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What is Wellness? 5 Ancient Words Reveal.

What is Wellness? 5 Ancient Words Reveal.

The foundations of the flourishing worldwide wellness movement lie in many ancient cultures and their secrets are deeply embedded in today’s languages. Some commonly used, and not so commonly used phrases and words illuminate fascinating aspects of wellness and a lot can be learned by casting an eye around the globe at some common, and not so common, terms in our own pursuit of holistic health. Here are 6 concepts that touch on key wellness tenets such as gratitude and togetherness, deep listening and stillness.


‘Dadirri’, or ‘deep listening’ is a word from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the First Nations people of the Daly River region in Australia’s Northern Territory. It describes an inner listening and quiet, still awareness that is available to everyone. Elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann says that ‘dadirri’ is the deep well that we call on, that also calls to us. She says ‘when I experience ‘dadirri’, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. Deep listening has built communities and is a prerequisite for the passing down of stories and culture between generations.


Now widely used at the conclusion of many western yoga classes, this Sanskrit term is imbued with deep meaning and its usage has changed dramatically over the years. In extreme short, ’namaste’ is an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in the other – it’s a beautiful term about gratitude, respect and togetherness that’s deserving of wider reading to gain a fuller understanding.

Tamo Junto

In Brazilian Portuguese, the term commonly used to express “you’re welcome” after someone thanks you is “tamo junto,” which directly translates to “we are together.” This notion adds a beautiful new shade of meaning to the way we think about gratitude, and we can gain a similar breadth of understanding about wellness by exploring the way it’s expressed in other languages. 


This Japanese term is a composite of ‘iki’, which means ‘life’, and ‘gai’, meaning ‘value’. It translates to ‘life value’ or ‘reason for being’, and it tells us that wellness is what makes life meaningful and worthwhile. 

‘Ikigai’ is the kind of wellness you have when you push through a hard workout because you know the results will be worth it. ‘Ikigai’ is also what you feel when you enjoy life’s small pleasures rather than constantly chasing entertainment and distractions.


The tech-savvy among you might recognise Ubuntu as the most popular Linux distribution. However, long before it was adopted by the open-source operating system, ‘ubuntu’ was a Zulu word that roughly translates to “I am because you are.” 

Like the Brazilian Portuguese term ‘tamo junto’, ‘ubuntu’ carries with it a sense that our lives gain meaning through our connections with other people. When such terms are embedded in language, they have the power to inform our behaviour and inspire us to find happiness through supporting the wellness of those around us.  


‘Fjaka’ is the delight that can arise from doing absolutely nothing. In today’s fast-paced, high-demand society, it’s safe to say we could all use a little ‘fjaka’ in our lives. If you ever feel guilty about taking time off to do things that aren’t the least bit productive, remember that this downtime is so important to wellness that Croatian language has a dedicated word for it.   

These global variations on aspects of wellness can help us expand our understanding of the concept into fascinating new territory. By doing so, we hope you’re able to welcome more gratitude, motivation, happiness, and peace into your life. 

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