Walking steps

What does health mean to you?

Health is one of those words like love and success that has as many definitions as there are people on the planet. We can only start to thrive when we take ownership of our personal understanding of each. Once we know what health means to us we can then establish our own ways of measuring it and make progress in a meaningful, rather than arbitrary, way.

How can we become healthier if we’re not even sure what we mean by health in the first place?

The World Health Organisation defines health as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.'

Activewear creator and active living advocate Lorna Jane Clarkson sums up her healthy living philosophy in three words: Move, Nourish and Believe.

Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, defines health as a continuum from sickness to wellness to fitness. He blends the ideas of health and fitness as aspects of the same concept.

It’s easy to get lost in the plethora of health information out there. What’s important is that we each find or create a workable understanding of health that is meaningful to us.

What you believe about health is a reflection of what you believe it means to be human.

If you see your body, mind and spirit as separate from each other, you may pursue one aspect of health at the exclusion of another. What we intuitively and objectively know to be true is that to be fully human is to be whole.

Each physical system in our bodies reflects the beautiful interdependence and inseparable connection of one part to all others. Nothing exists in isolation. If you cut your toe, your immune system functions as a unit to tackle the injury and fend off infection. Your body can carry and hold emotional pain for years. Our moods and minds are deeply affected by spiritual aches and longings.

Think about it… if your clean eating is driven by fear or self-loathing, is that really healthy? There are so many of us with amazing physical capabilities that are also insecure and full of shame. There are also those of us who are comfortable in our own skin but can't run 5km.

As with most things in life, we are not either/or but both/and. As humans, all of who we are must be considered if we are to pursue true health. If you think of the healthiest people you know, hopefully, words like self-respect, boundaries, integrity, dedication and compassion come to mind.

3 Simple steps to getting started

So what do we do with all of this? It’s simpler than you might think. Notice we said simple, not easy. Let’s break it down into 3 basic steps.

Step 1. Clarify what health means to you

Don’t worry about it being perfect or whether it’s right or wrong. In fact, let’s erase that concept from your mind — there are simply more effective and less effective ways of thinking through things.

When you picture your ideal health, what comes to mind? Enough energy to play with your kids? The fitness to climb a mountain? The peace of knowing you are enough? Write it down.

Step 2. Identify one action item for your mind, body and spirit

Let’s keep things simple here. Start by picking just one thing in each area that you can focus on. You don't need to master all 10 Healthy Habits at once. Trying to do too much too soon and change everything is a recipe for disaster that often leaves us feeling discouraged and defeated before we’ve even begun. Make it time-specific and somehow measurable. As an example:

Mind — Spend five minutes sitting still, practising deep breathing to calm your mind.

Body — Eat one meal per day full of nutrient-rich clean food.

Spirit — Walk for ten minutes in nature, reflecting on the day and contemplating how you could have given or allowed yourself to receive more love.

Step 3. Be intentional but don't take yourself too seriously on your journey to become healthier

Remember it takes 66 days to form a new habit so have some grace with yourself as you implement your chosen healthy habits into your daily routine. If it were easy, everyone would be living their healthiest lives already. The good (and sometimes bad) news is, it’s not necessarily hard, it just requires consistency.