In 1947 the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health Wellness as the state of complete mental, physical and social well being, not merely the absence of disease” (WHO, 1947). WHO’s definition was the first globally accepted conceptualization of health and stood the test of time for more than a decade. Although multifaceted, this definition of health was flawed, according to members of a new movement called holistic health.
The holistic health movement came into being in the 1960s as an attempt to expand the view of health that WHO had spread.One of the early pioneers in the field, Halbert Dunn (1962), believed that WHO’S vision of health characterized it as a static state. Rather than call health a state of well-being, Dunn preferred to view it as a continuum. Developing and maintaining a high level of health means moving toward high-level functioning along a continuum that starts with low-level wellbeing and ends with optimal functioning.
Health is a conscious and deliberate approach to life and being, rather than something to be abdicated to doctors and the healthcare system. Optimal health is a result of your decisions and behavior. In addition, Dunn recast the notion of wellbeing to revolve around how well a person functions. That is, he viewed functioning as evidence of well-being. Although people will have setbacks in their quest for optimal functioning, the direction in which their lives are moving becomes an important criterion for evaluating their wellbeing. In this movement, daily habits and behaviors, as well as overall lifestyle, assume primary importance.
Originally, the scope of well-being was limited to three dimensions: physical, social, and mental. Adherents of holistic health argued that the mental dimension has two components—the intellectual (rational thought processes) and the emotional (feelings and emotions). Each of these domains deals with a different aspect of psychological well-being. An additional dimension, the spiritual, was added because it was thought that humans could not function optimally in a spiritual vacuum. Therefore, the holistic definition of health has five dimensions: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the definition of health in Psychology was expanded once again by the wellness movement(Ardell, 1985).
Wellness is an approach to health that focuses on balancing the many aspects or dimensions (physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and environmental/occupational) of a person’s life by increasing the adoption of health-enhancing conditions and behaviors rather than by attempting to minimize conditions of illness (AAHE, 2001). A key element of the wellness model is striving for balance. When all of the six dimensions are at high levels and in balance, we have optimal health and well-being. When the dimensions are out of balance or one is severely lacking, we have lower levels of health and well-being. Another important part of wellness is the process of becoming healthier. The journey (becoming the best one can be) is more important than the ending. The process of wellness involves becoming increasingly more aware of health and making healthy choices.
The Illness-wellness Continuum
In this way, health refers to a positive state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing—not simply the absence of injury or disease—that varies over time along a continuum. At the wellness end of the
continuum, health is the dominant state. At the other end of the continuum, the dominant state is illness or injury, in which destructive processes produce characteristic signs, symptoms, or disabilities.