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Finding Your Way … with Wellness by Mary J. Witherall

(Submitted to by Mary J. Witherall)

I feel the need to respond to the articles in Sunday’s Globe Gazette In Business magazine Healthbeat section on the topic of Wellness. The article was focused on Principal Financial Company’s wellness program for their employees along with a few other local hospital and medical center programs. First of all I am happy to see that businesses are recognizing the importance of employee wellness programs and services but what I continue to see in the corporate approach and the general public approach toward wellness is the traditional view and definition of what wellness is.

Most companies and the general public believe that wellness is only about diet, exercise, nutrition and health screenings. There is another approach and what I believe is the missing piece to the puzzle to achieving ongoing success in overall wellness, and that is the whole-person approach. This approach is looking at wellness as the integration of body, mind and spirit. When you are confronting obesity in your life it is more than just eating healthy foods and exercising, it is looking at the behaviors and the beliefs we have about ourselves that lead us to the choices we make in the lifestyle we lead. Many times it is these areas ñ the emotional and social areas along with what we value or what is important to us that keep us from achieving success no matter if it is losing weight or reducing our blood pressure. There is a statement I came across that resonates with this approach and that is, “if you treat the whole, the person shifts in various ways”. The whole-person approach recognizes that everything you do, and think, and feel, and believe has an impact on your state of health. According to Dr. John Travis, author and founder of the first wellness center in the United States in 1975, states that wellness is never a static state. You don’t just get well or stay well. There are many degrees or levels of wellness, just as there are degrees of illness. Nor is wellness simply the absence of disease. While people often lack physical symptoms, they may still be bored, depressed, tense, anxious or generally unhappy with their lives. These emotional states often set the stage for physical disease through the lowering of the body’s resistance. The same feelings can also lead to abuses like smoking, excessive alcohol or drug use, and overeating. But these symptoms and behaviors represent only the tip of the iceberg. They are the surface indication of underlying human needs for such things as recognition from others, a stimulating environment, caring and affection from friends or co-workers, a sense of purpose and self-acceptance.

Diseases and symptoms are not really the problem. They are actually the body-mind-spirit’s attempt to solve a problem-they are a message from the subconscious to the conscious. Much of our medical model approach is about chipping away at surface needs by treating and eliminating the evidence of disease which is important but it is not enough. It is essential to look below the surface signs to address the real needs.
The whole-person wellness approach extends the definition of health through the integration of body, mind and spirit and is characterized through awareness, education and growth.

It is wonderful that businesses and companies are beginning to recognize that they can benefit from providing employees with fitness and health related programs and resources but it generally doesn’t address many of employee’s stress-related issues and obstacles that get in the way of achieving ongoing success. It is my belief that when we look below the surface to understand the causes of our state of health will lead you to the path of achievement and success of overall health and wellness.

Mary J. Witherall, Director of the Focus Living Center in Mason City, Iowa. Mary is a Lifestyle Coach & Consultant specializing in helping women to live a full and well life with focus and purpose. Focus Living Center offers programs and services for personal and professional growth. For more information go to or call at 641-430-4929.|

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