What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?
What does being healthy mean? What do you mean when you refer to yourself or someone else using the term “healthy”? Have you paused to consider the ways in which we use the word “healthy” and what “healthy” ultimately refers to?
Here, together, we will look at this word and at the idea of being healthy. We will find what being healthy really means. We will also see how the eight dimensions of wellness and the seeking of wholeness relate to health and being healthy.
Defining being healthy (having health) may be easiest when defining the lack of health. It’s simple really; when something hurts or feels abnormal in your body, you know right away that you are (or that a part of your body is) now unhealthy. So, does being healthy mean the lack of pain? Is this a good enough definition of health?
Being Unhealthy and Disease
Let’s ask ourselves, is being un-healthy equitable to having pain or a disease? If we look at the word “disease” we find that it comes from Old French (des- “without, away”, dis- + aise “ease”) meaning discomfort or “without ease”.
We find Dictionary.com defining disease as “a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.” Diseases are also harmful.
So, does being unhealthy equal being diseased? This is not necessary true.
Can we then say that health is the absence of disease (or Dis-Ease)? This is a correct statement. Can we define health in positive terms, in terms of what denotes the presence of health vs. what is not present?
What is Health?
Let’s just cut to the chase and see how others define what health is and derive what being healthy (i.e. having health) means.
In 1948, the World Health Assembly defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
In 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “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.”
Dictionary.com defines health as “possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality: a healthy body; a healthy mind.” And “ pertaining to or characteristic of good health, or a sound and vigorous mind: a healthy appearance; healthy attitudes.”
Being Healthy, Defined
From the above, we can deduce than being healthy equals possessing the following: complete physical, mental and social well-being, a resource for everyday life that is not the objective of living, a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Also, not possessing disease or infirmity (bodily ailment or weakness).
Healthy? Like How?
We use the word “healthy” to describe many things, not just our physical health status or physical well being. Healthy is used to describe relationships, families, marriages, personality, food, life styles, finances, environmental conditions, mental states, a person’s judgment, and much more.
It is clear now that we should be asking a more accurate question. If asked “What does it mean to be healthy?” We should follow by asking, “healthy? in what way?
I see different areas that can be described as being healthy. Emotional, environmental, intellectual, occupational, physical, spiritual, vocational, financial, nutritional, and maybe a few others. Do these areas sound familiar? Actually, all of these are related to the eight dimensions of wellness discussed earlier.
This shows that being healthy is a holistic concept. Can one be healthy physically if they are not healthy mentally or socially? I doubt it.
Health, It’s Holistic In Nature
When physicians treat ailments, if they treat the whole person, they are practicing what’s called holistic health. Holistic healing involves the person as a whole. Making a person healthy requires balancing all the components that make up a person, mind, body and soul; we can bring this down into a more defined level and say that to be healthy we need to balance a person’s eight dimensions of wellness.
To do this, many philosophies, treatment and targets are considered. Once a person is viewed and treated as a whole, this person becomes healthier, and perhaps healthy. Sometimes conventional medicine does not address all the dimensions of wellness, this is where complementary and alternative medicine comes to the rescue.
Once all the dimensions of wellness (or a person’s mind, body and soul) are in harmony and working together then that person is considered healthy.
How To Be Healthy
“Once all the dimensions of wellness are in harmony and working together, a person then is considered healthy.”
Can Anybody Be Healthy?
Notice how I did use the word ‘healthy’ above, even though no person is 100% whole or well, but a person can be healthy when the balance I talked about is achieved (if it is achieved at all, is another story). We are all at varying stages of health, because we are humans and are imperfect.
The question that begs an answer now is, can anybody be healthy? I will leave this up to you to ponder. Leave a comment if you want to share.
Health and Wholeness
Since everything in this blog relates to the seeking of wholeness, we have to examine how health and wellness interact.
By seeking health as a holistic being one becomes more engaged in the seeking of wholeness. We cannot reach wholeness, wholeness is a quest and a journey not a measurable achievement or defined target, thus it is a process. This process definitely includes the seeking of health. I refer to health as defined earlier in this article, that is holistic health.
This holistic view of health is closely aligned to one’s life journey and their seek for wholeness.
When you say that you are healthy, pause and remember, you should be referring to your whole being, not just your physical body.
Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
Constitution of the World Health Organization – Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006.