On the first day of class every semester, I usually ask the students, “What is a healthy person?”
Typically, I get answers like, someone who exercises, eats right, is thin, has good hygiene, gets enough sleep, doesn’t do drugs, has nice skin, is in shape, isn’t sick, is tan, isn’t overweight, someone who has lots of energy.
Did you notice something about all of these responses?
They all have to do with a person’s physical health. That is usually what people think of when they think of health, but there are other aspects to a healthy person. What else is a healthy person?
The answers then expand to things like, someone who is happy, someone who is smart, someone who has lots of friends, someone who is confident, recycles, forgives others, learns from their mistakes, thinks things through, isn’t depressed, helps others, practices safe sex, controls their emotions, volunteers, and helps to protect the environment. The list can go on and on.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ~World Health Organization, 1948
There are actually many dimensions to a person’s health. The six that we usually discuss are; physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and environmental. These dimensions all depend on and influence each other. When one is out of sync, the other five are usually affected.
We need to get past the idea that a health is just a physical thing.
We usually think of professional athletes as very healthy people because they are in great physical shape. But is a professional athlete a healthy person if he goes home after a game and abuses his wife? He may be physically healthy but certainly not emotionally.
What about a person who works hard to keep the environment pollution free, but doesn’t take any time to keep himself organized? Or, consider the spiritual leader who is also a very stressed out person?
It helps to think about it like a tire divided into six sections. If you get a puncture, it affects the whole tire. The whole tire is flat, not just the place where the nail poked through. The same is true with our health.
Let’s say someone is under a lot of stress, this emotional imbalance chemically affects their brain and the way that they think intellectually. It affects their physical body too. They may gain weight or not get enough sleep, which affects their immune system. Things in the environment may irritate them and they may lash out at others they love. This affects their social and their spiritual well-being.
On the other hand, people who are balanced in one aspect of health usually enjoy positive improvements in their other dimensions as well.
When we volunteer (spiritual) are we not reaching out to others (social) and feeling good about ourselves (emotional)? We also may be learning new labor skills (physical) or thinking of other ways to help the situations of others (intellectual, and environmental).
You can try this exercise with every aspect of health, when one is doing well; it helps balance all of the others. THIS IS WELLNESS, A BALANCE IN ALL OF THE DIMENSIONS OF HEALTH. You don’t need to be perfect in all of the areas or even in one; you just need to be actively working on them to begin to feel these dimensions begin to support and enhance each other.
The objective of any health class should be to help people become well, to become balanced. When we are balanced, the body, the spirit, and the mind, work together and are able to heal themselves and experience wellness.