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Health, Wellness and / or Wellbeing. What should we be Aiming for?

What are health, wellness and wellbeing and how do we know when we have them? Does good health equal wellbeing and is wellness health? What do these words or concepts actually mean for us in our day to day living? How can we lead ourselves towards wellbeing? These are all reasonable questions and there doesn’t seem to be any consensus across the media on what these terms mean or how to achieve them.

The addition of health coaching to my coaching practice has prompted me to explore the types of information available about health, wellness and wellbeing so that we (you, me and my clients) can better understand and navigate what is becoming a very complex industry and also work out what we could be aiming for. Before we do that though have a look at the questions below and think about your answers as you read on:
• What does health mean to you?
• How do you know you are well?
• What does wellbeing mean to you and how do you know when you have it?

When we think about health, images of hospitals, serious illness or surgery can be conjured. We can also think of our local GP and the single acute problems we go with that need fixing or  the diagnosis and management of chronic health issues like being overweight, having blood pressure, diabetes etc. We often don’t think about it much at all until something goes wrong.

The World Health organisation in 1946 said though, that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In 2011 they also said “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

So, health then is broader than simply the absence of disease or disability and includes reaching potential, being productive and contributing. Health is in fact defined as a state of wellbeing that we can all achieve, regardless of any health issues we may have.

Martin Seligman who is the founder of the Positive Psychology Movement (and the author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish) has developed what he calls Wellbeing Theory. He says that wellbeing has five parts to it and to achieve a feeling of wellbeing we need to experience all five:

1. Positive emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are all aspects)
2. Engagement
3. Relationships
4. Meaning and purpose
5. Accomplishment

Seligman says that we can all learn and improve on these.

Wellness Coaching Australia in their blog, says that wellness is about “improving our health (and fitness) to be the best it can be under our given circumstances so that our energy is optimised”. They suggest adding the Physical aspects of wellbeing to Seligman’s definition.

The University of Miami Wellness Centre states that “Wellness is the dynamic process of becoming aware of, taking responsibility for, and making choices that directly contribute to one’s wellbeing and that of the common good. It is the integration of body, mind and spirit and the ongoing development of one’s own meaning in life”.

So wellness is about wellbeing and health in the context of energy, fitness and mind, body and spirit.

Combining all Three
Combining all three of these definitions makes it possible I think, for us to assess where we are in terms of our own health, wellness and wellbeing, where we want to go and from that we can work out how to lead ourselves towards what optimum health and wellbeing means for each of us.

When we have optimum health, wellness and well-being we:
• Have a purpose in life both broadly and within the activities that we do in our daily lives.
• Strive to ensure our physical health is the best it can be given our individual circumstances, which includes any health issues we may have. We are proactive about our physical health.
• Are as fit as we can be given our individual circumstances.
• Have energy and use it resourcefully.
• Are engaged in activities that are meaningful for us in the mind, body and spirit.
• Have choices and create opportunities to reach our full potential – we regularly accomplish things that have meaning for us.
• Have meaningful relationships with others.
• Contribute to our family, our community and to society.

How does this list compare with the answers you came up with at the beginning of the blog post?

I would love to hear your thoughts and what health, wellness and wellbeing mean to you and if you struggle in this area, shoot me a mail and we can have a chat to see if wellness coaching might help you.



  1. Martin Seligman
  2. WHO:

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