Defining Health

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As the day closes down and night whispers its presence, the sky sinks away to reveal its shadow until the morning sun breaks the darkness.

I find I not only love the dusk, but the dawn that precedes it, the beginning that marks the end, the alpha that leads the way to omega.

It is in this in-between state of two dualities a story manifests within us to ride up, down, and around in bursts of equations we tally as life.

We are but a sequence of events taking each tick of the tock towards the final midnight gong where we must give up our right to this wonderful world, our presence mournfully relegated to the hearts and minds of those we loved.

Time plays its tricks on us all, but I realize health is the force behind life, for without our mass of cells cooperating inside their watery boundaries and the world providing a nurturing environment, life diminishes exponentially.

I ponder health. We see youth owning the rights to health, our older bodies creaking and cracking with each year. Yet health is unbiased, wrecking havoc to young and old alike when it is absent.

But health is more. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

It is a dynamic condition that finds itself beyond the inner workings of our body. Health moves with every choice we make or have thrust upon us, rocking up and down like a teeter-totter, only to stand still if but for a moment when everything comes into balance.

In fact, WHO gives a list to go along with their definition, and alas it has many components, complicating the definition to even greater lengths. It includes socio-economic status, education, physical environment, job prospects and employment conditions, support from people around you, culture, genetic inheritance, what we do (that garners health) and how we manage (through the challenges of life), access and use of health care, and gender as factors for health.

Looking at this list, the only thing truly in our control is what we do for health and how we cope with stress, both requiring steadfast discipline and endurance.

Therefore I like to use the McKinley Health Center, University of Illinois’ definition of wellness as a healthy goal to aspire with our life.

“Wellness is a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential. This is a life-long process of moving towards enhancing your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental well-being.”

So it is the in-between space of morning to night we find ourselves obligated in those very elements so we can exponential keep our life moving in a healthier direction. Health is not simply a destination, but a path forged each day. And the choice, for the most part, is ours.

Einstein mused, “The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat.”

But the Buddha said it best: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

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