First published 13-Aug-2020 by Bangkok Post, Thailand
Many are talking about wellness but as it is being used across many different business types it can also be confusing. So, what is wellness? Oxford Dictionary defines wellness as ‘the state of being healthy, especially when you actively try to achieve this’, while healthy is defined as ‘having good health and not likely to become ill’. In other words, it is the process of becoming aware of and making choices that yield a healthy, active, and fulfilling life. It is more than just being free from illness – it is about change and growth to achieve physical, mental, and social well-being and becomes increasingly important as we age. Regular activity and good nutrition can help in the prevention of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease while also aiding stability and balance to help reduce the risk of falling over.
In simplified terms wellness or well-being is ‘the state of being well’, however as with most things in life that are vague in their descriptions one needs to delve further to better understand.
Wellness is commonly accepted to encompass eight dimensions:
- Emotional Wellness is the ability to cope effectively with life and build healthy satisfying relationships with other people. Emotional health can be maintained or improved by engaging in regular leisure and recreational activities which involve each of your senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound.
- Environmental Wellness is about your surroundings and the space you occupy. It is a connection between your well-being and the well-being of the environment – both your social and natural surroundings. Pollution, violence, garbage buildup, and water conservation are some of the factors affecting environmental wellness, as are office or home clutter and disorganization. Manage your environmental wellness by recycling, gardening, purchasing products with minimal packaging, avoiding littering, minimize use of plastics, and conserving energy and water
- Financial Wellness is a feeling of satisfaction about your financial situation, and can be as simple as having a budget and maintaining a savings account with regular deposits. Avoiding credit card debt, donating to a meaningful charity, shopping at second hand stores, using a library instead of purchasing a book, or just cooking your own meals can also aid in your goals
- Intellectual Wellness is the recognition of your own creative talent and you seek ways to use your knowledge and skills. Reading, puzzles, debating issues with others, learning a new language or musical instrument, trying a new hobby, or teaching and tutoring others are all ways to maintain or improve your intellectual wellness.
- Occupational Wellness is a sense of satisfaction with your choice of work. It involves balancing work and leisure time, building relationships with coworkers, and managing workplace stress.
- Physical Wellness is driven by physical activity, healthy nutrition, and adequate sleep. Your physical wellness can be improved by participation in activities such as yoga, bike riding, jumping rope, sports, walking, dancing, and gardening.
- Social Wellness is the sense of connectedness and belonging and can be anything from having lunch with a colleague, joining a club or organization, setting healthy boundaries, using good communication skills, and being respectful of others.
- Spiritual Wellness is related to the values and beliefs that help you find meaning and purpose in life. It can come from activities such as volunteering, self-reflection, meditation, or spending time in nature.
As with the environmental movement and the subsequent greenwashing which became prolific – promising much but delivering little until the world better understood the subject the same applies to wellness. Wellness is not just a marketing word – it is tangible actions and outcomes – and while it is yet to move much beyond a marketing ploy for many consumers are becoming more educated on what it is and how they can incorporate it into their daily living.
One of the biggest challenges is to understand the word wellness is being used in business. Example: A Wellness Spa. As defined above, it may well be a place where you can actively seek to improve your health, but the question remains – how many of the eight dimensions of wellness does it address and what does the name actually tell us? In order to claim ‘wellness’ and not be ‘wellness washing,’ you need to look at each of the dimensions and determine how far you can or need to go to achieve the desired state of well-being. The boundaries will vary according to the type and concept of the business establishment.
In order to further explain this, let us look at Environmental Wellness. This is one dimension of wellness which is topical in today’s instant gratification and consumerism obsessed world where excess has been rampant. COVID-19 may well have dampened demand and while sustainable tourism will hopefully become the rule rather than the exception as the world recovers, to achieve environmental wellness needs thought and commitment.
In addressing Environmental Wellness, all buildings should be LEED or similarly certified. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the recognized global leader in green building certification systems. Buildings which are LEED-certified have proven to be less impactful on the environment and provide operational costs savings through the reduction in the use of water and energy required to operate the buildings, however, there are other certification options that should also be considered including, but not limited to:
Green Mark, or
TREES (Thailand’s Rating of Energy and Environmental Sustainability) is a newer system based on the USGBC’s LEED system but specifically modified for Thailand – to name a few.
Depending on whether the structure is already built will be a significant factor in determining which certification is desired or even achievable as there can be significant up-front financial implications even though the end product will yield cost savings.
A list of some of the certified structures in Thailand can be viewed at www.gbig.org/places/886.
Beyond the physical building, some considerations of environmental wellness are:
- ensuring plenty of natural light to reduce electrical consumption
- maximizing natural air flow – the world does not have to be airconditioned
- adding ‘working gardens’ with a fruit tree, a tomato bush or garden herbs instead of just ‘aesthetically pleasing gardens’
- minimize (or eliminate where possible) the use of harmful chemicals in the paint and furniture
- being organized with a good filing/storage system to eliminate unsightly clutter
- minimizing your consumption of plastics
- use a cloth or string shopping bag instead of plastic bags
- buy loose vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones
- use wooden tooth brushes instead of plastic tooth brushes
- don’t purchase beauty care products with micro-plastics
- use plastic storage boxes instead of plastic bags for storage
- use only natural cleaning products – baking soda is a great base agent to use when cleaning everything from your teeth to carpets and bathroom tiles or explore other environmentally considerate cleaning options such as vinegar, lemon, olive oil or even electro-chemical activated (ECA) water
- reuse, recycle or separate office / household waste to dispose of thoughtfully
Each of the dimensions of wellness can require a balancing act to achieve as each dimension brings its own distinct challenges with varying levels of commitment required for success however the rewards are immense for the mind, the body and the soul when you achieve your goal of a healthy state of being.