What causes health?
Is that a weird question?
Health is neither a good nor a bad thing. It just is. Health is our state of being. And as such it can be influenced and touched by many different factors.
Things like our lifestyles, values, relationships, philosophical outlook, fitness, environment, and access to healthcare, can all have a bearing on our state of being. The quality levels of these things all play a part in our overall health.
They are like constantly sliding scales rather than absolutes. And so is health.
The World Health Organisation defines it as a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not just the absence of disease or infirmity’. In other words, Health is created by positive factors. It is not simply the absence of illness, injury, or disease.
We are natural beings, living in a brutally indifferent world. We will battle unexpected and unexplained challenges to our sense of health. No matter how you sugarcoat it, and no matter what people might say about everything being in your own hands, there are obstacles which will knock you for six.
Within many situations (even when physical health is poor), there are other influences on our state of being, which we can be aware of and experiment with.
In this episode we explore some of those things, such as:
1. Reject the Idea of Absolute Health
“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” – Marcus Aurelius
Comparison, judgement, and envy don’t change the card. But they can certainly ruin the game.
Whatever card we have in our hand, we can make a difference to the lives of others. We can bring joy, we can create memories, and we can make time spent with us a nice experience, rather than one of egg shells and fear.
“The ideal of behaviourism is to eliminate coercion: to apply controls by changing the environment in such a way as to reinforce the kind of behaviour that benefits everyone.” – B. F. Skinner
The space around us has an influence on our state of being. In our homes, our towns, workplaces etc. Don’t underestimate the impact of physical environments on health.
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” – Robin Williams
We exist within different communities: home, family, friends, work, organisations, clubs, faith groups, the gym, pubs, local gatherings etc. Our state of being is influenced by how well we are plugged into the sense of belonging within these communities.
State of being is also influenced by the things we choose to do with our bodies. Especially with regard to rest, movement, and nutrition.
Access to professional health care and support is a huge contributor to your state of being.
6. Learning and Growth
Our adaptability and relationship with novelty and change influences our state of being. A willingness and ability to learn new things and explore the world, is a powerful contributor to wellbeing.
Likewise, if we only engage with the world through the eyes of nostalgia, our state of being may become underpinned by bitterness, isolation, and a belief that we are out of touch (and that things aren’t as good as they used to be).
The belief we have about what is expected of us and how we need to fulfil that role, is a big influence on health. Boundaries ensure a steady state of being, grounded in knowing what matters and acting on it. While being aware of what we must have the courage to leave outside our inner fence.
The tentacles of stress (stretched beyond capacity) and anxiety (having to move forwards, but not knowing what to do), can touch our state of being in different ways.
8. Interactions With Events
State of being is influenced by the way we interact with things that happen (around us and to us). How we think about those things, the level of control we give to them, and how we understand our own capacity to choose whether and how we will respond to them.
The world has become a highly reactionary place. We might place our state of being in the hands of external things that we cannot control (the news, social media etc).
Our state of being increases immensely when we live with compassion at the centre of our experience. In other words, whether we are driven by the desire for hedonic pleasure, or eudaimonic joy.
Our state of being is defined by contribution. How much do we put into the world vs how much do we take.