In today's medical world the concept of wellness programs has become very widely accepted. These programs are based on holism, which is sometimes called holistic wellness. The philosophy of such programs is that a person's well-being is more than just a condition of physical health or the absence of illness and disease. Instead, health is seen as a balance of elements which include the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the human condition. Wellness could be thought of as the harmony of the body, mind, emotions and spirit and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Wellness practitioners believe the lines separating these different aspects exist only in theory. Research in this field suggests there is no division between these aspects and that the human condition should simply be regarded as a whole.
History of Wellness Therapy
While the concept of wellness is thought to be thousands of years old, the word wellness as we know it today was introduced in America in the 1960s. Many believe it was an extension of the fitness movement which continued to grow and overtook the population during the 1970s and 1980s, although wellness is a more comprehensive approach to overall optimal health than the standard education programs for good health which were used to prevent disease or treat specific symptoms. Wellness programs address more than just physical ailments: they work to integrate, harmonize and balance the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the overall wellness paradigm. Programs for wellness can be found in corporate settings, a person's community or hospital, and in fitness clubs.
The Basic Principles of Wellness Therapy
The core of wellness programs is that there is no separation between body, mind, spirit and emotions. The belief is that all aspects of the human condition are tightly connected and it is impossible to separate or distinguish one from another. One ancient theory (which is repeated in many different disciplines) is that each aspect of the human condition is made up of energy, and the most dense type of energy is that which is most tangible: in other words, the physical body.
The different parts of the wellness theory include the following:
- Emotional - Practitioners define well-being as the ability to feel and express the entire range of human emotions, from love to anger. The goal is to control these emotions instead of being controlled by them.
- Physical - This aspect is defined as the optimal condition of each of the body's systems which are physiological. They include pulmonary, nervous, cardiovascular, immune, urinary, reproductive, endocrine, digestive and musculoskeletal.
- Mental - Well-being which is mental is known to be the ability to gather, process, recall and communicate all types of information. Not unlike a computer, the mind is capable of gathering and storing mass quantities of information.
- Spiritual - Defined as the maturation of higher consciousness, spiritual well-being is developed through the dynamic integration of three different facets: internal relationships (how you relate to a higher power); external relationships (how you interact and relate to the people in your life); and a personal value system, which gives one a meaningful purpose in life.
Dr. Elizabeth Kiibler-Ross, an important figure in the area of wellness, has a theory that suggests while all four components are present at all times, one component may dominate at different phases of our lives. She stressed that the first component humans experience is emotional as we are conditioned by our parents or guardians and society in general. Young people are taught to suppress their feelings, which can result in various emotional dysfunctions in later life.
Physical dominance develops at puberty and continues throughout the teenage years. The intellectual or mental phase starts during college and lasts well into a person's midlife. The last phase of the wellness theory (spiritual) gains control during the midlife years. Kiibler-Ross and others believe some people never experience this phase of development due to mistrust, laziness, or fear.
How Wellness Therapy is Practiced
Physical wellness can be practiced through aerobics, blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, weight training, blood sugar screenings, massage therapy, biofeedback, nutritional assessments, yoga, and Tai Chi.
One can work on spiritual wellness by engaging in dance therapy, meditation, journal writing, joining social support groups, communing with nature, volunteering on community service projects, or by practicing human potential development or inner resource development.
Mental well-being can be achieved by practicing meditation, mental imagery, time and stress management, dream analysis, honing communication skills and working on creative problem solving.
Emotional wellness can be helped through music and art therapy, humor therapy, aromatherapy, co-dependency therapy, grieving therapy, stress management, anger management, and practicing communication skills.
Benefits of Wellness Therapy
Wellness programs help a person focus on reaching higher or more optimal levels of wellness along with preventing illnesses and disease. When most people see the results of wellness programs, they are motivated by the vitality and energy that typically come from a holistic approach to living. Such programs support the body's natural healing systems and provide overall feelings of good health.
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