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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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What Is Wellness?

Wellness is the right and privilege of everyone. There is no prerequisite for it other than your free choice. The "well" being is not necessarily the strong, the brave, the successful, the young, the whole, or even the illness-free being. A person can be living a process of wellness and yet be physically handicapped; aged; scared in the face of challenge; in pain; imperfect. No matter what your current state of health, you can begin to appreciate yourself as a growing, changing person and allow yourself to move toward a happier life and positive health.

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, a sense of purpose, and self-acceptance.

Diseases and symptoms are not really the problem. They are actually the body-mind-emotion-spirit's attempt to solve a problem - they are a message from the subconscious to the conscious.

Much of contemporary medical practice is involved with chipping away at surface needs. Its orientation is toward treating and eliminating the evidence of disease, and this is important. But it is not enough. It is essential to look below the surface signs to address the real needs. Wellness extends the definition of health to encompass a process of integration characterized by awareness, education, and growth.

He not busy being born is busy dying. —Bob Dylan

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