What does being healthy mean to you?

Quote

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ~World Health Organization, 1948

Words are important. They influence our thinking greatly, and therefore our behavior. I recently ran across this decades-old definition of health. It made an impression.

How do you characterize health? As “something is wrong” or as “something is right”? As something you move toward or away from?

As an experiment in the power of words, let’s take apart the statement above.

First, say to yourself, “Health is the absence of disease or infirmity.” What does that mean to you? How does it resonate?

To me, it means that as long as I don’t have a disease (that is, anything “wrong” with me, like cancer, chicken pox, an infection) or an infirmity (like being feeble or frail), then I am healthy.

Notice that the statement focuses on physical health. So as long as I avoid getting sick or infirm, I am healthy.

(You may also realize how much of the “health care system” is set up using this model. You go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong with you.)

Now say to yourself, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Think about what that means to you.

What would it be like to have complete physical well-being? I imagine waking up each day completely refreshed from a good night’s sleep, feeling able-bodied, with a robust immune system working for me, and having stamina to spare as I go about my daily life. I imagine feeling vibrant, full of vitality, glowing with health.

I imagine eating healthily, getting regular massages, and exercising to maintain and improve my physical well-being.

How about complete mental well-being? What would that be like? Well, I think I would feel good about myself and others most of the time. I would acknowledge disappointments and disturbances, feel the pain, and let go of it, learning whatever I can from the experience.

I would sort whether information coming my way was true or useful, so I wouldn’t be a sucker for the latest buzz in my ears.

I would use both hemispheres of my brain, employing reason and intuition as needed.

I would make it a habit to develop my mental capabilities. Lifelong learning keeps your mind healthy.

Now, what about complete social well-being? What does that look/sound/feel like to you?

In my opinion, it would mean being centered in my own being, having good boundaries with others, and not needing drama in my relationships.

It would mean being open to others while trusting my own inner radar about what is true and good.

It would mean forgiving others but not being a doormat, allowing myself and others to be vulnerable, being trustworthy with good judgment about others’ trustworthiness, being accountable and expecting others to be accountable as well.

It would mean learning and growing from all my relationships.

I like the well-being definition (of course I do, look at the name of my blog!). It has a direction of “moving toward” rather than “avoiding,” which the absence definition does.

The well-being definition brings up a companion question:

How can I be healthier, physically, mentally, and socially?

And it’s that question that is constantly with me. Yes, of course, sometimes I rest, and sometimes I fall asleep, yet the inquiring has become a habit.

Practicing wellness of body, mind, heart, and spirit: James Altucher’s Daily Practice

One of my favorite discoveries in the blogging world is James Altucher. He’s a good prolific writer, inventive, irreverent, smart, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, and he comes across as a regular person who has learned from his mistakes.

I get the impression that he’s done really, really well in business, lost it all, started over, more than once. HBO, hedge funds, start-ups, investments, Wall Street, whatever. I don’t really know that world, but I imagine his blog reaches a lot of people in the financial world.

He’s also experienced some relationship ups and downs and a marriage that didn’t work out, and now he is married to Claudia Altucher, a yoga teacher. He practices yoga.

What impresses me most in his writing is that he combines his financial background with amazingly sensible wisdom about how to live life well. I follow him on Twitter and Facebook and look forward to reading his blog posts.

You can check out his blog here: The Altucher Confidential: Ideas for a World Out of Balance.

The reason I’m writing about him here on my blog is because he advocates doing something he calls The Daily Practice, which he calls

a simple tool to improve, inspire, and unlock greatness.

It’s pure genius and truly simple. He has three big goals in life:

  • He wants to be happy.
  • He wants to eradicate unhappiness in his life.
  • He wants every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.

If you’d like to achieve those goals in your life, read on.

James discovered that every time he hit a low point in life, after a major failure, feeling unhappy and hassled, he did something every day for himself in four areas that helped move him closer to the three big goals. You can do this too:

  1. Do something physical for yourself to get and keep yourself in good shape. He mentions doing yoga every day and exercising vigorously enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. Being healthy is a prerequisite for being happy, and exercise also helps calm your mind. You get to choose how you want to do this.
  2. Do something emotionally good for yourself. He mentions that if someone is a drag on you, cut them out or minimize your time with them, and if they lift you up, spend more time with them. He mentions being honest without being hurtful and never doing anything you don’t want to do—he doesn’t go to weddings.
  3. Do something to stimulate yourself mentally. He suggests thinking of 10 businesses you can start from home or listing every productive thing you did yesterday. You could learn a foreign language in daily sessions, memorize a song, or do a crossword puzzle, whatever works for you. Altucher carries around waiter pads to write down his ideas.
  4. Practice something spiritual, which can include praying, meditating, being grateful, forgiving, or studying a spiritually uplifting text. I like this suggestion: You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. 

Altucher says every time he has hit a low point and then started doing things in these four areas every day, his life would improve. He’d begin to feel lucky. Ideas would flow, he’d start executing them, and people would help him. People would smile at him.

He calls this improving the internal fire. I think that concept is from yoga, but you get the picture. Living fully, in joy, lit from within.

I get that this is a great practice! And I want to think that I already do this, but you know what? I don’t keep track of what I do every day, and I haven’t tied my behavioral choices to three big goals. I have not made a commitment to work on myself daily in specific ways in these four areas.

Well, James has thought of that, and he has set up a website called The Daily Practice where you can set up your own activities in the four categories (plus a new fifth one, Fun) as well as how often you want to do them, and track your actual behavior.

It’s in beta right now, but I’m trying it out, and so far everything seems to work.

Also, your big three goals might be a little different. Who doesn’t want happiness? But I actually don’t mind a few occasional not-too-major hassles because they challenge me to grow, and that gives me something to write about. So my third goal is to spread the wellness and joy to others.

If you’d like to set up physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and fun challenges for yourself and track your activity using The Daily Practice, go to tdp.me and set yourself up! It’s also a Facebook app, but you don’t have to share your postings. In fact, if you’re my friend, please don’t. TMI. Tell me your results, instead.

Today I have done a tarot reading and watched a fun movie (fun), meditated for 15 minutes and forgave someone I had problems with (spiritual), connected with two people who lift me up (emotional), read something stimulating (mental), and did sun salutations and slept well (physical).

Thanks, James!