What does it mean to you to be healthy? For most people it just means not being sick or having any chronic conditions that can’t be controlled with maintenance medications. Some people just consider good health to be the opposite of poor health – the absence of sickness.
Take a moment though to consider another more comprehensive view held by groups like the World Health Organization and the International Scouting Movement. That view suggests that true health is not only physical well being, but also includes, mental, social, spiritual and intellectual well being. I like to call this the mind, body, and spirit.
We seem to have more focus in being physically healthy because it makes us look and feel better. It takes care of the physical side of ourselves, what people can outwardly see. Let’s face it, no one wants to look bad – especially to others.
Ask anyone who goes to the gym regularly what they enjoy the most about their workout. A good portion will tell you that they like the way their body feels, and another group will tell you they like the way their body looks. A few may tell you it’s because they can eat whatever they want if they work out enough, and even fewer will tell you that it’s the endorphin rush. I rarely hear anyone say it feeds their spirit.
I would like to suggest to you that if we are going to measure how healthy we are, we must consider how we are looking after the “whole of us” and not just our bodies, but our mind, body, and spirit. We are all-inclusive beings. When people talk about holistic, I like to think wholistic – taking care of the whole.
You may be wondering how to do that. One big way to take care of your mind, body, and spirit all at the same time is to reduce the stress in your life. Too much stress causes all kinds of issues including difficulties with your heart, high blood pressure, weight loss and gain, emotional instability, and more. Stress is a constant distraction and prevents us from living our best life.
Here are a few ways you can reduce your stress from the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Be observant. Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health.
- Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing activities.
- Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
Another valuable tool for good all around health is practicing self care. Many people feel that self care if selfish, but it is absolutely not selfish at all. In fact, it is more selfish not to practice good self care because it may prevent you from fulfilling your other responsibilities, and worst case it may cause you to have health issues that burden those you care about.
Self care comes in a variety of forms, but basically defined it is any activity that we do for ourselves in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Some examples of self care include getting outdoors and enjoying some fresh air, getting a massage, taking a class in something you love, getting good sleep at night, learning to say no, spending time with friends that make you feel good, enjoying a favorite hobby or sports activity. Whatever feeds your soul and makes you feel better is good self care.
To wrap it all up
The key to real health is to take care of your whole self. Know what your body likes and feed it well – give it good healthy exercise, and good clean food. Make sure you get enough good clean water to drink, and good sleep at night. Know what your mind needs, and feed it as well. Make sure it hears good, positive messages – positive self talk, uplifting music, movies and programs that have positive messages. Read books and do exercises for your brain. Finally, make sure to feed your spirit. Make the spiritual connection that is right for you, align it with your values, and your purpose for being.
When we stop looking at health as the absence of disease, and begin to turn it around into a life of peaceful ease, we are on the path to true health and a peaceful life.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.