We often think of “being healthy” as a series of check marks: annual well-visit? Check. Six-month dental cleaning? Check. Eye test? Check.
Or, we think of “being healthy” as just not being sick.
But health is SO much more than checking a box or being okay physically. It’s about overall wellness and quality of life. It’s about you as a whole person and the many factors that contribute to your well-being.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines health as, “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit.”
Our health goes beyond what you see, it’s how you feel, think, and believe. It is our mental, emotional, spiritual AND physical. This year, instead of just checking the physical box, let’s check in on each part of our health.
Research shows a link between an “upbeat mental state,” and physical signs of good health like lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. So, the healthier you are mentally, the healthier you will be physically (and vice-versa).
In years past, mental health has been underestimated and neglected. Thankfully, the stigma around mental health is changing through research and awareness, giving it the attention and respect it deserves.
The (World Health Organization) WHO stresses that mental health is not just the absence of a mental disorder. It is also the “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Family history, biological factors, and life experiences all influence and affect our mental health. From a bad day at work or an argument with a friend, to a bigger life event like having a child, starting a new job, getting married, etc. These experiences affect how we think, feel and act.
“Your mental health helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood,” according to MedlinePlus.
We all experience stress, depression, anxiety and other mental states during our life—this is normal. How you respond, process and cope with these mental states, is unique.
There are many ways to process and to boost our mood and mental health. From meditation to medication, counseling to exercise, it’s about what works for you. And, it’s all connected. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, working out can relieve tension—physically and mentally.
In general, talking with a counselor or psychologist to reflect and discuss any changes in your life—both positive and negative— can help you maintain balance. It can also help to reveal any potential mental conditions.
According to Mayo Clinic, each mental health condition varies in symptoms and severity. However, professional help might be needed if you experience:
- Marked changes in personality, eating or sleeping patterns
- An inability to cope with problems or daily activities
- Excessive anxiety
- Prolonged depression or apathy
- Thinking or talking about suicide
- Substance abuse
- Extreme mood swings
As the stigma is slowly, but surely, being removed from mental health, even celebrities are sharing their challenges and victories with staying healthy mentally.
“I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression and I still take it today,” Kristen Bell shared in an interview with theoffcamerashow. “And I have no shame in that because my mom had said if you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist and see how you want to help yourself.”
Whether you practice eastern religion, western religion, or no religion, spiritual health is about you and your personal beliefs. You can practice mindfulness, pray, journal, attend church or temple, walk in nature, meditate, cook, garden, paint, do yoga or tai chi—these are all spiritual practices.
“Spiritual practice is something you do every single day that draws you deeper into who you really are…It is not so much about the form but about the profound and connective quality of the time spent within it,” according to the Huffington Post.
In Japan, they practice “Shinrin-yoku,” which means “tree-bathing,” or spending time in nature. You define what your spiritual practice is. There are many positive benefits of spiritual practices, including:
- Lifting your mood
- Giving you clarity during busy and overwhelming days
- Cultivating attention to complete tasks
- Creating a sense of steadiness and grounding in change
- Helping you see your life on a macro and micro level
Next time you are painting, walking, praying, or journaling, think about how you are positively impacting your health and wellness. As Psychology Today says, “people who practice these intentional habits are gracious, compassionate, flourish, self-actualize, and savor life-experiences.”
We know the basics: eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, sleep 8-10 hours a night, etc. But what does it look like when we truly practice what we preach? Here are three quick tips for physical health:
1 Go to more than just your checkups. Yes, still go to your annual check-ups with your practitioner, dentist, gynecologist, etc. But always seek medical advice if you have any questions, concerns, or if you plan on trying something new.
2. Mix up your workouts. Let’s be honest, we all get bored of the same workouts. Physical activity can be fun when you try something new and when you do it in a group for accountability and socializing. Join a group fitness class like Zumba, or a running club, or take any yoga, HIIT or any class at your gym. (Check out Groupon or ClassPass for deals). Studies show that working out in a group can help you work out harder and stay consistent.
3. Be realistic. Are you really going to eat quinoa and greens all week? Pick food that is easy to prepare and full of good nutrients, but also be realistic and plan for cravings and long-days at work when you just. Can’t. Even.
There are thousands of ways to define health, but our favorite is, “a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.” Thriving, not simply surviving in life; is our ultimate goal for holistic health and wellness.
Take care of you—the WHOLE you—physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and every other “ly” you can think of. And, as always, please consult a medical professional.