Health is the most natural expression of life, and yet, it can elude someone for a lifetime. It is as much a state of being as it is a process of unfolding. It is something for us to strive for and achieve, while at the same time, it is always and forever within us. It is the greatest of all gifts in life, and the undeniable right of all beings.
Health is simultaneously a collective phenomenon and an individual experience. It is something that is both measurable and highly unique to everyone. And so, I encourage you to make the question a personal one. What does health mean to YOU? How healthy do you want to be? How do you want to feel, now and as you age? What do you want to be able to do with your life and with those in your life? And finally, do you believe that it's possible for you to experience the health you desire?
Have you ever taken the time to define health for yourself and to decide what it means in the context of your life? If we at least know our target, our aim can more easily become true, so give it a shot.
I'll give you a head start and share my working definition with you. Here it is - Health is a complete and harmonious state of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing, characterized by a highly adaptable system capable of thriving under stressful circumstances.
Let's break it down, piece by piece. By 'complete,' I mean totally and entirely functional, online and up to date. By 'harmonious,' I mean well balanced, well integrated, and with minimal resistance.
Did I say "physical, mental, emotional, social AND spiritual?" Yes, I did, because your body is not just a meat machine on autopilot, operating independently of everything else in your life. Every single thing about you is connected and related to EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT YOU!
If you're not immediately convinced, just notice what happens to that tension in your neck and shoulders next time you become angry or enraged, how your indigestion flares up when you get anxious and stressed out, how your mental clarity drops and the brain fog rolls in when you've been sleeping or eating poorly, or how your relationships suffer when you're experiencing states of existential doubt or personal despair. If it's not sinking in yet, simply pay attention and observe yourself over time. For now, let's move on and break down the rest of the definition.
By this point, some of the people reading this might have begun wishful thinking about achieving a level of health where nothing stressful every happens anymore, and they never again have to deal with painful, icky or otherwise unpleasant situations. But certainly not YOU, dear reader. You understand that life happens, and it's not always pretty, but that even though shit happens, we are meant to adapt, overcome and grow. That's exactly what I mean by highly adaptable, that even when life throws you off center, physically emotionally or otherwise, you're able to overcome the obstacle and move on, better in some way than you were before.
Finally, the ability to thrive under stressful circumstances is a perfect measure of whether your actually experiencing this thing called health. Think of the word 'thrive' as a contrast to 'survive.' When you're merely surviving through life, your circumstances haven't yet killed you, but life in general seems to be getting less manageable and less tolerable by the day, month, year, or however often you check in with yourself. On the other hand, to thrive under stress suggests that, despite the inevitable unpleasantries of life, you're able to flourish and prosper in the face of your challenges, moving forward with what I consider to be one of the most important attributes of health: presence.
Health is the presence of mind, body and spirit that allows you to be aware, to acknowledge, to accept and to rise above the circumstances of your life, knowing deep within that you are more than your circumstances, and that to be alive is the greatest gift you have ever received.