What is Wellness? Definition, Meaning And More

What is wellness? “Wellness” is a term that has greatly increased in usage over the decades, especially the last few years. As we head for 2020, more people are working as wellness professionals than at any other time in history.

With the continued growing popularity of worksite wellness programs, it’s no wonder we’re constantly hearing wellness, wellness, wellness.

What is Wellness and Why Do We Need a Wellness Program Definition?

Worksite wellness programs were started as a “niche” industry,  they often focused around executive fitness, eventually transforming into comprehensive programs that have become a part of company business strategies for worksites of all sizes. 

The history of wellness is quite interesting as it’s hard to imagine a day and age when wellness wasn’t used. It was Halbert Dunnis that was the first one credited with answering the question “what is wellness,” a term he coined back in 1961. 

Nearly 60 years later, the term “wellness” is being used everywhere. An interesting fact, if you took the time to search, you’d find that the word wellness is part of the trademark for over 5,000 different companies. Wow!

Today’s wellness professionals obtain certifications and university training designed to help those who oversee worksite wellness programs. Thanks to the efforts of companies like Kadalyst, businesses have been able to see positive ROI from their workplace program investments, as well as reduced health care plan costs.

A majority of wellness professionals work in worksite wellness settings. For this group, the term “wellness” is usually used to describe employee wellness programs. On the negative side, employee wellness programs are called a number of different terms, which can lead to confusion. 

While we’ll mainly refer to them by employee wellness programs, you may hear others refer to them by;

  • corporate wellness
  • corporate health
  • workplace wellness
  • worksite wellness
  • worksite wellness programs
  • workplace health
  • employee wellness
  • corporate well-being
  • worksite well-being
  • employee well-being
  • workplace well-being
  • workplace health promotion
  • employee health promotion
  • worksite health promotion
  • employee health
  • employee health and wellness
  • worksite health wellness
  • wellness strategies
  • wellness initiatives
  • health wellness program
  • employee wellness plan
  • wellness program for employees
  • workplace health programs
  • healthy workplace programs

For the most part, these terms are fairly simple to understand. Despite that, once we begin to talk about “wellness” and “well-being,” the definitions can confuse you. This is why we wanted to create this guide, we hope it clarifies all these different terms and makes it easier for you to understand what they mean.

The purpose of this blog is to help clarify the different terms and make it easier for people to understand where worksite wellness ends and the wacky world of “what is wellness” begins.

As we discuss the wellness program definition, we need to start with the basics. See the diagram below to help you understand where worksite wellness efforts begin and end. The diagram can also help you see how the words “wellness” and “well-being” have morphed into words that can mean just about anything.

What Is Employee Wellness?

An employee wellness program is specifically designed to support better health at work, to improve health outcomes, boost company culture, improve employee morale and to lower costs associated with employer health plans. These worksite programs can include medical screenings, behavior change interventions, fitness programs, social competitions, incentives and support.

Most employee programs will include activities that promote well-being. Such programs can include but are not limited to exercise, meditation, stress management, emotional well-being, psychological well-being and resilience training.

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being is the experience of health, happiness and prosperity. Well-being represents good mental health, happiness in all areas of one’s life and having a purpose in life. While there’s no one term to fit well-being, good well-being is having a positive outlook on life and being healthy.

You’ll find that a lot of health programs that are outside the U.S. are often called employee well-being programs. These programs share a lot of the same features and benefits American programs share. However, a lot of these programs focus more on well-being outside of the workplace. Essentially, at least to the majority of people, well-being and wellness represent the same thing.

What Is Wellness?

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward getting healthy. Wellness goes way beyond just being free from having an illness. Rather, it represents positive change and growth in one’s life. 

Like well-being, wellness has many definitions and meanings depending on who you ask. While wellness often refers to good health, the government appears to hate using the word. For example, the CDC hates using the word “wellness.” They’ve been known to call employee wellness programs “worksite wellness promotion” or “workplace health promotion.”

While most people have a general idea of what wellness means, a lot of health companies overuse the term. Why? The likely cause is marketing and sales, in other words, they want to sell more products/services. 

Dimensions Of Wellness

There’s thought to be 8 different dimensions of wellness. These include;

  • Emotional Wellness – This would relate to your ability and understanding to cope effectively with stress.
  • Financial Wellness – This relates to your ability to control your finances and manage expenses.
  • Occupational Wellness – This focuses on enjoying your contributions and achievements through work.
  • Environmental Wellness – This type is all about being inspired to live a lifestyle that respects all of your surroundings.
  • Intellectual Wellness – This relates to your ability to have an open mind and thirst for acquiring new knowledge.
  • Social Wellness – This encourages you to build strong relationships with others.
  • Physical Wellness – This focuses on your ability to stay healthy and seek care when needed.
  • Spiritual Wellness – This helps you concentrate on what’s most important in your life, like your goals, values and mission.

Why It Does Matter

If you want to live a higher quality of life, maintaining an optimal level of well-being is important for achieving just that. Wellness matters. Wellness matters because everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being. Due to this, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. It’s engraved in our every day life.

After all, if you don’t have your health, you’ll never be able to do the things you once loved to do. It’s our health and wellness that allows us to “live,” to enjoy things in life, enjoy time with family. It’s everything. Literally.

If you’re interested in learning how Kadalyst can help enhance your corporate wellness program or help you launch a new program, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can speak to one of our experts by calling 503-512-5175 or you can use our contact form here.

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