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What is Health?

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Simple question, nuanced answer.

A settling breath posture and tai chi pose
Even breathing matters. Take some time to do it right.

Google it...

Define: Health

"the state of being free from illness or injury" followed by

"a person's mental or physical condition." Those are two very different definitions.

Looking back over my life, I have never actually had the health described by the first definition- "Free from illness or injury." Nor do I think that's the point of living in the first place.

Define: Illness

"a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind"

Something has usually been wrong with either my body or mind. Until my mid twenties I was very physically capable, but typically depressed. Now, being solidly in my mid thirties (I can feel the 40, 50, 60-somethings rolling their collective eyes) I am less physically sound, but am much more at peace with where I am. Even so, I have never been completely free of either mental or physical affliction/distress.

In fact the only place I ever saw the primary definition of health is in a text book, or a comic book. So I work more with the second definition of health, which is a snapshot of current well-being, and I do this keeping the goal of complete freedom in mind.

Now what I really want to ask is:

What makes a person healthy?

The most universally true answer is that the way to "healthy" is many and varied. In my short time working in health I have seen highly educated professionals in my field do things that contradict my own understanding of basic principles. For example the all-beef and only-beef diet. It goes against everything I have trained in.

On the other hand, I have seen friends embark on reckless trends only to fall short of their goal then remove the body part they "broke" in the process.

Some take to pills and surgery as the end-all, while others dive into tuning forks and past lives... To some, the concepts I have learned are as sound as a fictional universe; perhaps pretty and poetic, but of no practical use. For others, the rabbit hole goes deeper than I have ventured.

Another universal truth is that what works for me, or a patient today, isn't guaranteed to work tomorrow. This is because we crave contact with meaningful experience (DRRBF), and as our perceptions change, and our lifestyles change, what satisfies or meets our physical and emotional needs will also change.

As of now I can confidently say "Health" is not any number on a sheet of paper. For this reason, I cautiously refer to obesity, pain, anxiety and other chronic disease rates as single indicators of regional, or personal health. It is difficult for me to look at the current tools and results we have to manage health and not conclude that we have been missing the mark for some time.

If you are with me for what I have said so far, it also follows that maintaining a schedule of several medications to keep your numbers in check is not the pinnacle of health. Today may be paid for, at the cost of borrowing from tomorrow. Not the kind of economics I care to champion.

Health is a reflection of quality as much as it is quantity. Health is what we use to get through the mundane, the spectacular, and unexpected parts of life.

Lastly, most of society exists somewhere between that absolute freedom from pain and what lab tests and professionals define as disease. That means you don't need to wait until your numbers tell you something is wrong to take action. I was taught in school that "blood is the last to know." This is because every organ will do its best, even compensating for others so that the essential components of blood stay in check. By the time a lab reveals something wrong, your organs are no longer able to compensate. So if you detect a problem, go find someone who can help you and don't stop until you are satisfied with your care and/or your results.

References and Special Thanks:

  1. Hammer Leon. 2010. Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies. Eastland Press. (DRRBF)

  2. Dr. Harvey Wong

  3. Dr. Kevin Liao

P.S. Happy New Year! May you find or manifest everything you seek.

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