Why should prevention and health providers include wellness promotion within their substance use prevention programs and strategies?
Below is a list of 6 important reasons.
Reason #1: Wellness fits with and completes substance use prevention.
Wellness-promoting behaviors, including getting regular physical activity, eating daily healthy breakfasts and other nourishing foods, getting adequate sleep, and taking steps to control stress, along with avoiding substance use and misuse, together promote optimal health or wellness.
Engaging in wellness-enhancing behaviors while also avoiding substance use/misuse permits healthy youth development and promotes overall wellbeing.
Providing one without the other limits possible health outcomes and the level of wellness achieved for youths and young adults.
Reason #2: Wellness improves mental health.
Wellness-enhancing habits, such as physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, and stress control improves not only physical health, but protects and improves mental health.
In other words, the mind and body are connected and physical and behavioral health are one.
For example, a review of research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2020) found that greater physical activity, less sedentary time and greater sleep duration were associated with better mental health indicators for children and adolescents: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-020-00976-x
Reason #3: Wellness empowers one to choose positive identities and behaviors.
Providing youths and young adults with knowledge of the benefits of engaging in healthy behaviors, offers young people empowering images for adopting future identities.
These images include choosing to engage in healthy behaviors to be more fit and active, healthy and strong, energetic and rested, and calm and stress-free.
Wellness-based positive images of ourselves in the future and of our peers motivate youth to set health behavior goals to achieve desired identities and healthy behaviors, and in doing so, increase self-regulation skills and self-efficacy.
Reason #4: Wellness is prevention’s ultimate goal.
As prevention professionals, we want more for our youths and young adults than for them then to simply avoid substance use and the suffering that results from addiction, as critical as this goal is.
Rather, we all want our youth to develop to their maximum capabilities, to live healthy and successful lives, have joyous relationships and work, to contribute positively to society, and to be happy.
Therefore, the ultimate goal for prevention is healthy youth development and wellness, not just the absence of addiction.
Reason #5: Wellness promotion protects against substance use/misuse.
Wellness-promoting behaviors work to counter substance use initiation and addiction, just as they support successful treatment and recovery.
Therefore wellness-enhancing behaviors not only promote physical and mental wellbeing, they protect against substance use and misuse among young people.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2012) found that sleep patterns and duration predicted adolescent’s cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-012-9784-5
Another study published in Prevention Science (2005) found that a brief multi-health behavior intervention that targeted fitness and other wellness habits prevented multiple substance use behaviors while increasing healthy habits among adolescents: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11121-005-0012-3
In conclusion, there are important reasons why wellness should be the true aim and focus of substance use prevention programs and strategies for youths and young adults.
Wellness promotion is an essential component of substance use prevention and ensures that prevention efforts result in broader and more holistic outcomes for young people.