A Solid Foundation For Optimal Well-Being: Our HealthOct 13, 2022
In our last article, we introduced the Live better, not perfect (Livebnp) Well-Being Triangle which consists of three areas health, people, and personal growth. If you haven’t read that article yet, you can find it HERE.
Everything we build, from the roads we drive on to the houses we live in, needs a solid foundation. And a triangle, by its nature, usually has a solid foundation upon which to stand. While there are several different elements that comprise the idea of well-being, Health is the foundation of our well-being triangle.
While that may seem obvious, and at some point in your life you’ve probably heard the phrase “if you have your health, you have everything,” people still often struggle to actually define what Health is.
What Is Health?
Health is commonly defined as the absence of disease or illness, but the true meaning (certainly for our purposes) goes far beyond that.
In today’s article, we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into the idea of health - what it is, the different aspects of health and how they work together, how to define it for yourself, and most importantly, how to achieve it!
Health encompasses many different areas of life. The three main areas we’ll focus on are:
While each area can be addressed individually, they all are intricately connected, and changes in one will affect each of the others.
Let’s start with the area of Mental health. When we talk about mental health, we are referring to general cognitive processes, including the ability to focus, reason, and think clearly. A mentally healthy person is able to function well and make appropriate decisions on a daily basis.
Mental health is an area that was rarely talked about in the past. If someone was suffering with mental health issues, they were often stigmatized, and tended to either be marginalised or kept hidden. This was partly due to fear because there wasn’t a good understanding of mental health, and partly because society had no real tools to deal with it. It was easier to keep it swept under the rug, so to speak. Fortunately, mental health is starting to finally be destigmatised through greater awareness and developing treatment methods.
So why is this important for health generally?
Because there is a physiological response in the body to the way we think; in other words, our mental health is directly connected to the way our body functions. For example, when you get stuck in negative thinking, you may find that you experience tension in your muscles, headaches, or even feelings of dizziness or light-headedness. Prolonged mental stress can result in other health issues like inflammation or high blood pressure.
Being able to function well on a daily basis, make appropriate decisions, confront difficulties and conflicts in a constructive way, all can affect your quality of life.
Closely tied to mental health is our emotional health. Emotions are extremely powerful and can have a profound impact on our physical health. The brain and body have physical responses to our thoughts and feelings, and release neurochemicals that influence the function of hormones, organ systems, muscular function, and ultimately our physical and mental health.
Can you remember a time when you felt really happy? You may have had a feeling of giddiness and an almost irresistible urge to smile or laugh. Those feelings might have been the result of your body releasing endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that help us feel good (the same endorphins also are released during exercise, by the way!). Similarly, think about a time when you felt really nervous or even angry. Did you feel knots in your stomach? Perhaps you even experienced some digestive distress? Did your heart start racing a little bit? That could have been your body’s release of norepinephrine in response to a stressful experience.
Someone who is emotionally healthy is able to respond to most situations in an appropriate way, actually feel their feelings and understand or recognise them (instead of mindlessly reacting or trying to numb them), and process feelings and emotions in a healthy way. Emotionally intelligent people also are able to empathize with others, strengthening human connection. This has its own impact on health and we’ll talk about relationships more in depth when we discuss that portion of the Well-Being Triangle.
The connection between mental and emotional health has been illustrated as being like the relationship between an elephant and a rider. Originated by Jonathan Haidt, this metaphor explains that in the relationship between the elephant (our emotions) and the rider (the rational “thinky” brain), the Elephant will always win, no matter how much the Rider tries to control it. Emotions are extremely powerful, and therefore emotional health can directly shape the path of our physical health.
Speaking of physical health, this is the area that most people focus on when they say they want to “get healthy.” Efforts to improve health are usually focused here because it’s the most tangible part of our health. We can measure physical health to a certain degree, so it’s an easier concept for most of us to grasp.
We typically understand when we don’t feel well. There often are symptoms and signs that something is wrong with us physically, although this is not always the case. The difficult thing about physical health is that usually by the time we experience physical symptoms, the problem has been developing for some time. In the case of a simple illness like a cold, it develops quickly. In the case of more serious illnesses like cancer or autoimmune disease, the illness can take months or even years to develop to a point where physical symptoms are noticeable. The development of some longer-term illnesses (like autoimmune conditions) can happen so slowly and gradually that we may not even notice the decline in our health until it reaches a critical point, or until we actually start feeling better.
Conventional medicine often tells us that if we have Symptom X, we can just take Pill Y and everything will be fine. However, our bodies are very complex organisms. When things go out of balance it’s highly unlikely that it’s due to a single factor. That’s not to say that medicines aren’t important and useful, but the idea of prevention is where we can more greatly influence our physical health.
Taking a more holistic view by focusing on the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of health can go a long way towards preventing illness, speeding up recovery, and providing us with a greater quality of life.
What Is Health For You?
Having read all that, take a moment to reflect. What does health mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How would you describe it to someone else?
There are some simple steps you can take to improve your own health. And remember, we’re all about “better, not perfect” so try focusing on just one or two things at a time.
- Start eating whole foods that feed the development and maintenance of healthy cells and tissues.
- Engage in regular movement and physical activity to stay strong and energised, and to help your body function the way it was meant to.
- Pay attention to thoughts and feelings and don’t be afraid to seek support for your mental and emotional health.
- Spend time on developing and maintaining meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
- Think about your purpose in life and how you might fulfill it.
- Assess your stress levels. How are they affecting your quality of life? Do you have good tools for coping with stress, or do you need to ask for support?
- Focus on getting plenty of restful sleep. This will affect every aspect of your well-being.
- Spend time in nature. Enjoying fresh air and sunshine is not only good for the mind, it’s also great for your body. Spend some time outdoors every day if possible, and in nature whenever you can (without technology!).
- Simplify your life. Appreciate quiet time and simple things.
- Express gratitude regularly.
All of these elements can work together to create a sense of Well-Being and a life that feels fulfilling.
And as with all structures, building a solid foundation is where we need to start. When we can strike a solid balance between physical, emotional, and mental health, we can enjoy a much better quality of life that supports the other areas of Well-Being.
The Live better, not perfect community is a great place to find many of the tools, expert support, and like-minded individuals that will help you build a solid foundation for your own Well-Being. We welcome you to join us and grow together!
Do you also want to strive for optimal well-being? Then discover our awesome community of individuals aiming to Live better, not perfect.
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