning that we need to self-address.  Really, if you are un-well, why wouldn’t you do everything possible to attempt to be well?  Everything depends on it.

Perhaps we have just come to accept that being un-well is our personal fate.  That we have no control of our “unwellness” and thus, our best option is to just “take it” – to simply endure the stressors and move on. But the terms “endless” and “endurance” do not mix.  It is impossible to endlessly endure as ultimately, one day, we all find ourselves taking stock of our unwellness, often triggered by a seemingly innocuous moment – that last straw moment –  to realize that we’re half way through the year, or ten years on from this or that… or that life has moved on, and here we are.  Quietly suffering.

Our state of “un-wellness” eventually gets the better of us, and we have to stop.  We have to consider the causes, and the solutions.  By the time we take stock in our “un-wellness” though, we tend to have gone past the point of being able to just “take-it” and are truly un-well, facing a life altering crisis or illness.  Why do we wait for such events to consider just how un-well we may be and thus, what we should be doing to be well?

The net dense categories of wellness come in handy in answering that question (as seen in the list to the right on this page), though they need to be explained beyond their individual definitions.  Doing so now is actually beyond the scope of the message in this article… but eventually, we’re going to discuss such definitions for wellness is a central focus of MoFi Magazine.

Wellness is wholly interdependent upon many things.  This can be explained as such:  If one plots their wellness in the typical categories defining it on the spokes of a wheel (as in the above infographic), a person whom is truly well has a complete wheel.  That wheel rolls smoothly through life – that’s the goal.  But if just one spoke of the wheel, say your financial health, is broken, the wheel eventually begins to roll in a rather lopsided manner… and that also stresses the other spokes.  We can continue on our life’s path with a warped wheel, but it tends to make for a rough ride and can lead to damage in other “spokes.”Wellness Wheel

Endless financial strain will lead to mental health stresses, which can lead to physical health issues, which can lead to a spiritual crisis.  Break another spoke, or a few more spokes, and the wheel no longer rolls.  The implications to living life are clear.  Such categories of wellness are thus, and perhaps obviously, interdependent on one another.  Provided in the infographics on here (as a mere reference) are the commonly listed categories of wellness.  Their listing by number does not imply the importance of one over the over.


If what’s been said here resonates with you, you will be disappointed with the abrupt conclusion forthcoming for there are clearly no easy answers which can be provided.  The dynamic breadth and depth of wellness can not be addressed in an 800 word article.  Solutions to “unwellness” are equally dynamic in breadth and depth. Thus, the goal here is not to provide anything more than a conversation starter with yourself.  A mere knock at the door.  If you are unwell in just one category, you are simply unwell. And it’s time you had a talk with yourself.  For if you are unwell, “why wouldn’t you do everything possible to attempt to be well.”

Solutions are there – out there… somewhere. And the mere knowledge of them is not enough.  Initiative or motivation may not be enough.  But healing is possible, even in the face of the terminal.  Terminal illness certainly implies the ultimate absence of wellness.  But peace and wellness go hand in hand.  If one spoke can not be fixed, strength in others can still keep the wheel rolling.

Montana Fitness Magazine is not a self-help publication. We do not offer mental health solutions.  We will never endorse avenues of action for illness intervention (unless widely accepted by medical professionals).  But we will, as part of our efforts to discuss the issues of health, fitness, and wellness that are important to Billings, and Montana’s residents, do our best in the coming issues to help start the conversation about what it means to be well, because “Everything depends on it.”

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