Health and wellness have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they feed off of each other to create a harmonious cycle. You can’t have a well-rounded healthy body without some level of emotional and spiritual wellness, and you certainly can’t achieve wellness if you aren’t walking around in a somewhat physically healthy body. The concept of health and wellness should be thought of in a holistic way: we need to view all of the functions of the body as a whole, working interconnectedly. 

We all know that staying inside, eating junk food, and generally not taking care of yourself can lead to depression and other health issues. And we also know how good our body and mind feel after a workout, hangout or engaging in a hobby. But how can we apply these concepts in our everyday lives? Let’s break it down. 

How Are Health & Wellness Different?

While health and wellness are very closely tied together, they are not the same thing. Physical health is a state in which your body is running as optimally as it can (whatever that means for you). Wellness is the act of balancing all of your different areas of health: physical, mental, emotional, etc. Think of health as your end goal, and wellness as some of the tools you use to get there. 

What is Health?

According to the 1946 definition by the World Health Organization (WHO), health is not just the absence of disease, but the state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being.” Although the statement was put out over 70 years ago, it still remains one of the main tenants when searching “What is health?” on the Internet. 

Of course, as modern medicine and technology has developed and shifted, so has the definition of health. With the ability to detect and treat more diseases in earlier stages, the idea that having a complete absence of disease is the only way to be truly healthy seems a bit silly. The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, published a 2009 research article discussing how the determination of health had become a personal concept: “Health is not a fixed entity. It varies for every individual, depending on their circumstances. Health is defined not by the doctor, but by the person, according to his or her functional needs.”

Factors That Determine Health

Although the concept of health is not one-size-fits-all, there are still a few overarching factors that may determine how healthful you are. Here are just some of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 

  • Early childhood development
  • Living conditions
  • Access to mass media and emerging technologies
  • Access to health services
  • Education
  • Social support
  • Language and literacy

What is Wellness?

If health is considered a somewhat static state of the body, then wellness is all of the dynamic elements that inform said health. It’s how we integrate healthy principles into our day-to-day activities, and how we avoid internalizing outside stressors that can manifest into long-term illness. 

Based on a 2015 definition by the National Wellness Institute (NWI), wellness is considered “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” It is a conscious, self-directed process, multidimensional and holistic, and is positive and affirming. 

Different Types of Wellness

According to a 2017 research study on dimensions of wellness, there are eight main areas of focus including financial, vocational and environmental. We’ve outlined the rest below:  

  • Physical: This includes exercise, the things you consume and how much sleep you’re getting.
  • Emotional: This includes mental wellness (therapy and/or meditation), stress management and how you handle negative feelings when they arise.
  • Spiritual: This includes any religious practice you may have, or whatever connects you to your innermost self. Things like nature walks, meditation, journaling and listening to music are all forms of spiritual wellness.
  • Social: This includes maintaining healthy relationships, setting boundaries and cultivating interests outside of your daily responsibilities.
  • Intellectual: This includes any activity that helps nurture and develop your brain. Things like reading a book, learning an instrument or taking a class are all forms of intellectual wellness.

Start Your Health and Wellness Career

Interested in making a career shift to health and wellness coaching? Join our Become a Health Coach program and begin coaching in six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.


Health Coach Institute provides aspiring Health and Life Coaches with the tools, training, and support to make a great living transforming lives.