WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEALTH AND WELLNESS?
Have you stopped to think recently what your health actually means to you?
It is often said that to be healthy is to be ‘whole’ (hence the term holistic), but what does that really mean? What are the parts that make up this whole?
To be really healthy and well means so much more than merely the absence of disease. At different times we speak about our physical health, social, mental, emotional and even our spiritual health. They are all important and they should all be taken into consideration if you really want to get the best out of coaching yourself. Yet amazingly if you look in any western medical textbook you will be lucky if you find a good definition of health, let alone wellness and that is because there is no working model for anything other than sickness. Most of us have come to assume that the absence of illness equals wellness.
But does it?
It’s easy to define health as simply the absence of disease but I think that is really a very shallow definition. I suspect that if you think about it you actually know lots of people who have no apparent illnesses but who are not living truly balanced or healthy lives either.
Even if you are reading this book because you have a particular physical health goal in mind, I believe it is important to consider all these other aspects of your wellbeing too, so that you become aware of how they all connect together and form an integrated whole. Your health is about so much more than your medical history and paying attention to all these different areas gives you your best chance of maintaining a positive balance, even in times of challenge.
So if good health embraces all this, what does wellness mean? Is it just another word for health or does it contain more meaning than that?
In our modern medical world there are more ways than you can imagine to assess and measure the parameters of your health but to my way of thinking, wellness is a much more subjective experience. It involves far more than merely the avoidance of disease or an early death, important though that is.
To me enjoying wellness is about enhancing the quality, richness and vibrancy of life to its maximum potential. In other words whilst good health may be seen at one level as an absence of disease, having a high level of wellness also means being in the best state that is possible for you. It gives you a sense of connection and meaning in life and allows you to enjoy a vibrancy and vitality that is more than good health alone.
As you begin to think about what this might mean for you personally you’ll probably begin with some fairly universal standards such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a sensible diet, avoiding harmful substances, taking regular exercise and so on. But really good health is also about maintaining a state of balance and a sense of connection to the world around you. The way in which we all seek to find and maintain this balance can vary tremendously.
You will find plenty of activities in this book that will challenge you to find your own interpretations and meaning for these words. Do give yourself some time to reflect on your health because if you don’t really know what good health means to you it will be much harder to make improvements to your wellbeing, or even to recognise those improvements when they come.Although I can’t know for sure what your own definition will be, I hope that you will agree with me that enjoying wellness is possible even if you live with a chronic illness, or disability, or are feeling the effects of ageing. You are so much more than any of the medical conditions or labels that you happen to have.
ILLNESS AND WELLNESS; A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS?
A question I’m often asked is, “Can I have an illness and be well in myself at the same time?” I believe that the answer to this is, “Yes you can”. You can still be diagnosed with an illness and have a mindset of wellness at the same time and I know of plenty of people who manage this very well. One very special way I have had this proved to me recently is coaching people at the end of their life. You may think that helping someone who is dying to keep their wellbeing in mind just isn’t possible but in my experience, it’s not only possible but also tremendously important to prepare well for this final transition.
Even if you disagree with me about approaching death with a mindset of wellness, I hope that you will agree that if you already have some limitations on your health, or have been given a ‘label’ by a medical professional that you feel compromises you in some way, you can still pursue a wellness lifestyle. In other words, I do not believe that your level of wellness needs to be restricted by your level of health.
HOW DOES COACHING HELP?
Being coached or coaching yourself requires one fundamental thing and that is that you take greater responsibility for yourself. Before you can do that you also have to become more aware of any gaps that need to be bridged between what you currently have and what you would like to have. It sounds very simple, and it is simple, but you need to have the focused desire to make it happen, and that probably also means you need to value and care for yourself a bit more highly than you have up until now.
Let me share with you some of the more common reasons I have found that people turn to coaching. You will see that in most of these areas it is possible to achieve a great deal by becoming your own coach whilst in others it would probably be best to work alongside a professional for a while.
- To fulfil a lifestyle prescription.
- To address a specific health concern (with medical support).
- To enjoy improved stamina or zest for life.
- To release a specific fear or anxiety.
- To improve levels of self-esteem or confidence.
- To be supported with ‘skilled companionship’ whilst undergoing a challenging medical or surgical procedure.
- To be supported whilst working through a major life transition, such as loss of function, change of body image, bereavement, or terminal care.
What would be the main benefits of coaching for you?
Coaching works by drawing your attention to the impact of your choices on your health, then helping you to work through or release any barriers that may be standing in the way of your greater wellbeing. Whatever you want to change or achieve it’s a process that helps give you the structure to bridge the gap that lies in front of you so that it not only becomes safe to cross to the other side but potentially fun and easy too.
ACTIVITY: ASK YOURSELF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
It can be very tempting sometimes to take our health for granted, and it is often not until something goes wrong that we are reminded of our mortality. So I would like to invite you to start doing what you can right now to take even better care of yourself. Don’t wait until it is too late, or too difficult, you can make a start right now by asking yourself the following questions:
- What is your own definition of health and of wellness
There is no right or wrong answer to this question and it may well be that you have never really stopped to ask yourself this question before, but the answer is important. Take a few moments to write down some keywords or initial thoughts as you consider this question.
- Now consider, what it might mean for you to enjoy even greater health and wellbeing in your life. What would be different?
- What will you have regretted not doing to preserve your health at the end of your life?
- What changes could you begin to make now?
We will come back to this topic time and again, so don’t feel that you have to come up with all your answers straight away. Your initial thoughts are important though, so do make a note of them so that you can build on your own process of self-discovery.
You have a right to be well and very often all it takes is to have enough care for yourself to make the healthiest choices possible moment by moment. Sound’s easy doesn’t it? But the truth is that valuing yourself enough to always make the best choices can often be challenging in the extreme. It’s why working with a health coach, or learning to coach yourself, can be the difference that ultimately makes the difference.
“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.“