What is wellness?
Before we can talk about how to improve wellness, it’s important to know what it means for a person to be well. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines wellness as “the optimal state of health of individuals and groups” so that a person who is well should be able to realize their individual potential, and also be able to fulfill the expectations they have for their life. Although health is a very important part of wellness, there is a difference between these terms. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) distinguishes between the two - health is “a state of being, whereas wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle. Health refers to physical, mental, and social well-being; wellness aims to enhance well-being.”
Why does wellness matter?
The National Wellness Institute (NWI) created the Six Dimensions of Wellness model, which is a helpful way to understand an individual’s whole well-being by assessing their emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness. Additionally, this model can be used to create health interventions that focus on the areas of a person’s life that can improve a person’s well-being most effectively.
The state of being well looks different from person to person based on how one defines it for their life. However, achieving whole wellness in each area is essential to experiencing health and satisfaction in each of our lives. It matters if you don’t experience a sense of wellness in your work, your spiritual or other understanding of the world, your intellectual and social activity, or your emotional or physical status.
If these dimensions aren’t being supported and nurtured, you are likely to experience serious health consequences, such as poor academic/work performance, relationship strains, mental or physical illnesses, or low life satisfaction (NWI).
What does “wellness” mean for youth?
Wellness is an important part of everyone’s lives, but it is especially important to build healthy wellness habits in youth! In the United States currently, childhood obesity poses a serious health threat, with only 21.6% of those ages 6-19 being physically active for at least the recommended 60 daily minutes on at least 5 days a week (CDC), as well as 60% of children not eating enough fruit and 93% of children not eating enough vegetables (CDC). Furthermore, a 2016 national co-morbidity survey found that 49.5% of U.S. adolescents aged 13-18 will have a mental disorder at some point during their lives.
The statistics clearly show that there’s a tremendous need to focus on youth wellness and to invest more resources in resolving this crisis.
Fortunately, there are many ways for the adults in their lives to create environments that support the health and wellbeing of youths. So what can you do to create these supportive environments? This is where HealthCorps University (HCU) comes in!
The HealthCorps curriculum is based upon identifying and strengthening the three pillars of nutrition, physical activity, and mental resilience to improve the wellbeing of youth. Though fewer in number, if you compare our three pillars with the Dimensions of Wellness Model, you’ll find that the three pillars encompass and support all of the dimensions of wellness! If you introduce the HealthCorps curriculum to the youth in your life, they can learn how to make nutritious eating choices, which fuels their education and physical activity and is a vital part of healthy social interactions. They will learn more about how to become and remain physically active, which is not only linked to physical wellness but also supports academic performance by improving cognitive function (CDC). Additionally, by putting our content into practice, you can become the role model you want your youth to have, and prepare them to thrive physically, academically, socially, emotionally, and as whole people for their entire lives.
What can you do?
Ultimately, building strong wellness habits in youth is an essential way to reduce the burden of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses and to increase the quality of life, and you have the power to be a part of the solution! By attending one of HealthCorps University’s upcoming wellness trainings, you will learn how to promote wellness among the youth you interact with, hear from Delphine Remy, a certified Holistic Nutrition and Eating Psychology Coach, participate in first-hand experience through a self-care breakout session, gain access to our video series, receive two one-on-one virtual consultations, and more! There's a serious youth wellness crisis, but if we work together to prepare our younger generation with the knowledge and skills they need, there doesn’t have to continue to be one!
HealthCorps University is a traveling event. Please check our Homepage for more detailed information and to see when we will be in a city near you!
Kristyn Hietala is currently a Masters of Public Health student at the University of California, San Diego and a former HealthCorps Education intern.