What does it mean to be well? Is it the same thing as health? Is it simply the absence of disease and infirmity? Or, could it possibly be something more? Something beyond just not being sick and weak? Could it possibly be a state of excellence that includes peak human experiences and flow states?
If you've ever had these thoughts and pondered their implications, then this is the blog for you... and if you haven't, then this blog is still for you. Hopefully it will lead you to think a little more deeply about these things, because wellness is everyone's right, but it seldom happens by accident.
Wellness vs. Health
Health is often defined as a state that is free from disease and injury or simply as someone's current physical and mental condition. You might notice that neither of these definitions have anything to do with a positive state of being. One definition is the lack of negative health and the other is just your current state, whatever that may be...
Sadly, many people are striving to just meet the first definition- achieving a state free of disease and injury. How many people have actually felt well, rather than just not being sick, in their life?
Well, we are here to tell you that there is so much more to life than just being free of disease and injury. Wellness is more than being healthy, wellness is about thriving and feeling your best. The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.
We like this definition for a number of reasons. First off, it states that wellness is an active pursuit. This is important because right away, it lets you know that it does take work to achieve this state. Next, it goes on to explain that this work is about pursuing choices and lifestyles that bring about this state of wellness. You are essentially your habits, your actions. This is similar to the Yogic view of Karma. Every action seeds a state of being and has an equal reaction. Lastly, it explains that this purposeful way of living and working brings one towards holistic health.
So, wellness is a lifestyle that one actively and consciously cultivates and it leads to a state of holistic health. Ok, so what is holistic health?
Wellness- Holistic Health
Holistic Health goes far beyond that traditional definition of health that typically only looks at physical health. Although physical health and vitality are imperative for wellness, holistic health is well holistic- It looks at the whole person. Depending on where you look, you will find a different number of spheres defining holistic health, but it is important to understand that these are broken down into different areas for ease of understanding, they aren't actually separate. In reality, they are all overlapping and intermingled, leading to a state of wellness. Holistic health is most simply broken down into four spheres- physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health.
We will look at each of these topics in greater detail in future blogs, but briefly, they are:
- Physical Health: Physical Health is about cultivating a strong body through things like exercise, good nutrition and sleep.
- Emotional Health: Emotional Health is similar to emotional intelligence. It has to do with being in touch with and aware of not only your own feelings and emotional states, but also of those around you. Emotional Health allows you to have meaningful relationships, often through open communication and setting healthy boundaries.
- Intellectual Health: Intellectual Health sounds brainy and academic, but it isn't. It is more about intellectual growth and creativity across and throughout your life, as well as finding joy and excitement through consciously and actively living life.
- Spiritual Health: Spiritual Health, much life spirituality itself, has a diverse range of meanings, depending on the individual. Regardless of their personal beliefs and values, spiritual health is about searching for higher purpose and meaning in one's life, as well as feeling connected to something bigger than yourself.
You need physical wellness to have a strong body and the ability to move and play; emotional wellness for positive mental health, social interactions and community; intellectual wellness to lead an enriching life full of passions and mental engagement; and spiritual wellness for purpose and meaning in life, as well as feeling connected to something greater than one's self. These spheres, taken collectively, add up to what the ancient Greeks referred to as eudemonia, or a life well lived. Put into practice, they can lead to wellness and peak experiences in life
Flow- Peak Human Experience
Whether in sport, religious ecstasy or recreation, people seem to feel and perform their best when they are in the zone, or what has come to be known as flow state. Flow was coined by the Positive Psychologist Mihaly Robert Csikszentmihalyi. In his work Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he states that people are their happiest when they are in a state of flow.
Flow is said to be a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand. It is a state where people often say that they are so engrossed in the activity that nothing else matters. They are experiencing what they do, but not controlling their actions, as if the experience is just happening to them. It has become effortless and the ego falls away, as if there is no separation between the individual and the activity. This often results in feelings of elation and time dilation.
Typically, this state comes to people once they have a certain level of skill with an activity through practice, but people don't feel flow every time they do something they are good at. Why is that? Well, flow is very related to what another psychologist has called self-actualization, and he outlined what keeps people from achieving such a state.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow was a Psychologist who's work had a large impact on the fields of both humanistic and positive psychology, but he is best known for his work on human motivation, peak experience and self actualization. This work resulted in his hierarchy of needs model. Maslow's premise was that beyond the basic needs of human existence, there are states of peak experience or flow. These states are the culmination of self actualization or realization of one's human potential and are the height of personal development.
His model is a triangle or pyramid with five distinct levels, starting from the most basic and foundational and ending with self actualization at the very top. You must achieve the foundational level first, before going to a higher level, making them successive and sequential. His five levels are physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self actualization.
- Physiological needs are all about meeting the biological needs of the body- ie you need to have adequate levels of food, water and warm shelter to survive.
- Safety is about having a certain level of security and autonomy in one's life. Essentially feeling secure.
- Love and belonging are about satisfying our social and emotional needs and includes things like having relationships and a sense of community.
- Esteem is about feelings of self worth, accomplishment, respect and believing in one's abilities.
- Self actualization is about fulfilling one's potential, seeking personal growth and having peak experiences.
Wellness is brought about by actively and consciously choosing to live in a way that supports holistic health; more specifically, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health. The first two levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, physiological needs and needs of safety, relate to physical health; love and belonging relate to emotional health, esteem to intellectual health and self actualization to spiritual health.
If you don't have a roof over your head or food to eat, you won't feel safe. If you don't feel safe, you won't have good interactions with those around you, you won't feel loved or like you belong. If you don't feel loved and supported, you won't be chasing intellectual desires or cultivating high levels of esteem in your life. If you don't have a certain level of esteem, you won't reach your highest potential and you won't self actualize. As you can see, each level is a prerequisite to next, each level supports the ability to go further in life and towards reaching your highest potential.
Here at Lotus Tribe, we believe that it is everyone's right to have food and shelter, to feel safe, to feel loved, to belong and to strive to fulfill their highest potential; whatever that may mean to them. We hope that you now understand the needs and some of the barriers to being well and achieving your highest potential.
*This blog is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.