With my work-life centered around health and wellness, this is a question that I ponder often.
Health is not just normal range vital signs, Body Mass Index, and blood tests. Sure, physical exams with your Medical Doctor are important to rule out serious conditions! But even The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) define health broadly as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not just the absence of sickness or frailty.“
Are You Really “Well”?
“Well-being” has more to do with how one feels and less about a number on some test. But I would also challenge that it’s not simply a personal perspective. I’m often surprised that some people conclude they are healthy when it’s a fact that they are sick often or suffer with chronic conditions like allergies, eczema, colitis, asthma, or are in constant pain.
For some people, “well-being” could be an acceptance of these chronic issues. They are so common in our culture, they don’t stand out as being abnormal. Some people don’t realize their condition can be improved, which may increase their acceptance of it. Or, there might be a reluctance to acknowledge poor health if major lifestyle changes are necessary.
Wellness is something that we must always be striving for. This is especially true when we’re challenged with so many social and environmental factors that threaten our holistic health.
Wellness is Not Perfection
Below are the markers that I look for when assessing health, besides what your medical doctor would tell you. And no, I am not in perfect health either. I’m an Acupuncturist with a thyroid disease in remission and a Yoga Teacher who is technically overweight (emotional eating is definitely involved!).
Even though I’m very comfortable in my skin, I’m not resigned to settle where I am. I’m constantly moving toward being the healthiest version of myself so I can share my solutions with others who strive to do the same.
Indications of Good Physical Health
- Clear skin – Acne and rashes often indicate hormonal imbalance and point to poor gut health and possible food intolerance as the culprit.
- Daily well-formed bowel movements – Again, we look at poor gut health when stools are either too hard & infrequent, or too loose.
- Good muscle tone – Skinny does not equal healthy! Having a low BMI does not mean that you’re in ideal physical shape. In addition to a lower fat percentage, having good muscle tone is important to support the joints in your spine and limbs so you maintain good posture and stay free of injury as you age.
- Flexible joints – Being able to sit on the floor comfortably and touch your toes from a standing position are good indicators of sufficient flexibility.
- Having 2 or less colds/year without any secondary infections – If you’re constantly getting sick or you’re ending up with ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia after catching a cold or flu, then there is much room for improving your immunity (gut health) through a better diet, nutritional supplementation, detoxifying your body, and managing stress.
- Sound sleep – Being able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep is not just a good indicator of physical health, but mental & emotional well-being too. Physical tension, hormonal issues, and indigestion can keep you awake, but so can pensiveness, anger, and regret.
- Physical ease – Pain is always an indication of inflammation and that your body needs help. In Chinese Medicine, pain is the result of Qi (life energy) and Blood stagnation, that can be caused by injury, muscle imbalance, inappropriate diet, stress, too much/too little activity, and much more…
- Regular menstrual cycles – Absence of flow, scanty flow, heavy flow, short cycles (less than 25 days), long cycles (more than 31 days), and pain all indicate a disharmony from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective. A regular menstrual cycle and proper egg development are responsible for fertility, so extremely important indicators of health.
Indications of Good Emotional Health
- Resilience – This is harder for kids and definitely comes with maturity. Being emotionally resilient means that you bounce back quickly when challenged by difficult circumstances & stressful situations.
- Compassion and empathy – Can you understand and feel the pain of others? Can you put yourself in their shoes?
- Emotional expression – We can express our feelings to resolve conflict and process emotions. At the same time we don’t dump our feelings on people when it’s not necessary or welcome. The appropriateness of emotional expression in situations is what makes it healthy or not.
- Gratitude and forgiveness – Both of these feelings help us appreciate our life and also help us to move on and build hope about the future.
Indications of Good Mental Health
- Focus – Are you able to organize your mind and follow through on tasks without overwhelm?
- Perspective – It’s important to see a situation from another perspective and understand someone else’s point of view.
- Ability to establish new beliefs – Rigid thinking can lead to cynicism, depression, antisocial behavior, and poor health in general. It’s healthy to have an open mind and consider new possibilities. We should be able to back off or change course when we notice that a certain activity/habit is negatively affecting our health and relationships with others.
We all have something we can be working on to move toward better health. All of the indicators on this list can be improved.