Wellness and wellbeing are words you'll find everywhere — whether it be in the news, in conversation or on the bottle of kombucha you just picked up at the grocery store. But what's the difference between health and wellness and what do the terms really mean?
Though these terms are often used interchangeably, you may be surprised to learn they have distinctive meanings. “Wellness” commonly refers to your overall well-being, a lifestyle that you actively seek and one that is continually evolving — whereas, “health” refers to your actual mental and physical state.
But there’s so much more to health and wellness than just their definitions. Read on as we discuss how they’re related and tips that you can integrate into your daily routine to help you improve both.
Wellness vs. Health
What is health?
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”1 While it may seem like your physical and mental state are separate entities, they are actually closely connected.
To maintain your physical health, it’s important to focus on good nutrition, exercise, and overall self-care practices. By doing so, you may be able to reduce your risk of major chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few.2
The National Institutes of Health suggest following these steps to improve your physical health:3
- Be active.
- Work toward or maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat healthily.
- Develop healthy habits and identify habits that do not serve your well-being.
There’s no need to completely overhaul your entire routine overnight — just start small and begin with the basics. Start by learning more about the benefits of good nutrition (take this fun quiz to test your knowledge). Then, focus on integrating simple, low-impact exercises, like walking into your day. In addition to being great for your physical health, exercising and eating right can be great for your mental health, and you may even notice an improvement in your mood.
Mental & social health
Mental health is just as important as physical health and refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.4 Your mental health impacts how you think, feel and act, as well as your ability to relate to others, make choices, and deal with stress.4
A variety of different factors can affect your mental health, including:4
- Life experiences (such as trauma)
- A family history of mental health problems
- Biological factors (such as brain chemistry or genes)
Mental and social health conditions can be more difficult to pinpoint and diagnose than physical health. However, mental health and physical health are connected: it’s possible for someone suffering from physical health issues to develop depression or feel the effects of stress.5 Conversely, depression or excess stress may impact a person’s body weight.6 By practicing regular self-care you can help nurture your mental health and your overall wellness may even benefit.
What is wellness?
Wellness is a word you’ll find everywhere from yoga studios to grocery stores — and you might notice that everyone seems to have a slightly different idea of what wellness is and how to achieve it.
The University of California, Davis explains wellness as an “active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth.”7 At its core, wellness is centered around three basic ideas. According to the National Wellness Institute:8
- Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.
- Wellness is multi-dimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.
- Wellness is positive and affirming.
Ultimately, wellness is more than just being healthy; it encompasses all aspects of our physical, social, intellectual, emotional, occupational and spiritual well-being.
Tips to improve your health and wellness
Improving your health and wellness can positively impact your life. To start, try making healthful, mindful changes. No change is too small!
Meditation can be a great way to work toward achieving a balance between your body and mind. If you feel like you’re constantly on-the-go and your thoughts are always racing, practicing mindfulness techniques may help give your mind the rest and stillness it needs to recover in times of stress.
Consistently getting your heart pumping may offer a number of health and wellness benefits, including improving how you feel, boosting your energy and bettering your sleep quality.9 Start by doing light exercise, such as going for a walk or a short swim and gradually increase your time and intensity from there.
Stick to a sleep schedule
With the rise of electronic devices, individuals are experiencing even more obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a regular sleep schedule to help you fall asleep a little easier by aligning with your natural circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock.10 Research suggests getting more sleep may reduce the effects of stress11, maintain healthy blood pressure,12 reduce the risk of high cholesterol levels,13 and improve your mood.14
Find ways to reduce stress
Stress may impact your health and wellness, so it’s important to find constructive ways to counteract its effects. Try integrating activities like reading or light exercise into your routine that allow your mind and body to recharge.
Make time for self-care
When faced with a busy schedule, it can be hard to make time for yourself. Block out some time each week to do something you enjoy – whether that be spending more time with friends, family, or taking the time to relax and unwind solo.
We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between health and wellness. Starting small and making simple changes can add up in a big way when it comes to improving both. If you want to find a better balance between your health, wellness and food choices, contact a Jenny Craig consultant to book your free appointment today.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.