My mentor, Gabrielle Fundaro, recently posed a question/discussion
“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.”
In that case…is anyone really healthy? It isn’t enough to not be ill, according to this definition. Full health means complete well-being in all domains.”
By this definition we are leaving out people with improperly healed injuries, mental illness such as depression or anxiety, social differences such as the LGBTQ+ community and stressful life situations such as divorce. If I were in one of these categories I would probably feel so completely discouraged that I wouldn’t attempt to try and be healthy. But that is messed up because wouldn’t these people also benefit from the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle?
So what is health then?
Can it be defined or should it?
Instead of What it means to be healthy, in my opinion, is highly individual. I am a big fan of James Clear and in his book, Atomic Habits, he talks about striving to be 1% better each day, That is a wonderful concept, it removes the pass or fail and thereby the shame of being unhealthy, it allows for a process unlike the WHO definition which seems very black and white. When we think of health it can sometimes seem to be a “should” which can move it even further out of reach which leads to shame.
Perhaps part of the problem is trying to adopt a broad definition of “healthy” or what it means to be healthy that applies to everyone. Is it possible that a healthy lifestyle for me can be different from a healthy lifestyle for someone else? I would think that if being aligned with our values contributes to mental well being and everyone has different values then a definition should address that rather than define what these values should be for all. For example, I may place a high value on my mental health while someone else may place more value on their physical health. If we are both in pursuit of health is one of us wrong?
Mindfulness is a concept that has become increasingly popular in recent years. In part the reason it may be such a popular practice is because it is a way of thinking or a process, there is not a right or wrong, pass or fail. Mindfulness seems to be a very inclusive practice that is inviting to many. There is nothing intimidating about being engaged in a practice. Perhaps if we approached health as a practice rather than an ideal we would be less intimidated to pursue it. I would love the concept of health to allow and invite individuality and differences, it would then seem less moral and be less intimidating of a hill to climb.
So again, I ask what is health to you?
You have permission to explore here.
You can incorporate your values.
What would happen to your life if you made the decision to explore and design your own path to health picking up all the pieces along the way that feel true for you?