We publish the following article courtesy of Frédérique Guern, psychologist and shiatsu therapist 

The word wellness has become very common and marketing companies use it to attract new customers and create new needs. Just think of bubble baths and body creams that promise moments of wellness, products for the home that create an oasis of wellness, tours-operators offering wellness trips and some food products, “smart food”, that promote body wellness.

It seems that the search for wellness has become our main occupation, without our having a precise definition.

The word wellness is associated almost immediately with the word health. In fact, in 1948 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness and not only the absence of disease”, stressing that the absence of disease was not enough to access wellness but that other internal and external factors influence the individual.

Giving a definition of wellness is therefore not an easy process because it is not limited only to the dimension of health of the body but expands to all dimensions of the human being (body, emotions, mind, spirit) and has a subjective meaning so that we cannot define fixed and standardized criteria a priori.

In its September 2011 report, the Health Commission of the European Systems Observatory and
Health Policies proposed the definition of wellness as “the emotional, mental, physical state,
social and spiritual wellness that allows people to achieve and maintain their personal potential in society “.

As we read in the report, all five aspects are important, but even more important is that these aspects are balanced with each other to allow individuals to improve their wellness and that of the society they inhabit, creating a virtuous circle of individual and collective wellness.

The main factors assessed were health, family, financial situation, housing, friends, professional satisfaction, education and leisure time. Often one is interconnected with the other, creating an interweaving on which the feeling of wellness can develop.

A sociologist could give a definition of wellness that places more consideration on the environment and having access to education, thus stipulating certain guidelines for achieving wellness.

A neuropsychologist could identify a few specific areas of the human brain that are activated, neurotransmitters that release beneficial substances that cause feelings of wellness.

Personally I define wellness as a feeling of harmony and peace between body and spirit and between my surrounding environment and me. This feeling is rewarding and may have various degrees. The wellness experienced when drinking a glass of mineral water on a hot day in summer is different from what you may experience one night looking at the stars and feeling yourself to be in perfect communion with the Universe. Romain Rolland – in his correspondence with S. Freud in the early nineteenth century – called this experience of feeling-of-unity, understanding, and full awareness, “oceanic feeling”. One feature that both experiences share – the glass of water and the communion with the Universe – is volatility: they do not last long and are unique and unrepeatable.

If defining wellness is complex, we can, however, identify practices that allow us to reach a state of global wellness or to restore it when the balance is broken. In my experience as a  psychologist and shiatsu practitioner, the simplest practice starts with the body. Listening to one’s own body and becoming aware of the wonder of the human body, supports a good relationship between yourself and the world, a form of positive resonance that gratifies and procures relaxation, a sense of belonging and connection with the Universe.

A body accepted and heard, allows the mind to calm, giving us the chance to observe our emotional and mental state and, if necessary, transform it to restore a state of wellness.

In daily life, occupied with work and with caring for the home and family, we forget we have a body. Our mind is busy planning various activities or brooding on past situations. When we forget our body, we miss the opportunity to experience wellness. The more immediate practice, to re-gain our own body, is to bring our attention back to our breathing, with conscious breathing.

I inhale, I am aware of inhaling, I exhale, I am aware of exhaling, breath after breath, moment after moment, I return to the center, at home in my body. In this way we take the opportunity to grasp the wonder of the human body in its complexity and if we perceive any tensions, we can understand their deep nature and release them. The practice of conscious breathing has the great advantage of its being available at any time of the day, in any place, immediately. Mindful breathing is not only a good way to feel good, live and be present, but it is mostly a gesture of love and kindness towards yourself and gradually – like the stone in the pond that creates ever-widening circles – towards those close to us, where ever we are.


Picture courtesy of Ingrid Santana on Pexels