What Does it Mean to be Healthy?
I heard, on multiple occasions, during the pandemic that ‘healthy’ people were just as susceptible to contracting Covid-19 as ‘non healthy’ people. Which was quite startling as I felt for a time we were under the impression that Covid-19 was more dangerous to the elderly, those suffering from chronic diseases and the immunosuppressed.
And while I believe that Covid-19 is a very respectful virus in that it does not discriminate on its host, I do want to discuss the concept of health, what does it mean to be healthy? What does healthy look like? Or more importantly, what does healthy FEEL like?
In order to understand what it means to be healthy, we must first ask; what is health? The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
I think we can all understand the part about “disease and infirmity”, but what does it mean to be in a state of complete physical, mental and social health?
‘Hauora’ is the Māori view of health unique to New Zealand and covers the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual needs that everyone has.
When you visit the doctor or physiotherapist, they tend to ask you in great detail about your pain or injury and everything related to your physical health. But what about your mental or spiritual health? I’ve begun to see over the years that when we are discussing pain, especially chronic pain, it tends to be multi-factorial. And just addressing the physical aspect of health will never truly ‘fix’ the problem until a holistic approach is acknowledged.
When I first see a client, we spend time chatting about their pain, their injury or movement dysfunction. And the moment I inquire into their mental health (aka stress levels), their energy levels (aka relationship with food) or their emotional state (social and spiritual well-being) they seem confused and for a moment are either unable to answer, or quickly answer with the word ‘fine’.
I feel this is either because they haven’t been able to give much thought to other ‘problems’ whilst they are currently dealing with the one that brought them to me or because they’ve become conditioned to society’s polite automatic response of ‘fine’.
Either way, both responses are a cause of concern because it reflects a disconnect to how one is feeling. And until we register what it is we are feeling, how are we supposed to do anything about it until we notice its there?
So let me ask you this, how are you feeling today?
Not just in your physical body, but how are you feeling in your mental body? What about your spiritual body? How is your stress? Is there anything that is causing you to feel upset or anxious?
Now that you’ve asked yourself these questions, are you surprised by your response? Did you answer with ‘fine’? Did you roll your eyes? Or did you take a moment to well and truly explore what you were feeling? Did you write it down? Did you tell someone about it?
My goal with this post isn’t necessarily to get you to start journaling, to see a counsellor or to sign up for a meditation course (although all of these ideas are definitely healthy habits I recommend!) But more importantly I want to draw your attention to this concept of complete health or ‘Hauora’.
If you are unsure what it means to have a healthy mental practice or what is an example of a spiritual exercise, continue on below to discover some examples of complete health:
Now tell me, how many of those suggestions did you tick off ? Were you surprised at things your wellness routine might be missing? Did you find some inspiration on how you might improve your health?
And what about the healthy habits that you did tick off. When you think about those activities could you describe to me how you FEEL when you participate in those habits? Do they make you happy? Fulfilled? Do they renew your patience for the day? Do they instill a sense of peace and tranquility?
I’m thinking …Yes. And this is what I want to leave you with.
We spend so much time telling each other what hurts, what is missing, what is wrong, what we don’t like, that occasionally we overlook what we do like or what is feeling good. My question to you at the beginning was what does healthy feel like? Or more importantly, what does healthy feel like to YOU?
Remember you can be the fastest biker up the hill and still have anxiety and a highly stressful job. Does that fitness make you healthy? Your co-worker who is a tad overweight but is always smiling, gets 8 hours of sleep per night and has a meditation routine; because of their weight would you say that they are unhealthy?
Healthy isn’t just the absence of disease or a slim figure, healthy is a complete state of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being. And I tend to think when we feel good, its usually when we are doing something healthy.
When we do things that feel good, authentically feel good (I’m not talking about instant gratification or hedonistic eating) but when we treat our bodies to feel good, when you see what you love in your reflection not what you hate, when we choose sleep over staying up, when we choose healthy foods over fast food, and when we choose to practise daily gratitude instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we practice healthy habits that makes us feel good and that can ultimately lead us to a better relationship with our total wellness.
I try to live my life and my health from a holistic approach. Because from my experience healthy feels good, and when you feel good I promise you it looks good.