Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;... and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man.
-James H. West
We all want to be healthy. We read countless magazine articles on healthy living. Hey, you’re reading this blog on healthy and purposeful living! But when you think of the word “health”, what do you think of? Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is our physical health- proper diet, exercise, and the absence of sickness. Would you agree with me, though, that one could live the entirety of their life pursuing this idea of “health”, but still end up with the ills and infirmities of regrets, missed opportunities, and disappointments? If so, the pursuit of physical health will have been in vain. Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge advocate of healthy living in regard to our bodies. I truly believe proper diet and exercise are the best means by which we can take care of ourselves. But health is not made up of just one component. Our mind and spirit contribute as well. When we put all of our eggs in one basket and fail to acknowledge the whole spectrum of “health”, we cheat ourselves of living the most healthful life we can potentially live.
So what else contributes to our health? “Mind” and “spirit” are so vague- what does that even mean? If you have any input I’d love to hear it. But I’ll share with you my opinion. I think, and you can differ with me on this point if you’d like, that relationships are the #1 indicator of our non-physical health. Do you have good, strong, encouraging relationships in your life? This doesn’t have to be a significant other… do you have friends, family, etc. who support you and build you up? Do you feel that you are loved by the people you are surrounded by? I was asked this week if I internalized stress and if so, if I had an outlet for this stress. And to be truthful, I do internalize stress. I don’t like to acknowledge stress and I think if I pretend it’s not there then I won’t have to deal with it. But my response to the second part of the question was that I feel my true outlet for stress is the relationships that I have in my life. I am so thankful for the amazing family I have been blessed with and the role they play in my life. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. In addition to this, I have some pretty amazing friends who support me and encourage me, and I truly feel loved when I am around them. I know not everyone feels they have relationships like this. Although I have always had my strong relationship with my family, I have gone through periods in my life where I did not have many good friend relationships. It is extremely hard to remain mentally and spiritually “healthy” without this, at least for me. I encourage you to actively pursue relationships with others. Sometimes you have to put forth the effort to begin a relationship with someone, but I guarantee you it is worth it. Don’t let yourself neglect this needs for relationship… it is vital for a healthy life.
Another component to a healthy “mind” and “spirit” is having a purpose and passion. I can’t imagine what life would be like without feeling like it had any purpose or direction. What are you passionate about? What makes you feel like you are contributing to the world? I would advise you to take time to genuinely think about this. What issues in the world get you fired up and make you want to make a difference? Take this passion and put it into action! I’ll give you an example. Whenever I hear stories about individuals whose lives have been ruined because of problems that occurred during their childhood my heart breaks. I cannot stand to hear of childhood abuse- whether physical, emotional or verbal. Children are so vulnerable and influenced by what goes on around them, and the idea of a child growing up in an environment in which they do not feel secure or loved makes me feel sick. Because of this, I have decided to adopt my children, when the time comes, to spare these children from growing up in such an environment. My desire to work with individuals with eating disorders stems from this as well. I know it is not always the case, but I believe that many incidences of disordered eating come from dealing with a childhood environment without security, approval, or attention. All of this to say, intentionally seek out that which brings about a sense of purpose in your life and pursue this with your whole heart.
There are many other components to achieving the greatest health potential possible... laughter, sleep, relaxation, and many, many more. I have just mentioned the two most important- in my opinion. All the “health” (in regard to physical health) in the world will not bring contentment or true mental and spiritual health in the end. I’m not saying it’s ok to neglect the health of your body, but as I said earlier, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. True health is a balance of physical, mental and spiritual well being. Pursue all three with as much fervor as you see fit to live the healthiest life you can.