Professor Marc Cohen – School of Health Sciences, RMIT University
Wellness has recently emerged as an industry sector and a multidimensional academic discipline that includes psychological, physiological, social, demographic and ecological dimensions. Wellness enhances resilience and is therefore a survival imperative that is fundamental to life, yet current Western definitions of wellness do not refer to fundamental a priori principles. Eastern medicine on the other hand does refer to universal principles and suggests that bliss is a natural homeostatic set-point and that wellness can be achieved by living according to the Tao. Congruence between Eastern concepts and thermodynamics further suggests that Qi is related to information and flow, and that wellness arises from maximal flow and minimum entropy production. These principles, which can be represented by an Illness-Wellness Vortex, suggest that the healthiest lifestyle provides maximal enjoyment with minimal waste. Thus, conscious consumption and cultivation of psychological flow can provide the means for achieving wellness through aligning internal and external states.
Striving to live “well” can be seen as a motivating force throughout the evolution of human culture, technology and medicine. In recent times wellness has emerged as an academic discipline that intersects many fields. Wellness is also an emerging industry sector that in 2007 was estimated to generate more than US$1 trillion from the convergence of the natural medicine, fitness, health foods and beauty industries (SRI International, 2008). More recently, the wellness industry cluster, including complementary and alternative medicine, nutrition, fitness, beauty, anti-ageing, preventive health, spas and resorts, medical and wellness tourism and workplace wellness was estimated to represent a $1.9 trillion global market (SRI International, 2010). The concept of wellness is still evolving and applies not only to individuals but also to communities, businesses, economies and the planet as a whole. Being holistic and multidimensional, wellness includes physiological, psychological, social, demographic and ecological dimensions and thus involves all aspects of life, including occupational, recreational and spiritual pursuits, as well as social, financial and educational resources. The notion of wellness can therefore be expanded beyond health to include environmental sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social justice, human security and conscious consumption.