Image courtesy of Pixabay
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Saluto-What!?: A primer

In this introductory blog post, we provide (1) a rudimentary introduction to salutogenesis, (2) an overview of “Sense of Coherence” (SOC)--one of the foundational constructs of salutogenesis, and (3) examples of salutogenesis in daily practice. You won’t become a salutogenic expert by reading this short post, but you will have a familiarity with the term and be able to spot a salutogenic experience when you have one. Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 41 seconds

Introduction

There is a growing recognition that true well-being goes beyond the mere absence of disease. The WHO constitution (1946) states that "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."[1] Rather than solely focusing on treating illnesses, a new approach is gaining traction—one that aims to promote health, resilience, and thriving in individuals and communities. This approach is rooted in the concept of salutogenesis. We (the authors) see the potential of salutogenesis to revolutionize our collective understanding of health and well-being–and how we can live our lives in a salutogenic way.

Saluto-what…? 🤔

Salutogenesis[2], a term coined by medical sociologist Aaron Antonovsky, is derived from the Latin word "salus," meaning health, and the Greek word "genesis," meaning origin or creation. At its core, salutogenesis is an inquiry into the origins of health to understand the factors and processes that contribute to well-being and vitality.

Unlike the traditional disease-centered approach (pathogenesis[3]), which focuses on disease intervention and treatment, salutogenesis, rooted in the foundational research of Antonovsky, shifts the focus to factors that promote health and foster a sense of well-being–even when things might be going sideways. It explores the resources, attitudes, and behaviors that empower individuals to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.[4]

Salutogenesis in Healthcare

By embracing the principles of salutogenesis, healthcare professionals can shift their focus from merely treating diseases to empowering individuals and communities to take an active role in their own health. It encourages a holistic approach that considers not only physical health but also mental, emotional, and social well-being.

Salutogenesis emphasizes the importance of promoting positive health behaviors, cultivating resilience, fostering social support networks, and creating environments that nurture well-being. It recognizes that health is not solely determined by genetics or external circumstances but is influenced greatly by individual agency and the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of challenges of all sizes and shapes.

Sense of Coherence

One of the central concepts of salutogenesis is "sense of coherence" (SOC). According to Antonovsky, SOC is a fundamental orientation that enables individuals who have a sense of coherence to comprehend, manage, and find meaning in the challenges encountered in the day to day living of their lives. It serves as a guiding principle for navigating the complexities of existence[5] and plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting resilience, health, and well-being. Importantly, SOC comprises three necessary, interdependent, and interrelated elements: comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness. Missing even one of these three elements impacts the overall sense of coherence; the sense of coherence no longer exists without all three elements.

Image courtesy of J. Mantesso
Image courtesy of J. Mantesso

Comprehensibility: This element refers to an individual's perception of the world as orderly, predictable, and understandable.[6] It involves making sense of one's experiences, perceiving patterns, and having a coherent understanding of how things work.

Manageability: This element reflects an individual's perception and belief in their capacity to cope with stressors, challenges, and demands. It involves developing effective strategies, utilizing available resources, and feeling in control of one's life circumstances.

Meaningfulness: This element encompasses the ability to find purpose, significance, and satisfaction in life. It involves connecting with one's values, beliefs and aspirations, and feeling a sense of fulfillment and purpose in one's actions and relationships.

Examples

You probably know what a salutogenic experience feels like–the experience feels good! Things flow smoothly and easily. You feel capable, are able to take what comes, have a strong whole body yes to the experience, and feel satisfied. Here are two of our personal examples of salutogenesis in action.

Jaime’s example: Jaime took a salutogenic approach to her fitness. She decided to begin running again. She used to love it (meaningfulness) and knew she needed to get back into shape and that running would help (comprehensibility). She planned to start slow, build in small steps along the way (manageability), and is now running 5 km a month later!

Sheryl’s example: Sheryl takes a salutogenic approach to collaborative writing. She loves writing and enjoys it even more when it is productive–and fun (meaningfulness). Blog posts[7] are manageable–under 1200 words on topics she is interested in and values–and she knows she is more productive and enjoys the process even more when she collaborates (comprehensibility) with others who also like to have fun in the writing process and share an interest in the same topic(s).

We invite you to think of areas of your life, or experiences you have had, that you could now describe as salutogenic and having a sense of coherence–areas and experiences that are manageable, meaningful, and comprehensible to you.

In Conclusion

Salutogenesis offers a refreshing perspective on health—one that empowers individuals to take control of their well-being and actively engage in practices that promote health and vitality. By understanding the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and social aspects of health and cultivating a sense of coherence, we can embark on a fresh and transformative journey toward healthier and more fulfilling lives.

In the upcoming blog posts, we plan to explore practical strategies and real-life examples that exemplify the power of salutogenesis in various contexts. So stay tuned and join us on this exciting exploration of taking a salutogenic approach to health and well-being!

We would love to hear from you! Was this post salutogenic for you? Manageable? Comprehensible? Meaningful? How do you see salutogenesis operating in your life?

You can reach Jaime at the University of Regina and Sheryl at the University of Saskatchewan.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution

Constitution of the World Health Organization 1946! (p. 2)

[2] Check this link for the pronunciation of salutogenesis.

[3] Patho/genesis: suffering + origin/creation 😳 Origins of suffering, creation of suffering…

[4] Yup. We are proudly wearing rose-colored glasses (whenever appropriate and possible). We are also unabashed fans of Pollyanna and Ted Lasso. 😏

[5] We also do know about NOT wearing rose-colored glasses…

[6] What is comprehensible/manageable/meaningful to one person might not be comprehensible/manageable/meaningful to someone else.

[7] You can find examples of blog posts Sheryl has collaborated on here and here, And the one you are reading right now of course! Jaime and I had a blast! In Harold and Sheryl’s Blog on Writing a Blog we have listed salutogenic elements without naming it a salutogenic experience. Basically, writing collaboratively has the three elements of comprehensibility, manageability, meaningfulness.

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