Health and Wellness Through the Years
Health and wellness is an evolving topic with new findings, new mindsets, and new applications. For many decades we have heard old timers say something like this: “well, as long as you have your health, that’s what matters.” What they really mean is “at least at this particular moment, no matter how bad other things are, you aren’t in the hospital. Or an invalid.” Woah! Is that health???
Even as far back as 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as: “…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Wow. They were on to something weren’t they! Health has got to be more than not being sick.
Health Screening – A Modern Tool
So what do you think of when you hear “health and wellness?” Perhaps you think of health screenings. You know, the things that you dread but you know you ought to do. Health screenings should be a part of our lives. But even though screening is a decidedly better option for maintaining health than just hoping for the best (like our oldtimer’s quote implied,) it still doesn’t present us with a full picture.
Areas of Health
Good health and wellness can encompass a wide variety of areas. Some people like to talk in terms of body, mind, and spirit. That’s true but that seems vague and….well hard to make practical. More people nowadays agree on these eight areas: Physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. We can see that each area is vital. Yet we also understand that varied reasons such as poverty, unstable governments, war, and violence can make good health and well being very difficult to attain. On the contrary, living in a stable, free, well developed nation brings great advantages. Even in the U.S., however, people in lower economic or social situations have less chance of maintaining overall wellness. But each of us is able to take advantage of so many opportunities and choices for good health.
Just as physical health isn’t just “not being sick”,” good mental health cannot be defined as not having mental or emotional disorders. Good mental health involves cognitive, behavioral, emotional, spiritual, and relational wellness. It involves feeling good about yourself and your choices. It doesn’t mean NOT being sad, scared, concerned, shocked, or worried. Because we all feel those emotions sometimes. Instead people with strong mental health can handle life’s mountains and valleys without collapsing under the weight of it all. They have a degree of confidence and independence as well as interdependence. They enjoy their lives and feel good about themselves, Not every hour of every day, but over the long haul.
Spiritual life, hobbies, outdoor time, and relationships all contribute to our mental health. But there are so many interconnections. Our outdoor time, for example, can contribute to both our mental health and our physical fitness. Healthy eating improves physical health but also makes us feel good about ourselves. Quality sleep contributes to physical and mental health. Grab those two-for-one activities!
Health and Wellness Choices
So then good health or wellness or well being, for us in the U.S., are terms that bring to mind a myriad of choices. But not one-time choices. Most of our choices that lead to good health are daily choices that need to be made again and again.
Consistent choices then become habits. And in order to stay on a path of good health, we have to not only develop consistent habits, but we need to not allow small mistakes to derail us. To me, good health means if I make one bad choice, I don’t allow it to be the beginning of a downward spiral.
Did you eat that donut at the office when you are committed to staying away from white sugar? Don’t beat yourself up. Instead have a great veggie-loaded salad for supper and pack a healthy snack for tomorrow to keep at your office as your go-to when temptation strikes. That’s all part of a healthy lifestyle as opposed to a one-time cleanse or a 6 week exercise class, or an inflexible diet. These may have their place, but often lead to being gung ho one month (usually January) and giving up the next month (often February!)
Food, Glorious Food
Many people have become “woke” to the idea that making the best food choices within your budget is a vital step towards good health. Whereas we once prided ourselves on finding the biggest food bargains – frequenting the old “ bent and dents,” scooping up cheap foods with long “shelf life,” etc (hey even dumpster diving had its brief heyday) we have started wising up.
We realized that though our budgets were happy, our health was not.
Nowadays, many people agree that we need to eat cleaner, and better. To think and read labels before we buy. To look for organic foods at the very least, among the “dirty dozen.” To eat less meat, more vegetables, lower carbs, no high fructose corn syrup and very low sugar. To switch to free range poultry and free range eggs. (you knew I’d put that one in, didn’t you?) We now know that all fats are not bad, but that we need to know the good guys. Our diets are greatly improving.
Outdoors or Indoors – Move, Move, Move
We are learning that good health and wellness means to put down our devices and get outside. To walk together or on our own. To choose standing over sitting at least part of the time in our office settings. (My husband would never trade his standing desk back to a traditional one.) We are learning to choose active activities with our kiddos instead of just movie nights. (hey I’m not against movie nights!) Fitbits and apple watches can keep track of our steps and remind us to get up and move! We now are aware of things like Body Mass Index and target heart rates.
We’re On Our Way
Bottom line: most of us are on our way to healthier versions of ourselves. It’s an evolving conversation. And an evolving process. Let’s get on board; stay on board; and encourage each other on the journey.
P.S. Serious about your overall health journey? Re-read the article with just the bold face phrases, and give yourself a progress check. Or maybe a to-do list. Hopefully you are scoring high, but if not, each day is a new day.