Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Knowing the difference between wellness and health can be tricky. You can be healthy by conventional standards but not be well. Twenty-one years of treating 7,000 patients in my practice have taught me that wellness means finding life-fulfillment and balance in the face of challenges and uncertain times.
What’s the Difference Between Health and Wellness?
We generally define “health” as an absence of disease or infirmity. As long as we get the stamp of approval from our primary-care provider that we are managing our clinical blood values with prescription medicines, we are considered healthy. A person can do all these “right things” to be healthy, but how many of us actually feel well in all aspects of wellness: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual?
“Wellness,” on the other hand, is defined by the National Wellness Institute as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices towards, a more successful existence.“ A state of wellness is created via a lifestyle that is achieved by self-directed individuals who make conscious choices and consistently strive to maximize their full potential. The end game of wellness is to achieve vibrant health and experience an overall sense of well-being.
Factors That Lead to Health and Wellness
Recommendations for proper health often include a balanced diet, regular amounts of exercise and adequate sleep. What empowers us to create wellness, however, is making choices that align with our values and that let us love our authentic selves. To achieve this, we can monitor the thoughts we entertain and try to maintain emotional balance.
To be well is, and always will be, a conscious choice. We must first understand our body signs which takes practice and which might at first feel difficult. When we notice our body and start to become aware of imbalance, we can make adjustments to maintain our wellness and vibrant health.
Wellness is not an end goal, but an evolving process to be managed over time. The most important factor is how we choose to perceive our experiences. For example, a heart attack or cancer diagnosis could feel like a death sentence. However, when we pause and reflect on what is going on in our lives and make the necessary adjustments to address a “dis-ease,” then we can establish a wellness protocol and get back to an optimum state of living for our condition.
This means that we can experience a health condition or pain yet still remain well. When we recognize the source of conflict in our lives, we can begin to address it, working to resolve it and effectively enhance our wellbeing.
This goes against the most common perspective on being healthy, which is that when we are not ill, we are pain-free. But have you ever heard stories of illness among people who live a conventional healthy lifestyle? They’re physically fit and rarely sick, but still end up having a massive heart attack, cancer or some other life-threatening illness. How is this possible? A high-stress job, financial commitments, familial challenges and other life-stressors can negatively impact our health without us realizing it, until a health crisis occurs. But our bodies are extremely resilient, doing their best to keep us in balance. Weight gain, increased fatigue, emotional fluctuations, body tensions and insomnia are signals from our bodies that are saying, “This is not good for me, please make a change.” Adopting a wellness mindset can assist us in knowing when our health is in jeopardy.
In my opinion, a state of wellness is achieved when our life feels at ease and in balance. A person can have what would be considered an unhealthy lifestyle — working long hours, eating on the run, not drinking enough water, etc. — but if he or she is inspired by the work, who’s to say this is not a well life? I have encountered many individuals who may be overweight, not in the best physical shape cardiologically, but they still have their clinical blood values in the normal range. From the outside, they may appear to be unhealthy, but on a mental, emotional level, they are well.
How Do I Achieve Wellness?
The first crucial guideline to developing wellness is do not compare yourself to others. No two people are alike; even identical twins will differ to some degree in how they think and perceive life. Accepting our authentic selves without the need to prove ourselves to family members or peers can boost our wellness by 70% or more. Gratitude for life is the first key to achieving wellness.
Next, look at the motivating drivers in your life. Usually whatever drives us to behave or act a certain way (or to strive for certain goals) is a perceived unmet need. When our basic needs are met, and we find ourselves in a state of gratitude — we are able to live joyfully and be well.
Third, if you don’t like the life that you are living, you are not well. Take time to reflect on what is important to you. Many times we realize that the life we live right now is exactly the life we want. Therefore, it’s vital to start taking a look at why we live the way we do. Bad habits or a challenging life are usually part of our life’s plan to bring growth.
Being aware of our truth and values at any given time is crucial. When we go astray and deviate from our truth, this will eventually lead to frustration, burn out, low energy and an overall lack of wellbeing.
Decide how you want to experience your life. Ultimately the lifestyle choices you make today can impact your health and wellbeing in the future.
In conclusion, vibrant health is dependent upon the lifestyle choices we make every day. Are you living your life authentically and feeling fulfilled in your occupation, personal life and the balance between the two? It not, ask yourself why? Once the “why” becomes clear, then the “how to” will become obvious. With the assistance of our body signals, we can stay on track with health and wellness goals. Begin by prioritizing what you want or don’t want in your life, then define a plan of action. We have the ability to design the life we want to live, to create our own fate. Vibrant health and a memorable life await: all they need is for you to make a conscious choice to make it so.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (alohachiro.biz), in Mänoa valley, O’ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.