By Therese Eley, Marketing Services
If you are like most Canadians, you probably believe you live a healthy lifestyle. But what does that really mean to you? Do you define health as a purely physiological state or does your definition encompass a more holistic view of overall health?
In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Four decades later, it refined this statement further, suggesting that health is "a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."
So with this broader perspective on health in mind, how can you determine how healthy you really are? One way is to periodically give yourself a health self-assessment, focusing on five areas: physical, social, intellectual, financial and spiritual. For each area, ask yourself what you are doing well and where you can improve. Try to identify goals for how you can improve yourself in each area.
How healthy are you feeling, physically? What are some activities you can incorporate into your routines to improve your physical health further? These can be anything from doing some gardening to taking daily walks, going swimming with your grandkids every weekend, or whatever kinds of activities you enjoy and are likely to be successful doing. If there are things that are causing you pain or discomfort, be sure to schedule an appointment with your health care provider. This will ensure you are actively improving the situation instead of becoming complacent with the pain and limiting your mobility or ability to participate in the activities you enjoy doing.
Having a healthy social life, including strong friendships and family connections, plays an extremely important role in determining one's overall health and well-being. Not only do friends raise our spirits and give us a sense of belonging and self-worth, but having a strong social support network can actually reduce our risk of having many other health problems, including depression, high blood pressure, anxiety and obesity. So make an effort to reconnect with old friends, meet up with your best friend for lunch once a week, or join a class or attend community events where you might meet like-minded people.
An active, healthy mind is a key element in maintaining overall health. And to keep your mind healthy, you need to keep it stimulated. It can be easy to slip into patterns of comfortable routine, but doing so means our brains aren't getting much of a workout. So ask yourself, how often are you feeding your mind? It should be a daily practice, and there are lots of ways you can add mental stimulation into your daily life. From setting aside time each day to read about a topic that interests you, to having a friendly debate with a friend over coffee or signing up for a course to learn a new skill or expand your knowledge on a topic that interests you—incorporating regular mental exercise into your day is a powerful tool for keeping the mind healthy and young.
Financial health is not only an important contributor to our sense of security and overall mental health, but it is also an essential factor in how well we are able to maintain our physical and social health. Financial wellness is about developing a healthy relationship with money so you can meet both your short-term and long-term financial goals. It is, therefore a key element in your overall health assessment. If you are unsure about the health of your finances, it is recommended you work with a financial professional who can help you identify and plan for your financial future.
Research is indicating that there are links between spiritual health and physical well-being. Spiritual well-being can be defined as the things in your life that bring you a sense of "peace, purpose, connection, love, beauty and meaning" to your life. So it is important to assess what kinds of things you are already doing regularly that nurture these feelings, and if the answer is "not much," then identify ways you can nurture your spiritual well-being. Things that can improve your sense of spiritual well-being might include setting aside time each day to meditate or pray or write in a gratitude journal. It can be something as simple as going for a walk in nature or spending time with loved ones. Find activities that are meaningful to you, that bring you feelings of calm and connection with yourself, others or the world around you.
Often, as you reflect on these five elements, you will discover that there might be activities that you can incorporate into your routine that will benefit multiple areas of wellness at once. Taking a course, for instance, is a great way to incorporate intellectual and social stimulation. Nature walks can support both your physical and spiritual health. Set health goals that will lead you to feel health is achievable. Focus on areas where you are already doing well and incorporate simple activities that will add to your overall quality of life.