What is health?
When you read the title ‘health’ you more than likely imagine your physical body and didn’t think about your whole health:
- Your mind and how you think and talk about yourself
- Your connection to others and your place in community
- Fulfilling your purpose and growing your hope
- Learning to manage your emotions
You may not see the full picture of heath or the interplay between the areas.
Health is more than the absence of disease. The World Health Organization includes physical, mental and social wellbeing in their definition of health. Another definition is ‘dynamic process in which the individual is actively engaged in moving toward fulfilling his or her potential’ 1
It says health is a dynamic process; it is fluid and changing. It is not obtained once for life but you need to keep working on it. The individual is ‘actively engaged’ in pursuit of health. You need to be involved and responsible for your own health. The purpose of health is to fulfil your potential. Health includes:
- Physical health – caring for our bodies
- Spiritual health – provides hope and meaning for life
- Relational health – our connection to others
- Emotional health – our reaction to the stresses of life
- Mental health – encompasses our self-esteem and our thinking processes
How healthy are you?
Download a copy of Health and Balance Assessment to rate your level of health in each area, and then complete the assessment of your balance between caring for you and caring for others, and balance within those areas. There may areas you need to set limits or areas you need to invest more time and energy in.
An alternative assessment tool is the Model for Healthy Living assessment wheel from the Church Health Centre which measures your satisfaction in 7 dimensions of health (Faith Life, Movement, Medical, Work, Emotional, Nutrition, and Friends and Family) and the balance between them.
Living a healthy life
Living a healthy life creates the image of a ‘should list’.
A ‘should list’ is full of voices from your doctor, the media, maybe your family and even you. It tells you what you ‘should’ be doing or not doing to care for your health. It talks about: diet, exercise, you need to lose weight, you need to sleep more, you need to drink less coffee and drink more water, the advice may even be contradictory! When you focus on not attending to everything on the ‘should list’ you never commend yourself for the self-care you practiced. You might get down on yourself for drinking too much coffee and forget you also drank water. In judging yourself for missing exercise class and you ignore that you stretched and walked up the stairs instead of taking the lift. You look for what you did wrong and what you haven’t done, and discount the areas where you are making progress.
Health is always a work a progress. It’s never perfect.
So instead of beating yourself up for the piece of cake you just ate or not walking the dog last night, see what you are doing and picture how else you would like to be and take a step towards it. Don’t work on everything at once. Big picture. Small steps.
Create a wellness vision for your life. What would it look like? What does a healthy life look life for you? Then break it down into small goals and steps of how to achieve each goal.
Improving your health
Now you know where you to improve your health. Pick one area and look at the suggestion to help you improve that area below: (And don’t forget to laugh and have fun)
- Take a step to improve your spiritual health. Deal with any negative emotions. Do something that makes your soul sing. If you are a Christian connect with God.
- Take a step to improve your relational health. Know who you are and what you want from a relationship. Be reciprocal. Commit to connecting with others.
- Take a step to improve your mental health. Improve your self-esteem . Monitor and control your thought life. Choose what influences you and choose how you react to circumstances and people.
- Take a step for your emotional health. Deal with emotions such as anger, depression and fear, firstly admitting you have them. Try journaling as way of releasing your feelings onto paper to help you sort through and identify them and express your hurts without lashing out at others. Talk to someone, either a friend or a professional counsellor. Learn specific strategies.
- Take a step for your physical health. You are probably overloaded with information on exercise and nutrition from which you can choose a step. Or you can look for ways to bring rest and relaxation to reverse the stress response in your life and schedule them into your calendar: a massage, meditation, prayer, warm bath. Maybe a date with yourself!
Disclaimer: I am writing this not as a health or lifestyle guru, but from the combined perspective of my working life as a nurse with a speciality in chronic condition management, and a person who lives with a chronic condition and daily practices strategies to manage my health so I can achieve my purpose in life.
To learn about creating a wellness vision for you life including how to use the Model for Healthy Living Assessment Wheel, setting goals and creating an action plan, watch me talk about it on You Tube.
- Miller, B.F. and Keane, C.B. (1987) Encyclopedia and dictionary of medicine, nursing, and allied health – fourth edition. W.B. Saunders Company, U.S.A, p542