How Does One Define Health?

There are three words written at the top of my day’s planning sheet.  In order of priority, they are Health, Harmony, and Creativity, the 3 general categories in which all my activities and values fit.

My daily walk early in the morning is one of my health activities. This morning as I walked, I thought about how the fresh air and the serenity of the beach promote a feeling of being healthy. This prompted me to ask, What do I mean when I use the word healthy? How do I define Health? What is the collective understanding of what health is in society?

At home later, I sat down to write my thoughts in my journal and tried to answer those questions.

When I researched for definitions of health, I found first this simple phrase “the state of being free from illness or injury” and from my own memory the similar phrase “absence of disease”.

In 1948, the World Health Organization, WHO, defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In 1986, at the 1st International Conference on Health Promotion in Ottawa, Canada, the WHO made further clarification adding to the definition that health is “A resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.”

In an article about this clarification, the author wrote “This means that health is a resource to support an individual’s function in wider society, rather than an end in itself. A healthful lifestyle provides the means to lead a full life with meaning and purpose.”

A Government of Canada publication in 2008 suggests that “Social well-being is an important aspect of this definition that may not always occur to us in thinking about our health.

Over the last 2 years, I think there has been a shift in our definition. Social well-being is indeed very much in our thoughts. As I read in the digital press, and hear in talk shows and in virtual group conversations in which I participate, I notice that a priority is now given to social well-being activities.  The discussion now is about wellness goals, self-care, meditation, self-study for the discovery of inner strengths, more contact with nature, and eating and preparing natural foods.

For your interest and if you would like to delve further into this subject of Health, What is it? Here are 4 references which provide a comprehensive analysis of what affects health, the differences and similarities between definitions of health and wellness, and the role of the individual in actively engaging in and achieving both.

Please comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.

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