A matter of health

Back in February, Xpress launched an online “Wellness” column, inviting readers to participate in an ongoing dialogue that asks, What is wellness? Wade Inganamort has led the way in this Web feature: His weekly blogs and quick-hit reports on Twitter round up the wellness news in WNC (on Twiter, follow @MXWellness).

This week, we’re launching the print version of the column. We welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing what wellness topics you’d like to see in this monthly section.

What is wellness? Gauging by the headlines in the magazine racks, it appears to be a topic on the tip of everyone’s lips and the grail for which we all search. Asheville, as a self-proclaimed hub for health and healing, has a particular interest in the topic. Starting at least 100 years ago, people came here for the reported health benefits of clean mountain air, and today, health retreats and spas are still a mainstay. Asheville’s also the medical center of Western North Carolina, home to such facilities as Mission Hospital. With this focus on health, the Mountain Xpress is dedicating a new, monthly section that will explore wellness issues from a local perspective.

The question of defining wellness elicits responses that are as varied as the approaches. It can mean being free from disease, denote a level of vitality, or describe a quality of life that allows time with grandchildren or the ability to compete in a marathon.

“Wellness is subjective,” says Lourdes Lorenz, director of Integrative Healthcare at Mission Hospital. With a nod to the seminal work done on the topic by American nursing theorist Martha Rodgers, she explains, “Ask a person going through cancer if they’re in a state of wellness and they may say, ‘I feel well today.’ What is optimal for them is different than someone free from disease.”

A standard medical definition of wellness states, “Wellness is the subjective perception of being optimally healthy.” The World Health Organization breaks it down further by including physical, mental and social well-being. Dr. Halbert Dun, who popularized the concept of wellness in the 1950s, also adds a spiritual component. In practice, holistic health care providers look at a matrix of topics. Here are a few commonly included components:
• Physical health incorporates appropriate diet, exercise, breathing, rest, digestion, elimination and sleep.
• Emotional health is the process of being aware of and accepting feelings.
• Mental health, while hard to define, is often seen as having an optimistic attitude combined with humor, creativity and faith.
• Social health includes interpersonal relationships, interactions with the community and relationship to our work.
• Spiritual health is the ability to develop a deep appreciation for the depth and expanse of life and natural forces that exist in the universe.
• Environmental health encompasses the greater world around us, from the quality of our home and workplace to the state of our water, air, soil and earth.

“One area of health affects another,” Lorenz continues. “For example, focusing on spiritual health may improve relationships and stress levels. Starting to exercise may lift feelings of depression. Integrative healthcare models for wellness look at individuals at every facet of who they are.”

Local women’s health facilitator Guenevere Seastrom adds, “Balancing the various components can be challenging.” She remarks, “What balances me day-to-day and year-to-year changes depending on external circumstances. Yet when I’m feeling in a state of deep gratitude, even though everything might not be perfect, I know that I am well.”

In the 19th century, Asheville and Western North Carolina hosted several sanitariums for tuberculosis patients (it was commonly thought that the clean air and pleasant environment did them some good). Now our area boasts a variety of resources geared toward promoting greater wellness in residents’ daily lives. We have an award-winning hospital, numerous health practitioners (in a wide range of modalities), a county health department, acupuncture schools, several health food stores, herbal programs, massage schools, yoga-intstructor training and an active community health calendar.

In this new column, we’ll seek out these and other resources to explore health issues as they relate to individuals and the community. We’ll also talk to area experts and invite readers to participate in the dialogue.

As one local resident mentioned, “I know racing motorcycles isn’t great from my physical health, nor necessarily the health of the environment, but I know that I feel better when it’s part of my life.” While the section probably won’t cover motor-cross, we might investigate the “X Factor” in wellness.
More wellness information can be found on the Mountain Xpress Wellness blog hosted by Wade Inganamort at http://www.wncwellness.com/index.php. Send your comments, insights and suggestions to jldobrinska@gmail.com.

— Jacquelyn Dobrinska is an Asheville-based writer and yoga therapist working toward her doctorate in Holistic Health.

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