What is Health?

I had planned on writing a short post today giving a few simple definitions of health and disease. It is not exactly new material for me, 32 years with a B.S. in Heath Education and a former junior high Health teacher.

But, I figured I throw the question out to Googleland anyway. What is health?

Of course, the standard, “the state of being free from illness or injury” definition popped up first. But, a few slots down, I spotted a familiar name – Chris Kresser. Chris, a licensed acupuncturist, author of Your Personal Paleo Code, and a global leader in integrative medicine, had already pondered the question and wrote a blog post about it in early November. What he and his commenters offered was much more than a basic definition.

Chris dittoed a description he found by Moshé Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais method of increasing self-awareness through movement, which is, “the ability to live your dreams,” to which Chris added, “regardless of your circumstances.

In the comment section, Evan Brand, a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, Nutritional Therapist, and Personal Trainer, offered five measures of health he uses for his clients.

  1. can sprint up a trail at their fastest speed (note the key word – their)
  2. sleeps soundly and wakes up feeling refreshed
  3. is able to laugh, cry, sing, and feel a variety of emotions
  4. can handle stress and change their perspective on it, and
  5. has plenty of energy for physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional journeys.

Elsewhere in the comment section after Chris’ article, a medical philosopher expressed his disagreement with the idea that one’s happiness has anything to do with one’s joy. While there may be a slight overlap, he admitted, one’s health and one’s happiness are two completely different entities. Just because one is happy doesn’t make them healthy, and vice versa.

Other commenters – ordinary people, many with physical challenges of their own – offered their own definitions of health. Words like balance and adaptability, and gratitude came up repeatedly.

Walgreens logo
The marketeers at Walgreens seem to be on board with the goal of heathy + happy.

One of my favorite comments came from Wolfgang Fudickar: Health is about balance of mind, body, and spirit. Once balance is achieved you can live your full potential, follow your dreams, and overcome any obstacle that life throws against you.

Since Wolfgang’s goal of total balance seems to describe perfection and one of the mantras I ascribe to is “perfection is the enemy of progress,” I guess I’ll follow another mantra until I get there: Fake it ’til you make it.

I could also relate to a comment left by Beatrix Willius who wrote, “Health is also not having to deal with doctors so often and getting grief from them because I don’t do what they want.” Sadly, she added, “Health is having friends and family not dying of heart attacks and cancer way too early in their lives. For some friends, it’s already too late.”

I can relate to the second part, too.

And that is partly why I am including Health as one of my major blog categories on Kate’s Daily Bread. Our health affects all aspects of our lives as well as others around us – our friends, our family, our children, our neighbors. Health is a most precious commodity that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves until, as Beatrix said, “it’s too late.”

I’m here to do my part to change that. My chiropractor shared with me during one of my appointments, paraphrasing, “We live in an Emergency Room culture. We live however we want and then, when we get sick, we rush to the ER expecting doctors to fix us.”

The likes of Chris Kresser and Evan Brand are young men (that is, younger than I) who are promoting a better way. Maybe if we pay a little more attention to our health when we are, quote, healthy – maybe if we take more responsibility for our health rather than relying on doctors to tow the car we drove into the ditch out – we’d all be healthier and happier.

Another doctor, an internist, put it this way. Happy people are healthy people.

Me? I like to focus on the word freedom. Freedom from that which would prevent us from living our lives as we dream, desire, and feel called, if only by our own consciences. But, as they say, with freedom comes responsibility.

As free people, we are faced every day with a ton of choices – what to eat, when to sleep, to walk or drive, to sit or stand, to give or get. All of those choices add up. The older we get, the more we feel the effects of the choices we’ve made over the years.

But, as long as we are still breathing, it’s not too late.

Here’s to your health! And to your power to achieve it, whatever it is.
(featured image by University of Kentucky College of Public Health)