You are here

Indigenous Health: What is the difference between Wellness and Wellbeing?

by Jada-Gabrielle Pape, Saanich & Snuneymuxw Nations

Wellness is different than well-being. To me wellness puts more of a focus on the physical aspect of health. In healthcare we often hear about “wellness fairs” where people can collect brochures about heart-health, back-health, healthy-eating, sexual-health or sleeping tips or ways to fit exercise into our daily routines.

Our physical health is only one of the fibres woven into the fabric of our lives. While we see wide focus on wellness it is well-being that really interests me. Well-being encompasses the notion of BEING.

I come from a people whose history stems from a little bay on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We know ourselves to be salmon people. Some of us gather medicine in our traditional territory. We pray - sometimes together and sometimes alone. We used to travel by canoe and on foot. These identifiers contribute to my overall wellbeing and these fibres are some of the strands that make up the fabric of my life — my life, as an Indigenous woman, as a Saanich and Snuneymuxw woman, as a mother, a daughter, a community member, they all contribute to my wellbeing.

Many of my family members are my teachers. When I told one of my uncles, “My friend is really sad these days.” I said to him, “It’s like her heart is hurt.”

He said to me, “Think about her with love. This is a prayer. Hug her when you see her. This is also a prayer. If she laughs and you laugh with her, if she needs to cry and you hold her, this is a prayer. Our prayers are our medicine. You can be good medicine.”

So what is this wellbeing? It is the knowing where I come from, the teachers who remind me and guide me; wellbeing is having access to this identity and pride and also access to my people.

Wellbeing is in each of us, not always accessed actively, but it remains in us. Wellbeing may be in us quietly, almost like a sleeping force. So we draw on it, we tap into it, we wake it up and it rises and supports us.

My idea of wellbeing is about trust and time and holding onto the faith that we are all well, perhaps just in various states of it.