What does it mean to be healthy? It is just about not being sick? Is it financial security? Is it contentment? The idea of “health” is as varied as people that talk about it. Ask ten different people what being healthy means and you are sure to get ten different answers. In a lot of ways, it is a subject as personal as faith or politics.
Some of the most commons answers are to eat right, get enough sleep, exercise. Travel. Read. Be picky about the people that are around you. Do yoga, have sex. Have a good jobs. All of these are subjects in the discussion on health.
In a lot of ways we make it more complicated than it ever needs to be. We get so focused on the details that we forget being healthy is ultimately about enjoying our life and doings things that help us do that.
Being healthy is ultimately about taking care of ourselves as humans, in everything that makes us humans. Personally, I believe that can be summed up in five areas, five pillars of what it means to be human, if you will.
1. The Physical Pillar
This is all encompassing of the things we do physically from the food we eat to the amount of time we spend exercising. It is no secret that the more active we are the more endorphins and dopamine we pump into our bodies.
Find that activity that works for you. Maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s swimming or running. Find what makes you want to get out there and do it. Likewise, what we put into our bodies has a significant effect on our physical health. I would love to eat cheeseburgers every day and still be healthy, but that is unfortunately not how the human body works. In the same way my car needs oil and gasoline and transmission fluid, the human body needs vitamins and protein and water to work effectively. It also needs sleep, all of the sleep.
2. The Mental Pillar
This deals predominately with the idea of mental health. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I have to pay special attention to this one. It is easy to get so engrossed in the daily grind that I forget to go take a break. We get so accustomed to the stress of everyday life, we don’t even realize how unhealthy it is. It is just the status quo.
Go enjoy that sunset. Go watch that comedy. Go do something where you can put your mind in autopilot and just be for a while. Life is meant to be enjoyed and we can’t do that if we are running on fumes, particularly mentally.
3. The Emotional Pillar
This will sound very similar to the mental pillar, but this is more concerned with the people in our lives than our own mental well-being. This focuses more on the quality of people that you have around you. Do they encourage you? Do they push you to be a better version of yourself? Do you feel refreshed when you spend time with them or do you constantly feel drained, tired, and worn out?
Obviously it is not possible to completely surround yourself with only people that refresh you and bring you life; everyday interactions will sometimes bring you interactions with people that are less than pleasant.
However, it is your choice who is in your inner circle, the people you choose to spend time with on your time.
This could be family, this could be friends, it could be a significant other, or maybe a mentor. Whoever occupies that place in your life, make sure they bring out the best in you and vice versa. One of the many signs of a fulfilling life is who we spend it with so don’t waste time on people that do not enhance it.
4. The Intellectual Pillar
This is focused on what we are learning and how are we growing as people. What are you reading? What are you doing to expand your horizons? How are you pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone? What conversations have you’ve had recently that challenged something you believe?
It is important for us to not get some resolute in our own beliefs and opinions that we never stop to challenge them. That is how we grow as people. We grow by entertaining other perspectives, even if we don’t ultimately adopt those as our own. Every person we encounter is experiencing this world from a different context than our own and being open-minded to see that helps us be more gracious and understanding of things we don’t understand.
We should also never stop learning. Take that class in writing or painting or graphic design. Read that book about your local history or plant life. Go watch a documentary on whatever gets your mind wandering. As we continue to learn and explore the things around us, it makes us more mature, well- rounded human beings.
5. The Spiritual Pillar
This one is complex because it is so innately personal to the person evaluating it. Spirituality is so much more than just whatever religion you identify with. It is how you reconcile your place in this world against everything else. It is what you believe and how that makes you interact with the world around you.
Spirituality reminds me that I am drop in the bucket of humanity and, while I do the best I can to be a good person and affect those around me positively, I am a small microcosm of this world. It keeps me humble and responsible and grateful for all that I have. Whether you are a Christian or a Muslim or an Atheist, know what you believe and believe it whole-heartedly. Allow it shape you into someone you can be proud of and someone those you love can be proud of.
The goal is not perfection, the goal is to find peace and balance in all these aspects. Some days you may be doing fantastic on the physical aspect but be failing miserably in the mental aspect. Use these as guide posts. And hopefully you will have made a good life for yourself when everything is said and done.