We would like to begin this section with a brief questionnaire. Please click on the button below to go to the How Long Will You Live exercise, which we have adapted from Bob Allen's book Lifegain (1981). You can simply do the work while you're on line or, if you wish, print out the questionnaire, complete it, then return to this page.
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Despite the prevailing belief in our culture these days that being "well" is the opposite of being "sick," the information which you have just taken into account in the questionnaire is far more inclusive. And it is not a new notion, either; a definition of "health" set forward by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) (hardly your basic radical group) way back in the 1950's is absolutely consistent with this broader perspective:
HEALTH

A complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

To the W.H.O., being "healthy" meant something very different indeed from having something diagnosable at a doctor's office. There was much more to it. Significantly later, Ken Pelletier (1980) defined this expanded, inclusive view of "holistic health" as:



The creation of a lifestyle which is conducive to health maintenance and personal fulfillment.

In the same study (1980), Pelletier listed the following optimal health and longevity factors, in their order of most influence on persons based on the degree of control that can be exercised over them.

  1. Consciousness
  2. Stress management
  3. How and what we eat
  4. Physical activity
  5. Environmental factors (physical & psychosocial)
  6. Political & economic factors

While we can exercise some control over a political climate by voting for certain persons or ideas, or over the psychosocial environment in which we live and work by behaving in a particular way, we would have much more direct control over our health by making positive choices about our personal physical activity, food choices, and stress management skills.

And, as we mentioned at the beginning of our work with you, the most potent health and longevity factor of all is what Pelletier calls "consciousness," or, more simply, the careful paying attention to what is going on around us, then taking that into account in our immediate and longer-term behaviors.

We are in charge of our consciousness. It's not a new notion by any stretch of the imagination. Eastern cultures have had it as a central facet of religious belief systems for thousands of years. And many thinkers from around the world over the years have addressed it, including a young man named Henry David Thoreau when he wrote:

The cost of a thing is the
amount of life required to be exchanged for it, either immediately or in the long run.
This would be a potent idea to keep in mind regarding all of our actions, particularly if "cost" is considered in the broadest sense of the word, and not just in monetary terms.
  • What is the monetary cost of a particular behavior or course of action?
  • What is the cost to one's friendships, or relationships, or self-esteem, or personal integrity?
  • What is the cost to their soul?

And it is in keeping with this broad perspective that a major national and international movement promoting persons' wellness has grown and flourished in the United States beginning in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Some of the notions are new, but some are ageless. What is unique about the wellness movement is its inclusive nature, drawing on various fields of knowledge as diverse as medicine and the martial arts, human behavior and exercise science, nutrition and psychology, in an effort to promote persons' well-being.

Many individuals and organizations are allied with the wellness movement, whose hub arguably is in Stevens Point, Wisconsin at the National Wellness Institute. Its 6-part model of wellness (National Wellness Institute, 2013b) may be the best known of the many models in existence, addressing physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and occupational domains of wellness. The unifying definition of wellness created by the NWI (National Wellness Institute, 2013b) to integrate these domains is as follows:

Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

Our own definition of wellness (Hatfield & Hatfield, 1992) is

The conscious and deliberate process by which people are actively involved in enhancing their overall well-being:

Intellectual, Physical, Social, Emotional, Occupational, Spiritual

Curtis and Detert (1981) described key components of wellness, including:

• Having a purpose in life

• Identifying for oneself life's true joys and pleasures

• Accepting personal responsibility

• Finding effective and lasting motivation

One other way to get a handle on this general notion of wellness is to consider it as a parallel to the more traditional "sick or healthy" physical health continuum, with "not well" on the "sick" end and "high level wellness" on the "healthy" end.

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They are parallel issues, but not the same. Look again at the wellness components described by Curtis and Detert above. Would it be possible to be physically healthy, at least in the short run, and not have those four key issues in place? Yes.

Conversely, however, would it be possible to be terminally ill, physically disabled, and mentally handicapped, yet still be very, very well? Again, the answer is yes.

For us, wellness as a concept is where far more than stress management skills and techniques come together to impact the life of a person. As we noted in our definition above, it is a person's overall well-being which needs to be addressed, nurtured, honored over the long run for them to be a fully-functioning human being, regardless of their professional role.

For additional wellness resources, consult our Resources section with special attention to the very inclusive resources available through the National Wellness Institute (2013a), but also including the early written work of Ardell (1986) and Hettler (1984), and the more recent work of Schafer (1996), Seaward (1997), Travis and Ryan, (2004), Anspaugh, Hamrick, and Rosato (2010), and Nicolai (2013).