BlogWhat Do We Mean When We Say Health? |

When we think of a healthy person, we all likely have a very specific image in mind. It’s the thin, young woman drinking a smoothie on her way to a yoga class. Or perhaps it’s the muscular younger guy running a marathon. This perception is influenced very heavily by what the media thinks health and wellness look like, and in turn, what they show us it should look like. As a culture, we have absorbed this idea of health and made it our own.

What is health?

Fortunately, health is much more complex than the image the media wants us to see.

As the World Health Organization defines it, health is:

“A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

With this definition in mind, is the grandmother who attends water aerobics classes every Monday and bridge club meetings every Wednesday healthy? Is a disabled child who finds joy in wheelchair basketball and algebra healthy? Is the chronic pain patient that maintains an active social life with her walking partner healthy? Or, on the flip-side, is an extreme athlete who shuns social activities and school for the benefit of her sport really a beacon of health?

Dimensions of wellness

Many health centers and universities go on to expand the definition of health into seven different dimensions of wellness. These include:

  • Physical wellness
  • Emotional wellness
  • Intellectual wellness
  • Spiritual wellness
  • Social wellness
  • Environmental wellness
  • Occupational wellness

Physical wellness, of course, is the one aspect of health that normally gets the most attention, but as you can see, there is much more to it. Have you ever thought about how your spirituality may be a part of your overall health? As we talked about earlier this week, maintaining a state of well-being while at work is also important for overall physical and mental health. Likewise, spending time with friends and family is a key component of the overall health of a person.

By thinking in broader terms of health, the concept becomes more inclusive for everybody. Health is measured not in the ideas presented by the media, but rather by the behaviors and habits that make people feel happy and whole.

Do you consider yourself healthy? What aspects of health are most integrated into your life?