[Wellness Wednesday] Do You Have A Wellness Focus Or An Illness Focus?

Wellness Wheel from https://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness with text overlay: Wellness Wednesday! https://reclaiminghope.blog

It’s Wednesday again, so you know what that means…. It’s time to talk about wellness! In the post What Is Wellness? I asked the question, “do we have a wellness focus or an illness focus?”. Today I’d like to explore that a little more.

First of all, let’s look at our definitions of wellness and what it encompasses again:

“Wellness is the 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.”  (UC Davis)

“Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.” (National Wellness Institute)

Now let’s take a look at the difference between having a wellness focus and an illness focus.

What am I talking about when I say we have an illness focus? All I mean by that is that we gear all our efforts toward preventing illness or disease or mitigating the symptoms of an illness we already have. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with doing everything we can to prevent disease or lessen the impact of the symptoms of illnesses; in fact, that’s essential to our being able to thrive. The only problem with this kind of focus is that if we are already ill, we can get “tunnel vision” and fail to see that we can still have a fulfilling life in spite of our illness.

With a wellness focus, we are looking at, as we see in the definition above, a process that encompasses all dimensions of wellness, not just the physical or mental. Where an illness focus is results-centered (I want to feel better, I want to prevent disease), a wellness focus is process-centered. We are concentrating more on the processes of change and growth toward “a healthy and fulfilling life.”

There’s a concept in Psychology called locus of control. In his outstanding post Are You In Control Of Your Life? Dr. Perry from Make It Ultra Psychology explains it this way: “…it refers to our perception of where control lies and how we account for the successes and failures we experience.” He then explains that the concept “can be applied to many different areas of your life and one can have an internal or external locus of control depending on the situation….A person with an internal locus of control generally believes that they have influence over the outcome of events….A person with an external locus of control blames outside forces that are beyond their control for everything that occurs in their life.” This is only a bare-bones rendering of his explanation; he explains it much more thoroughly in his post, so please take the time to pop over to his site for the entire post. In the fitness world, an internal locus of control is closely associated with something we call self-efficacy, belief in ourselves and our ability to make changes necessary to be as well as possible.

Let’s apply the locus of control concept to a wellness or illness focus. If we’re wellness focused, there’s a good chance we believe that we have control (internal) over at least some aspects of our overall wellness. We know we can’t control the outcomes, but we can control what we put into the process.

With an illness focus, because we can’t control our illness (external), we run the risk of developing negative feelings around our perceived lack of control that can start to make us feel helpless and/or hopeless. We may start to feel that because we can’t control our illness we can’t control anything. This can lead to increased stress, which we know can lead to further problems.

If we can shift our focus from being illness-centered to wellness-centered, it can help us move toward having a feeling of satisfaction with our life even if we’re not at our healthiest physically.

So if we’ve been operating from an illness focused perspective, how do we move to a wellness focus? Here are a few things that I’ve found useful:

  • Find your “why.” Why do you want to improve your overall wellness? Is it so that you can run and play with your grandkids, be a role model for someone, serve others in some capacity? What drives you?  A strong “why” is what keeps you moving along when things get tough and you’re not seeing any immediate improvements.
  • Remember that wellness encompasses much more than just your physical health. It also includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, social, and spiritual dimensions of wellness.
  • Realize that you can’t be in control of everything all the time, but neither do you have to feel that you have no control at all. You have the opportunity to make choices and take small steps toward better health every day.
  • Concentrate more on the process and less on the results. Obviously when we’re dealing with an illness and trying to reduce symptoms we have to be concerned with the results of any treatment methods or lifestyle changes we’re trying, but in that case we can focus on the desired outcome of that particular piece of the puzzle. For the “big picture” we continue doing the activities that contribute to “the process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.”

When we focus on our overall wellness rather than focusing solely on trying to prevent disease or “beat” our illnesses, we can move toward a happy, fulfilling life no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Do you think it makes a difference whether you have a wellness or illness focus? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!









    1. Thank you so much Wendi! I know where you’re coming from….on those days when you feel as if you’re slogging through mud and hurting over every inch of your body it’s hard to focus on anything other than getting through the day, and that’s okay. I think all of us struggle from time to time, but I found that little shift to a wellness focus in general has helped me tremendously. Blessings to you!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Your focus on this helps us get and/or stay motivated.. thank you. Agreed… it is better to focus on wellness because being healthy is a lifestyle and if you limit it by focusing on your illness you actually limit your potential to excel in this area of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will say this past year I’ve moved from illness focus to wellness focus. The problem is our medical system is only focused on illness. They will not factor in the need for ALL people to receive emotional support not just treatment. They also won’t factor in the patient is the primary decision maker and doctors need to step off their podium where their god-complex is. While there are days I struggle with my disease, God is control and I will continue living vs letting a diagnosis define me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing Lynn. I’m sorry you’ve had so many issues with your medical team. I’ve been extremely fortunate with my doctors, other than the fact that they keep being stolen from me (two have moved to other practices).😄 It really is helpful when doctors take a more holistic approach to your care. Wishing you blessings and all the best as you deal with everything going on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. There are some fabulous doctors out there. I have never met any though. Most are too consumed with cramming in as many patients as possible. Holistic doctors are few and far between. It’s in God’s hands and I trust in that.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Terri! I have definitely generally been more illness focused, but am slowly learning to be more wellness focused. It’s such a healthier and happier approach. 🙂 I do agree that part of the problem is that our medical system is focused on illness, and I must admit, before I got MS, I never really thought about any ‘wellness approach’. I am very glad I am now though. 🙂 x Hope you are having a lovely week. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Heather! I have to say that when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia I was focused on “beating it” and when I didn’t get better, I really struggled with feelings of hopelessness. Once I made the shift to a wellness focus, on doing what I could to live well regardless of circumstances I started to feel a lot more optimistic and able to weather the storms when they come. I’m glad you’ve been able to make that shift also. Hugs to you and Dizzy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love how you frame coping with illness in this way. It is a great frame for any difficult issue in life. I do not have fibromyalgia, but my best friend does, and so do a couple of other friends I see regularly. I struggle with migraines and we share coping strategies! Thanks so much for this post; it is very helpful to consider focusing on the process of how we deal with difficulty and pain, and not just the outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s wonderful that you have, and are part of, a support system. Migraines are definitely debilitating at times. I’ve had them pretty much my entire life, along with almost-daily headaches. I think it’s fabulous that you and your friends share coping strategies. We all need friends like that! Blessings to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the way you frame this. I think shifting from illness focused to wellness focus is a process, a little bit like acceptance. Like you, I fought my diagnosis in the beginning, but I’ve noticed lately that I am learning to control what I can and work within the parameters this new lifestyle has set for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you V.J.! I think you’re right about the shift being a process. I love what you said about controlling what you can and working within the parameters your new lifestyle has set for you. Speaking of lifestyle I hope you guys are settling in well. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Brigid! It took me awhile too. I think initially maybe we have put a lot of focus on our illness just to learn how to live with it, and we start to find some things we can do to help ourselves we can make that shift to being more wellness focused.😊 Enjoy the rest of your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am sorry my dear sweet friend that I am a day behind! This was another fantastic post and really enlightening. I think we all sometimes focus too much on whatever our illness might be, when it is even more important to focus on our wellness. You are so incredibly motivating Terri and I really appreciate your sharing this new and even better focus for all of us! I hope your week has been well and you are feeling as incredible as you help all of us to feel!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Alyssa, you are just too sweet! Thank you so much! It’s easy to get super focused on our illness when we’re just trying to make it through the day, but I know it has really helped me to shift my focus to my overall wellness. Happy Friday Eve to you, darling lady! I know your post said it’s been a tough week for you. I hope you’re able to have a restful weekend. Hugs to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome! I do think shifting our focus onto something we can have some control over is my better and I really appreciate you. This week definitely hasn’t been the easiest, but it partially my fault for allowing stress to take over. The weekend will help and hopefully be restful!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.