We are lucky. We are coming to live in a world that recognizes that health is more then just the number on a scale. Some of us are even starting to remember that its not what we look like in a swim suit either. But the truth is that we still have a hard time realizing just how much our “Wellness” community sometimes needs to recognize and like so many things, its because many of the things that truly make us healthy are inter-sectional and a bit harder to monetize.
Health is not a product and the truth is that its not a result either. There are parts of health that fluctuate. You might feel great in one of them one day and not in the next. They might very from hour to hour. And even more complexly, elements of deep health are all intertwined with each other.
Knowing these elements below are the first step of course and knowing that you can never truly “master” them is the next. Anyone who says that they feel all of these things, all the time…well they are probably trying to sell you something. Coaching yourself on them is really the only way to approach them. Understanding, journaling, talking them out with a friend, partner or therapist is one of the best ways to befriend them and integrate them into your life in a way that impacts it.
Relational – “I am connected and authentic with people I feel supported by”
Having the support system around you might seem like a given, but as I have talked about in previous articles the traditional support system can sometimes be complex. You do not always get the support that you need from those around you and while some people might be comfortable being completely authentic with their parents, for most of us there is probably some need or expectation that has always lingered under the surface.
This isn’t all together a bad thing. My parents have been with me through some of the hardest times in my life. But there are also friends that I have made over the years that I know I can go to that provide a different emotional support. These are both connections. Partners are connections. Friends are connections. Having that ability to be yourself, to understand and explore who you are and the different facets of yourself is part of why Relational support is so important.
Physical– “I feel healthy and energized. I preform and function well”
Yes okay; traditional health is still part of health. In order to truely be healthy on a deep level, there is the prefise that you have to be healthy and able enough to experience what you want to experience. Sometimes this isn’t perfect. Chronic disease and special circumstances in life might require a bit of a different approach then the average joe, but being as healthy as you can be makes a huge difference in your mental health.
Eating good food, working out as much as you can, getting enough vitamins and generally living a life style that makes it easier to function is a huge deal. When you feel winded going up the stairs it sucks. I’ve been there. It can effect far more parts of your life including confidence but it also shortens your life span and leaves you less energized to go out and live life to the fullest. And isn’t that what deep health is all about?
Mental– “I feel alert, focused, competent an am thoughtful. I learn, remember and solve problems well.”
Metal health has a lot of focus on disorders but you should be able to tell, even without these, when you are mentally not as sharp as you think that you should be. Mental health in this respect can take many many forms and many things can effect it. All of these things intertwine and your physical health, emotional health, and even environmental health (Think about work place structure) play a huge part of your mental clarity.
Feeling focused is hard sometimes and many times this is a sign to your body that there is something else going on. You should be able to solve problems, think critically and have clear thoughts. If you are not, pause. Think about what is going on. Delegate if you feel scattered. Drink water if you are getting dehydrated. Mental health isn’t just ‘problems’. Its making sure that your mind is functioning as well as possible and helps contribute to your life.
Emotional-“I feel the full range of emotions without letting them overtake me. The majority of the time I feel calm.”
We have not been taught to handle our emotions well. We have been taught to stuff them down. We have even been taught that if its not a positive emotion, we should ignore it and that there is something wrong. Take fear for example. Fear has a function. Anxiety has a function. Even if it feels uncomfortable at the time, it means that your body is saying “Hey! You need to pay attention to this!” Stuffing it down isn’t helpful.
That being said, it can be hard to learn how to feel the full range of your emotions and learn how to feel them, roll over you and then let them go. In order to be healthy emotionally it is unbelievably important to feel your full range of emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. Meditation, therapy and other ways of working through this is a great way to go and somethings that I would suggest for everyone.
Environmental -“What I am around physically supports health.”
Where you are supports your mental and physical health. We can start with the mental since we were talking about that before with emotional and relational health. However, having a place you feel comfortable physically, things like a good bed/ mattress, and access to natural light are huge things that influence your health. I personally always have to be close to a place where I can get out into nature easily but some people don’t need this as much and love the constant movement of the city. When I was living in Texas I personally never felt particularly comfortable and I’m sure that most of you can relate on “Finding the place where you belong” feeling.
Physically where you are certainly effects your health. Places with high allergies, less sunlight (Arctic areas or Alaska for instance) and other places that are highly populated, polluted and the like can certainly effect your physical health.
Existential – “I feel a sense of meaning and purpose.”
And so we get the the final and often most allusive aspect of deep health and that is finding your meaning. Easier said then done right? But it sucks floating aimlessly through life. I know. I’ve been there. When your goal is just to make it until tomorrow or make sure you can pay the bills in two weeks, its easy to get depressed, physically groggy and emotionally worn down. Purpose doesn’t have to be huge…but it can be. It can range from religion to finishing that novel you started. From hiking the Appalachian trail system to saving up for the down payment on a house. From learning how to make sourdough to raising a family.
Anything that gives you meaning and purpose can be considered part of your Existential health. Making sure that you have this involves learning a few things…goal setting for one, which can give a purpose to the every day trudge that the most boring of days can feel like.
Health is not a one stop shop. It is not something that can be sold and it is something that must be constantly worked on in order to continue to thrive and even in some cases function. These six pillars address the body, the mind, relationship and even the spirit for those that believe in it. Deep health is something can can feel unobtainable at some points of your life…and it is supposed to be. It is those moments of not being 100% that make us expand ourselves and our worlds; both inner and outter.
Never become stagnet. Never neglect.
Always expand, broaden and grown.