Health to most people means, “not being sick.” People who are ill are considered to be in “poor health.” For these people, health is simply the absence of sickness. There is another more comprehensive view however, held by groups like the World Health Organization and the International Scouting Movement that suggest that true health is not only physical wellbeing, but also includes, mental, social, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing.
In today’s society, there is a lot of emphasis on maintaining physical health, but most people spend little or no time looking after these other areas of wellbeing. 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.
Being healthy means taking time to consider those areas of our lives that we do sometimes neglect and finding ways to care for them. Research has shown that if we do not do this, then it will affect our physical health. Many of the reasons we say we are in “poor health” are caused by carrying too much stress, and eventually they will produce physical symptoms if we do not learn how to de-stress.
We usually care for the needs of others in preference to caring for ourselves. Self-care however, is not selfish but is a way of ensuring that our bodies are healthy in a holistic sense. We choose to go to the gym after work, which may seem to be caring for our physical body, but if it is something we want to do and we like to do, it will produce health benefits to our mental and social well-being. If we would like to study in a course that interests us as personal development, but consider ourselves too busy to enroll in a course without attempting to reschedule our time, we are not caring for our intellectual health.
Giving ourselves permission to self-care as a whole person is the first step to enjoying true health. It is not only important for us personally, it influences our roles as partners, as parents and as colleagues at work. It affects our productivity and our ability to enjoy life and to take advantage of the opportunities that life offers us.
When we adopt this holistic attitude for our lives, and in making lifestyle choices, we have begun to understand what true health really means.