Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What is Health?

If you enter medical schools across the nation, in theory- and philosophy-based classes you will hear the question, "What is health?" Attending a 4-year naturopathic medical school, believe me I heard that question at least once every one of those years.

So, what were the most insightful answers I heard? In fact, the classroom answers were nowhere near more exciting than seeing individual patients uniquely learn "What Health Is" for them during training and onward into practice.

I would say most people start off by feeling that if they only ate better, exercised more, had a more regular sleep schedule, and consistently took vitamins, their health would improve. There are also measures such as normal blood pressure, healthy lab values, etc. that people would like to see regarding their health.

Is that all it takes, though? What if you do all these things and you still don't feel the type of health that you want?

If you dig a little deeper, you notice that there are other simple measures of health that are no less important to pay attention to. Is someone tackling the challenges in front of them, and if not what are the obstacles between what they want and how they can get there? What are the attitudes and beliefs that are hindering that person from going for it?

Sometimes a fear is trailing an individual and tainting how they feel about many areas of life and health. The fear may try on larger sizes the longer it manifests. Fears can be learning opportunities, and they can also be a major drag when neglected.

Many people live with expectations placed on them daily that are not their own. How they should live, what they should do, how they should prioritize, what they should value. This is a very common human experience that affects health even more than how many Skittles you eat in one sitting or whether you stay up one hour too late.

What else? Well, the list goes on, but for each of us it is a unique experience to notice which challenges we face and in what ways they are either boosting our health or draining it. They key is to recognize that it's okay to ask yourself the question, "What is health?" and to listen to what your answer is alongside what your healthcare providers, blood pressure readings, and vitamin bottles are saying.

In fact, if you answer that question for yourself first you may find that the things you try toward your health work better. Where once you ate well and exercised and saw no improvement in weight, you may find that now weight is willing to come off naturally. Maybe once stress seemed impossible to manage, but now that you ask yourself the important question you're better able to frame how you approach stress.

So, as often happens, I'm going to end this blog post with a question. What is health....for you?

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