What is health? What does it mean to be healthy?
PreMed and Pre-Dental students get posed with this question, and one of the most common responses I hear from them is that health, or rather good health is “the absence of disease.”
This response is limited and very one-dimensional. It’s like saying that you want to be a doctor or a dentist, because you want to help people. The answer is a start – highly foundational – but as an end-all answer, it lacks depth, definition, understanding, and informed meaning.
So let’s dig deeper. And let’s do it in way meaningful to patients. To people. People who seek help from health care professionals. Let’s take a look at how a surveyed group of people answer the questions: What is health? What does it mean to you to be healthy?
Read these real responses from real people and allow yourself to be informed from the point of view of a patient. And then I encourage you to grow this understanding. Start asking people you know the same questions and listen to what they say. Family, friends, co-workers, … feel free to even run your own survey. Try different peoples of gender, race and ethnicity, religion, education levels, socioeconomic status, varying interests (gamers, partiers, outdoor adventurers, etc.), etc. Why? Because individual backgrounds, personalities, cultures, and values all influence how people respond to these questions. There are often commonalities and trends that can be found in the answers. But there is also much individuality that is meaningful and worth building into your own definition and understanding. The more you know, the better you can help!
Additionally, part of being a competitive applicant for medical or dental school is having a mature understanding of the field of practice you are pursuing. Having a deeper, more fleshed out, and complex understanding of what health is and what healthy means is sure to help set you apart in a competitive light!
Part of being a successful healthcare provider is understanding your patients better – understanding what they want, need, and are looking for. So here is your chance to start building that foundation!
So with that, hear what real people say:
Health to me is my state of well being. I consider being healthy not being encumbered by physical or mental issues. When I am able to do what I want (walk, hike, do yardwork outside, etc) and feel good.
Health is everything to me…seriously. I have an autoimmune diseases… The Silent Disease is the worst. Staying healthy is critical…it means being normal…in the eyes of those who don’t know I have an incurable disease.
Health is how I feel on a daily basis and any short or long term issues and how they feel. Being healthy means feeling good about myself and being happy as well as feeling good about how I look. It is being mindful of what I put into my body and do for my body so as to keep feeling balanced. It is also paying attention to the signs and taking care of illness and injury on the onset.
Healthy to me is eating right on a regular basis, making sure to eat lots of vegetables every day, trying not to have too many carbs, reducing processed fats and eating good animal fats in moderation, eating meat only once a day, and keeping down the sugar. I don’t always succeed at that but I definitely try. I approach it by not excluding things but everything in moderation. It is important to me to have a hand in my food prep to know I am eating quality food. I think to be healthy it’s important to keep eating to mealtimes where you’re more aware of your portions as opposed to snacks that you don’t really keep track of.
Healthy is also getting up and moving around every hour and getting the heart rate up. Because I’m on my feet all day it’s sometimes hard to do the last one because you’re tired but walking around a kitchen is definitely different than going for a jog. Healthy to me is both diet and movement.
Being healthy means balance. That my body and mind are working together.
Being healthy to me means being able to keep up with my very active child and to stop breaking myself.
Health to me is feeling great and happy while being able to do the things I want to do.
To be healthy is to have my body in the best functioning order that I can. That may involve such things as eating healthy, exercising, chiropractic care, regular medical and dental checkups and doing things that make me happy.
Health is wellness of all aspects of an individual’s lifestyle. Emotional, mental, and physical health should be at or above average to be considered “healthy.” One’s maintenance of these categories also define a person as healthy.
Yours truly, me: Mary Kate
To me, health is the state of being for a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being healthy to me means feeling well and being well mentally, physically, and emotionally. For me, I seek to achieve healthiness through balanced and healthy life choices:
- eating well with nutrition as my guiding light and supplementing for benefit
- exercising for sustaining strength, flexibility, and endurance
- getting up and getting movement into my work time when I have to sit a lot
- hydrating with quality water and electrolytes
- laughing and playing with my whole heart
- working productively to achieve stimulating fulfillment
- taking calming breaks to relax and rest
- practicing deep breathing
- practicing POSitivity and supporting reaffirmations
- self-growing and learning through active and meaningful reflection
- pursuing and achieving happiness with myself, my life, and those around me
- focusing on what I can do and letting go of what I can’t control
- actively removing negative forces from my life
- valuing myself, my life, and the people and nature around me
- giving myself what I can and need to heal as needed
- forgiving myself when I don’t meet my own expectation
- making good and informed choices and living to my best effort and having no regret
- actively building coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety
- surrounding myself with love, light, nature, gratitude, goodness, and positive intentions
- fostering and building a positive, reinforcing, and helpful support network of family, friends, work buddies, and care givers
- being a person of loving kindness and caring
- building and nurturing positive relationships
- getting sufficient restful sleep
- working in proactive, timely, and productive partnership with my healthcare providers to address occurring illness and injury
How do you define health? What is healthiness to you? To what level of healthiness do you see yourself helping your future patients? Will this be to your defined expectations? Or to those of your patients? Or perhaps a blend of both?
There will come a time when you will learn the current knowledge, wisdom, methodologies, philosophies, and best practices for the healthcare field you are pursuing. How you integrate these into your patient care practice depends on what you value from your education and experience, and the values of the environment in which you practice (hospital setting, private practice, small clinic, etc.).
The one point I will assert here is that from even the small sample size of respondents here, it is clear that people’s ideas of health and healthiness vary from one person to the next with some general consistencies, but also with some very individualized goals and approaches. I strongly encourage you to remember this when working with your patients, and to consider how that will inform and influence how you will help each individual who comes into your care.
Best wishes to you always for your happiness and success!
Big Hugs, Mary Kate :0)