How you understand health will limit how you express health. How you express your health will determine the quality of life you live with. The purpose of this essay is to help you understand the broader and complete nature of health, as well as the dynamic nature of health based on the Health Continuum.
Health is wealth. We’ve all no doubt heard variations of this phrase before. Yet no matter how many times we hear it, no matter who we are, and no matter what time period we live in on this magnificent planet, that statement continues to echo a timeless truth. There truly is nothing more valuable than our health, for in order to enjoy the creative aspect of life, our work, our relationships, travels, arts, or any other experience, we need our health. When our body and mind are working optimally, it is then that we can optimally enjoy the richness of life.
When I first wrote this article, back in the spring of 2008, I was at the climax of my personal health journey. The years leading up to that point, thanks to both my professional and personal experience, had taught me that our health is in our hands. It is not an externally driven occurrence that is sometimes given to us and at other times taken from us. It is also not some Russian roulette where some are bestowed with good health, while others are not. Our health is our creation. Today, we cannot even blame our genetics for our health. Thanks to the science of epigenetics, we know that our genes are governed (switched on or off accordingly) by the environments they are subjected to. These environments include our diet, our thoughts, our toxin levels, etc.
At that time, I also became acutely aware of how broad the nature of health really was. Our physical ills or sensations are just one part of an intricate web of players, each of whom directly influences how we feel and function as human beings. This is such a vital aspect of our existence, yet all too often so overlooked. Today, in the year 2015, it is therefore so positive to see the holistic nature of health being increasingly focused on and worked with to adequately address any of our imbalances. As our planet continues to awaken and ascend into higher levels of consciousness, people are recognizing that they are so much more than just their bodies, and acknowledging their multidimensional nature that shapes their health as a whole.
An Unhealthy Disconnect
Thanks to our modern age of information, which has been enabled by the Internet’s incredible affinity to relay information worldwide, we are taking a look at our health and wellness like never before. If you live in a part of our planet where you have access to the Internet, you have ample information at your fingertips on how to live the highest quality of life. Of course, that is just one piece of the puzzle. The other vital piece is to put valuable information to work. You have to first make a conscious choice to seek, integrate, and apply effective information for you into your own life. This is unfortunately where there is a disconnect for many people. Some people stop short at seeking, that is if they even bother seeking at all, and instead attempt to coast through life based on old, conditioned ideas. Some don’t know how to handle the information they find. While others fall short of actually applying it in their life.
This is why despite so much information and so much innovation, we have a ridiculously high amount of humans on this planet that is worse off than perhaps any human population before it. Some people attempt to argue that we are living longer and better today, but this is not quite the case. If we remove access to all of the pharmaceuticals and medical interventions, we quickly begin to see how poorly we really are doing. Acute and chronic diseases, as well as weight, emotional, and mental problems are at all-time highs.
If we were a visitor from another planet, we may scratch our head and wonder after some observation, as to why human beings are so intent of working against themselves. Despite all of the information and all of the proof we have today, we cannot seem to make it work for us. Do you ever wonder why that is? Why is it that we as humans in general are so resistant to change? Why do we find our destructive habits so hard to break?
The answers go back to our levels of conscious awareness and mindfulness. The higher the quality of our mindfulness, the more capable we are at effectively engaging with that which is in alignment with our personal needs and desires. The other part of this foundation is our ability to cultivate sacred respect for our existence and all that it entails. This includes our level of self-love, self-worth, and self-respect. When we have these present at high levels, healthy living becomes effortless, as there is no question as to what is acceptable to become a part of our life—our mind and body, and what isn’t.
5 Areas of Complete Health
In order to effectively change and improve our health, we also have to understand what health actually is. In order to do this, we need to redefine it in light of our modern understanding of what actually constitutes complete health.
The body has a natural health ability and is programmed for balance (homeostasis). What is the quality with which your body functions on a daily basis?
The physical is just one part of our complete nature, which is being expressed while we are incarnated on planet Earth. Our greater nature, beyond time and space, is spirit.
What is the quality of the spiritual dimension in your life?
Our mind plays an integral role in shaping who we are and how we function. It can be the source of our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows, depending on how we use it.
What is the quality of growth and intellectual expansion in all areas of your life?
Our emotions play an integral role in helping us decipher what is and what isn’t in alignment with who we are and what is best for us.
What is the quality of your emotional expression and understanding?
As human beings, we are social species that interact with others and engage in relationships on a daily basis.
What is the quality of your interactions and relationships with others?
Moving Along the Health Continuum into Optimal Health
Health is not a stationary state of being. All health is in constant flux, as the 5 areas of our health (as mentioned above) engage in a continual dance of balance that works with our most present needs and alongside our specific challenges. We are dynamic beings, as is all life, and this dynamic exchange is the core of the health continuum. So whether you are doing relatively well right now, or are plagued by some condition, you can still always make a difference in the quality of your life. This is where things like the right nourishment for your body, mind and spirit, can provide amazing support for achieving complete optimal health.
We can visualize the health continuum as a type of scale, where on one end is optimal health and wellness, while on the other end of the spectrum is extremely poor health. Where you fall on the scale right now and how you can change your position, depends on several key factors in your life. The first step to achieving optimal health is acknowledging those 5 areas of complete health in your life and reflecting accordingly on each of the questions that accompany it.
Examine the following diagram:
There are numerous degrees that separate each ranking on the Health Continuum Scale. It is, perhaps, impossible to determine the number of degrees of separation between each level or have a universal ranking system, as each human being is so diverse in their thinking, body composition, activity levels, amount of health problems, etc. The most important factor to see is that we all fall somewhere on that scale. Subsequently, if you are not satisfied with where you fall on the scale right now, you are not stuck with where you rank today. Through conscious living in all areas of your life, you are able to climb towards achieving complete optimal health, and oscillating within that range if you continue with positive health habits.
Here are some key pointers to give you an idea to which end of the health continuum you currently belong to and therefore what state your complete health is in:
You are near the top end of the Health Continuum if:
- You have a strong self esteem
- You have an excellent ability to meet life’s demands
- You do not compare yourself or compete with others
- You have a healthy lifestyle (i.e. eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, etc.)
- You have positive social relationships
- You have a healthy balance between your mind, body, and spirit
- You are not inflicted with any diseases
- You do not experience common undesirable physical symptoms
- You have an effective way of handling any debilitations or disabilities
You are near the bottom end of the Health Continuum if:
- You often go through emotional breakdowns
- You have a poor image of yourself
- You constantly feel inadequate
- You have an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e. poor eating habits, lack of exercise, smoking, etc.)
- You live in isolation from others or feel isolated or alone, even when amongst others
- You often feel depressed or have a mental illness
- You lack a healthy balance between your mind, body, and spirit
- You suffer from various physical illnesses
- You are unable to cope with a severe mental or physical disability
Remember that health is not constant throughout one’s life, as it depends on many factors. Hence doing the right thing today may not guarantee positive results for the future. It all depends on how you engage all 5 areas of your health at any given time. At the same time, engaging in poor habits today does not mean that you are scarred for life. Your health is dynamic, your body is resilient, and your mind is malleable. The optimal health that you can create at any given time will come from a consistent application and attention to all 5 areas of your health.
The most important thing to do is to effectively engage in seeking, integrating, and applying new information and habits that are most in alignment with what you want and need. You may find it easy to adjust your thoughts, habits, and actions accordingly to be in alignment with complete optimal health, or you may find that no matter how much you try, it is a struggle for you. Either way, be loving with yourself and take things one step at a time. Remember: there is lots of information and help out there today that can improve any or all areas of your health. All you have to do is make the choice to accept it into your life and change your current status quo. Stepping out of your comfort zone may be tough, but it does not serve you to stay in an area that you are unsatisfied with. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t sabotage your health! Rather, engage mindfully in creating healthy habits that positively influence each of the 5 areas of your health.