It is well known that a problem cannot be conceived as such until the concepts to define and limit it have been created. That is why, among other things, our current conception of what well-being should be has been broadening to encompass aspects of human life that decades ago would have been unimportant or even neglected.
Today, however, we speak not only of the importance of meeting the basic needs of each one of us, but of a much broader realm of potential than the possibility of feeling good physically. This concept has been called wellness.
Wellness is an idea that more and more therapists and psychologists are working with, but also organizations of hotels with spas and agencies that offer weekend experiences. What is wellness and why is it popular?
Wellness: a new conception
What we understand by wellness today is derived from the ideas of Halbert L. Dunn, an American statistician who is considered the father of the Wellness Movement. In the 1950s, Dunn developed the idea of wellness understanding that human well-being had to go beyond what until then was included in the field of health. Thus, this concept had to include, in addition to the proper functioning of the body, the ability to opt for various ways of self-realization.
In this way, the wellness that Halbert L. Dunn spoke of can be understood as the dynamics and lifestyle through which human potential is maximized in the physical, mental and spiritual spheres. As wellness theorizing includes the acceptance of the existence of a mental and spiritual world in addition to the physical, this concept is used especially in the circles of influence of alternative medicine and non-experimental psychology.
Since the 50s, and especially with the momentum that New Age culture took in the 70s, this idea of health has spread to spa centers, spas and wellness hotels, but also to travel programs and experiences that offer wellness weekends and long stays dedicated to improving the standard of living.
An eternally postponed question
This new way of understanding well-being was not born in the middle of the 20th century by chance. There are reasons why today there are many wellness centers and a century ago this idea was not even raised. This is so because changes in social conditions have made it possible for the philosophy of wellness and integral health to spread.
It is curious that, although Western human societies have assumed for many centuries the existence of a separation between the body and the soul, all their efforts in the sense of improving the quality of life of people (that of the wealthy classes, in concrete) have focused only on the realm of the physical. The spiritual realm, which is understood as linked to the divine and therefore seems much more important than the “simple carcass of flesh and bones”, takes center stage in the practice of creating ideal living conditions.
A chosen few
Feeding the soul was something that was reserved for very small elites and their environment, even if there was always some philosopher who, even having problems to survive, would insist on answering these types of questions.
Of course, until not so long ago, it was difficult to try to respond to a repertoire of needs as difficult to define as those that correspond to the spiritual realm, and even less with the scarce resources and limited technologies that were available. How could the ancient Romans, for example, have been able to speak of wellness, who depended on the denial of the human character of their slaves to maintain themselves an acceptable standard of living and to use their services with total freedom?
Today, however, talking about wellness is already possible. And it is, among other things, because we already have the resources and the technology not to continue indefinitely postponing the fundamental question: what happens to the well-being of our mind?
“Wellness” in the wellness society
It is not surprising, therefore, that this notion of what wellness is practically coincides with the appearance of the welfare state, shortly after the Second World War. Like the
The basic needs of more and more social strata were being met thanks to the redistribution of wealth, it was easier to extend the scope of all positive human values.
It is at this moment when freedom begins to be spoken more, the autonomy to be able to choose a lifestyle adapted to one’s own way of being and doing things. It is also at this time that the idea begins to spread that well-being must address issues not addressed so far.
Many psychology professionals are beginning to focus their interventions on the need not only to treat mental problems, but also to help lead patients towards happiness and self-realization. The needs of the spirit, reformulated as needs of the mind, become some of the main objectives.
In this way all the ideas related to health and fitness have been imbued with the notion of wellness: from plans to lose fat, lose weight and maintain a flat stomach, to treatment plans for sick patients or to help carry out plans. healthy diet.
As always happens with the concepts that appeal to a spiritual world that works by different logics than the physical realm, wellness in its original definition is not something that is taken too much into account in scientific psychology or conventional medicine.
Research and intervention plans from these instances usually focus on the study of subjective experience and the placebo effect, but not on the consideration of areas of well-being detached from normal biological and physiological processes.
It is clear that weight loss plans could work better if the idea of wellness is internalized and accepted by patients, and that hotels can improve their economic results if they include a wellness center in their services, but that does not tell us much about an area of human needs separated from the rest of the areas of physical health.So while many spas, hotels, travel agencies, and alternative medicine organizations may find the idea of wellness helpful, it is not a universal truth.
Believing in wellness can open the doors to a new way of developing happiness and enjoying life, but not doing so does not turn us into people who are far from authentic well-being.