With a definite rise in the trend of being healthy have you ever stopped to ask yourself what does it mean to be healthy?
It may seem like a simple question, but the definition of true health is a somewhat debated topic, which can make it difficult to understand what health is and if you are healthy.
Definitions of health vary from region to region and even from person to person. Some consider being healthy to mean the absence of any disease, while others believe it is the state of peak physical condition. The World Health Organisation defines health as a: ‘state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing‘.
Perhaps you even have your own definition of what being healthy means!
While we may not have a universal definition for what it means to be healthy, there is a universal truth surrounding health: namely, that it is different for each person.
A healthy lifestyle is composed of a variety of elements and is therefore not easily combined into a one-size-fits-all definition.
An important part of defining what it means to be healthy is recognizing that health is not an all-or-nothing experience.
This is because being healthy looks different for every person – and can even look different for the same person during different periods of their life – it may be helpful to think about health on a spectrum rather than as a healthy vs. non-healthy binary.
On the spectrum of health, it is easy to be healthy regarding one aspect – for example, to have good physical health – but be less healthy in another. This doesn’t make you unhealthy! Rather, knowing that you can improve in certain areas can help you to focus on these elements, improving your overall health and moving upwards on the health spectrum.
As you consider your health and subsequent place on the spectrum, you can begin to make small changes that will result in a healthier lifestyle and enjoy other related benefits of being healthy.
These benefits range from feelings of success and happiness to seemingly unrelated benefits such as healthier relationships with others, increased opportunities.
A Healthy Meaning – Considering The Individual Elements
Now that we’ve discussed a bit more about what being healthy is – and what it is not – you might be wondering how to determine your place on the health spectrum.
While most people may believe that health is solely physical, it’s important to remember that when it comes to being healthy, your mind is just as important as your body. There is a wide range of interacting elements that, when combined, help to determine your health at any given time.
1. Mental Health
The state of your mental health may not be as visible as that of your physical health, but it is just as important. Positive mental health allows you to cope with stressful periods of life, enjoy healthy relationships, protect against mental health issues and contribute to your family and community in meaningful ways.
Your mental health is influenced by five main elements: emotional wellbeing, intellectual wellbeing, spirituality, social wellbeing and psychological wellbeing, as well as a variety of other factors, including your physical health, environment, heritage and biology.
2. Emotional Wellbeing
Being in touch with your own emotions can lead to greater empathy and understanding not only for yourself but also for those around you.
Emotional wellbeing is not the absence of negative emotions but rather the ability to cope with them effectively and in ways that still allow you to experience positive emotions as well.
3. Intellectual Wellbeing
Having an open mind and willingness to learn and grow often leads to increased opportunities in every aspect of life, from work opportunities to the chance to meet new friends and form new relationships.
Increased intellectual wellbeing can also help you find greater fulfillment in and passion for the things that you do.
In this instance, spirituality refers less to organized religion and more to the belief that life has meaning and purpose beyond your physical experience.
Those with high levels of spiritual wellness are likely to feel an increased sense of peace with the belief that they are part of a greater meaning. They also experience additional benefits by adopting and adhering to a set of values and beliefs.
5. Social Wellbeing
Social wellbeing is often defined as your ability to successfully interact with, contribute to and be comfortable with the community around you. It also includes forming and nurturing fulfilling relationships with others.
6. Psychological Wellbeing
It is important to understand how you feel about yourself and to simultaneously accept yourself. Understand that you can (and will) change throughout your life.
Psychological wellbeing also concerns your satisfaction with life and other elements, such as your autonomy, how you view your relationships and self-acceptance.
7. Physical health
Physical health may appear to be a simple concept, but in reality, it has multiple interacting facets that help determine your location on the health spectrum.
When it comes to your diet, there is no one-size-fits-all policy. However, there are many science-backed guidelines that provide more insight into a healthy diet that will fuel your body the proper way. A diet rich in whole foods and limited sugars, fats and starches is generally the best option. It should always be augmented with plenty of water to ensure that the body functions properly now and into the future.
Daily movement is vital to both long-term and short-term health, but it is important to understand the limitations of your body to avoid any serious injuries. Most people need approximately 3 hours of exercise per week, though this may vary depending on age and other factors.
Exercise is one of the most difficult habits to form, but there are ways to make it easier. Choosing an activity that you love and holding yourself accountable to a workout buddy are two great ways to make exercise a habit in your daily life.
During sleep, your body works hard to repair itself from the day. This means it’s important to get the rest you need not only to feel rested for the next day but also to allow your body to grow and function properly! The average adult should aim for 7–10 hours of sleep a night, a number that will vary for different ages.
11. Avoiding harmful habits
Even if you are otherwise taking care of your physical self, falling victim to a harmful habit can have a devastating effect on your overall health.
It’s highly important to avoid excessive drinking or smoking, illegal drug abuse, and a highly sedentary lifestyle. Even seemingly harmless habits like consistent snacking can be dangerous in the long term.
So, to summarise – What does it mean to be healthy?
The short answer is – it’s based on how you feel! Being healthy looks different for everyone, and if you feel that you’re succeeding at an element of health, then you probably are!
As you consider your place on the health spectrum, remember that there is always room for improvement – but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate where you’re at now.