One of the ambiguities we face today is a crisis in the definition of health. What is health, anyway?
Many people describe it as the absence of disease. No germs, I’m healthy. Germs, I’m unhealthy. Concern for health is relegated to times of sickness.
Others judge health by looking. If I am overweight, I’m unhealthy. If I’m thin, I’m healthy. If my skin is breaking out: not healthy. Health is relegated to the realm of appearance.
Still others define health by movement. If I have worked out today, I’m healthy. If I haven’t worked out in a while, boo me. I’m unhealthy. Health is determined by how much I’ve exercised.
There are even more ways that we can define health. There are many more factors that indicate health. Here’s what’s revolutionary:
Focusing on any one of these things alone does not truly lead to “health.”
Health is everything. Health is how you look, but health is also how you see yourself. Health is what you eat, but health is also why, how and when you eat. Health is about how much you exercise, but it’s also about why and how you exercise and even whether or not you’re enjoying it.
There are so many articles coming out these days about how we define health. There are articles claiming that certain things are healthy or unhealthy. There is writing in defense of anything we want to defend and writing attacking everything that others are defending, too. It’s nearly impossible to figure out what is “objectively” healthy or not.
Here’s a radical idea:
You already know.
You know what feels healthy in your own life and what doesn’t. By that I mean: you know what brings you joy, what causes you pain, what obscures and distracts from your feelings. You know, somewhere, why you do things and how you could change the way you do them to be “healthier.” What’s hardest is to listen.
Some people, instead of listening, opt for control. They opt for rules that say what’s healthy and what’s not healthy so that they don’t have to think about it. I did this; the Whole30 and other programs like it are one of many ways to do this. It can be a good way to break yourself out of a rut. It is not the only way to live life in the day-to-day.
We are already our own best critics. Most of us have no end to the judgments we can place on ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. We are not, however, our own best friends or listeners.
Maybe health is actually just….
…being friends with yourself.
Assuming our friendships are healthy, those are often the places where we shine in our treatment of others. We are willing to be there, to listen, to pick each other up when we aren’t feeling good. We encourage each other to rest when we’re tired or sick, and to cry and wallow when we break up with someone or suffer a loss.
Wouldn’t we be healthier if we treated ourselves this way, too?