Question for you: Do you consider yourself healthy?
If I had to put money on your answer, I’d wager you answered “yes.” And why not, you know someone worse off than you right? I mean, at least you’re not in as bad of shape as so and so – she is really unhealthy.
A Fascinating Case Study in Missing the Obvious
You see, despite the fact that we are the most obese nation in the world, where the overwhelming majority of us die from highly preventable diseases, we generally consider ourselves healthy. In an interesting study released in 2009 by Deloitte, it was reported that 7 out of 8 Americans consider themselves to be healthy. Strangely enough, 55% of those same responders reported that they wrestle with at least one or more chronic conditions. Hmm – I think it might be safe to say we might be looking at the concept of health through a pair of lenses that are out of focus.
Our collective understanding of what’s healthy is more along the lines of “How bad can I feel and still function?” rather than “How many different aspects of wellness am I currently thriving in?”
The “Old Definition of Health” that Needs an Upgrade
Perhaps this ironic disconnect between perception and reality starts with how we have defined health in the first place. If you look up the word “health” in the dictionary, you’ll find a definition like “soundness of body and mind” or “freedom from disease or ailment”. With simple definitions like that, it’s not difficult to see how we could consider ourselves to be healthy. Who of us would say that we don’t have “soundness of body and mind”? If we are free of symptoms or a named disease, we must be healthy, right?
Well, my goal here is not to try to convince you that you’re unhealthy. Nope; it’s much simpler than that – namely, to see if we can’t come up with a better barometer of health than “soundness” or “freedom from symptoms”. Soundness is too nebulous and subjective, and symptoms are just a sign that something went wrong a long time ago; they are not the beginning of disease. We can do better than these benchmarks.
A New Definition of Health
I would like to present the idea that “health” is about “wholeness.” It’s about being well in many different ways.
Author Cheryl Townsley, in her book Cleansing Made Simple, offers what I think is a one of the soundest definitions of health you’ll find. She says health can be described as:
- Having a good appetite and digestion
- Having daily comfortable elimination
- Having healthy eyes, shiny hair and radiant skin
- Having a flexible body and stable emotions
- Maintaining good memory and clear thinking
- Being free from anxiety, worry or depression
- Being able to enjoy activities, recreation and relaxation
- Having energy for all required activities and a surplus for recreation
- Having good communication skills to express your innermost thoughts and feelings
- Participating in regular and spontaneous outbreaks of humor and laughter
- Having healthy esteem of self and of others
Now we’re talking! That’s a definition of health I can get behind. Can you think of something she missed? To put a more, perhaps manly slant to the definition, I might add, “having strong muscles and joints that work well,” but other than that, I think she nails it.
Defining health in light of the above would mean that when we talk about the body we consider the whole person – spirit, mind and body. If we looked at health that way, we might give ourselves more realistic marks in line with the national statistics, and we might also begin to see how other aspects of our lives are tied to our physical health.
So, I pose the question again… do you consider yourself healthy? I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some work to do.