If we struggle to define wellbeing from an academic point of view, what can we say about establishing a difference between wellness and wellbeing? Is it even possible?
Hard it is for sure. Pick any two authors or scholars and you will have a different idea of what both wellness and wellbeing might mean. Some like to state there is a difference between them. Others say there is no difference at all.
What is correct? On this matter, I have been on both sides of the spectrum. I think the two concepts are different from each other, and yet they are intimately related. It is hard to set the two apart or to talk about one without stepping into the other.
Are Wellness and Wellbeing The Same?
It seems wellness is usually associated with physical aspects of feeling well whereas wellbeing is more often associated with mental and emotional aspects of such experience.
This differentiation resembles and mirrors the mind-body separation paradigm, in which mind and body are viewed as separate or unrelated parts of ourselves. Is our mind separate from our body though? Again the discussion may be endless when it comes to this issue.
According to Gallup, wellness refers to a state of physical health in which people have the ability and energy to do what they want to do in life, while wellbeing represents a broader holistic dimension of a well-lived life.
This approach suggests wellness is an important factor of wellbeing but not the only one. While eating well, doing exercise, and having good sleep hygiene are important routines to keep someone’s wellbeing high, there is more to it. Having friends, benefiting from a sense of community, and being financially independent are also contributing factors.
So what is the verdict?
When it comes to defining both wellness and wellbeing, or differentiating between the two, opinions diverge. Perhaps the most important is not so much which one is which but how can we embrace physical, mental and emotional health as a major priority in our life.
The smarter choice seems to be to adopt an holistic approach that combines all aspects. It is important to take good care of our body, by giving it the necessary rest, fuel and movement, and to take care of our mental and emotional health with the same effort.
Having good physical health and stamina is as equally important as having a clear sense of purpose and meaning in life. While discussions are likely to never end, we can take action to preserve all aspects of ourselves.
It is not always easy to make a clear distinction between wellbeing and wellness. The debate remains open and perhaps we can benefit from it. By staying open to different ideas and perspectives, we can learn and engage with different approaches to wellbeing design.
If we assume there is a clear difference between the terms, we can use that to help us consider the importance and weight of both objective and subjective health. If we assume there is only a slight nuance between wellness and wellbeing, we can use that to reinforce the importance of a holistic approach.
To lead a “good life”, in the old philosophical sense, we need to look after different needs and layers of our being. Sometimes we need to focus more on our physical health, other times we need to pay more attention to our emotional health. Nonetheless, all these aspects have a weight on how good and satisfied we feel about ourselves and life in general.