Wellbeing – What is it?

Is it relaxing bubble baths and regular massage treatments? Regular exercise and eating well? Taking time out from the stresses of daily life? Perhaps a little of all of these?

When setting up Rowan House it was really important that the name clearly represented what we were trying to achieve.  We already had the historical name of Rowan House, but how did we define our centre and give our clients a clear representation of our vision. More recently we gave our branding and website a complete overhaul and this question came to the font of my mind again.

We’re all pretty familiar with the term ‘health’. It is generally associated with traditional medicine and usually perceived as the absence of illness and the presence of bodily freedom.  It is a term used easily in everyday conversation, for example: ‘I am in good health’ or ‘I feel healthy’ and is perceived by most as one of the underpinning factors of a good quality of life.  But what about the term ‘wellbeing’?

That’s a bit more fluid, and often has a different meaning for people.

The term wellbeing has been around for many years but has traditionally been associated with psychological wellbeing and happiness.  However as awareness has grown around the issues and importance of mental health and words such as ‘self-care’ and ‘mindfulness’ have become more commonplace, wellbeing is now recognised as a complex, multidimensional concept.

Stratham and Chase (2010) described it as an attempt to de-medicalise illness. Phrases historically associated with wellbeing include; the ability to fulfill goals, happiness, life satisfaction, quality of life, self-acceptance, purpose in life, environmental mastery, positive growth, positive relationships and autonomy.

However, these are dimensions of wellbeing and not really a definition.

So how can we define wellbeing?

What is clear between academics is that:

1. Wellbeing is subjective
2. Wellbeing is a dynamic phenomenon- yet most of the time it is stable in most people
3. Every individual has a ‘set point’ of wellbeing and will strive to return to that point
4. External forces can challenge that state of equilibrium (physical, psychological and social)
5. We use our skills and resources to cope with these challenges (physical, psychological and social)

Dodge et al (2012) define wellbeing with the following diagram… ,

Wellbeing definition

Wellbeing is thought to be stable when we have the resources needed to meet life’s challenges.  However when life’s challenges outweigh resources, wellbeing is compromised.

It is also important to note however that if there are no challenges in life, then this can lead to stagnation, which can also compromise our sense of equilibrium, which in turn will affect wellbeing in a different way.

It’s all a bit of a balancing act isn’t it? A concept which led neatly to our developed and expanded concept:

Discover Life’s Natural Balance

So what does this mean for us?

In many ways, and whether we like it or not the pursuit of wellbeing is firmly in the hand of individuals. Martyn 2002 defined the idea as ‘whatever we do to make the most of our lives by coping with our difficulties and making the most of what we have’.

Within my practice as a Physiotherapist I can relate to this concept and like this simplified definition of wellbeing.  Disability does not necessarily need to compromise wellbeing if individuals have the appropriate resources for example the right equipment and access to therapists and fulfilling activities.  Injury may temporarily impact ones sense of wellbeing but with the right support and rehabilitation the equilibrium can be restored.  Wellbeing however is unfortunately all too often compromised when access to the most appropriate and timely ‘resources’ is not available, meaning that challenges are not dealt with.  This is where Rowan House comes in.

We continue to build an ever growing community of coaches, therapists, and practitioners, our goal being to create a place where people can come to heal their minds and bodies, indulge in a spot of self-care and meet others doing the same.

So what does wellbeing mean to you? Let me know your thoughts on this definition of wellbeing and whether you can relate to it’s simple visual interpretation. Contact me at Rachel@rowanhousecentre.co.uk


  1. Dodge, R., Daly, A., Huyton, J., & Sanders, L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(3), 222-235. doi:10.5502/ijw.v2i3.4
  2. Martyn, D. (2002). The experiences and views of self-management of people with a schizophrenia diagnosis. London: Rethink.
  3. Stratham, J., & Chase, E. (2010). Childhood wellbeing – A brief overview. Loughborough: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre