Recently I saw a photo of a group of young people from the 1960/70’s who looked at ease with each other, had genuine smiles on their faces, were of a healthy weight range and their bodies reflected an openness and naturalness.
This photo was really pleasant to see and reminded me of the feeling of being free in my body, that I had when I was very young - something that could not be faked.
When a group of us looked at the photo and shared what we saw before us. There was pretty much a consensus that this photo was sharing something that was not commonly seen in today’s society. It was not only sharing about the individual’s in the photo, but it also revealed how they were with each other, how they felt and more importantly what they were reflecting about life back then . . . A life, that from this photo seemed to support bodies to look and feel vital, engaged, open and truly ‘healthy’.
This brings us to valuable discussion around the word ‘Health’. What is Health today? How has it changed throughout the years? How do we define being healthy? Is it merely being free of serious illnesses or diseases (which the statistics are escalating by the year) or is there far more to it? Have we undersold ourselves? What if our marker for true health started with the amazing quality, suppleness and vitality most of us had at birth and as children, instead of comparing ourselves with the severe cases and thinking we are lucky, better off or not as bad?
Once upon a time the word ‘health’ did not exist. Health was just being part of life, and people got on with life as they needed to. In the ancient times people spoke about ‘right living’ as a whole package. 'Health' and ‘being healthy’ is something we (humanity), have come to now perceive as something that we ‘do’ in life, as one part of life. We have over time created this meaning to be what it is today and put 'health' into it's own compartment.
Therefore, would this not mean that we are living by a false defined definition and even a bastardisation meaning of ‘ true health’?
If we look at ‘health through the ages’ – we can basically see how we as a society, got from what was depicted and evident in the photo shown I referred to above, to what we see, feel and see in people’s bodies, behaviours, eyes and attitudes in and around health today in our communities. The two are drastically different.
Generally, when we speak with people in their 80’s, 70’s and 60’s, we find out that there was not really a defined definition of the word ‘health’ back when they were growing up; except that perhaps the absence of sickness generally meant you were healthy. Not only were serious illness’ like cancers, diabetes and mental illness very rare and hardly spoken about, but life and health was one and the same. Health only 30-40 years ago did not carry it’s own activities or definition. Life’s activities back then were what kept you healthy and people didn’t make time to ‘be healthy’ or ‘do health’. This point alone is super interesting to hear.
‘Health’ years ago was without definition. It was the way of life that supported healthy bodies. At this point in history, there was no compartmentalisation of ‘health’ in life.
Then, after speaking with people in their 50’s and 40’s we start to see that some health fads were coming in as they were growing up. Being healthy was getting promoted but life in general still had more play and activity than it does today. This group of people did do sports, and for that they exercised and kept healthy. In this time period, people did have an awareness about eating habits yet there still wasn’t a complete division between life and health, even though it was starting to make its way in. This group also shared that some illnesses were creeping in, although back then, it was heart disease that was spoken about the most at this point.
Those in their 30’s and 20’s share how there has been an absolute shift and compartmentalisation of health, which is obvious along with the great deterioration in the way of life, relationships, behaviours and activities, and the dramatic increase of serious illnesses and diseases we have today. This group shared that being healthy meant you went to the gym, went for a run, did aerobics, ate certain food fads, were a particular image and fitted in, and so on. . . Being ‘healthy’ here means you can still do health in one area of life yet act in a way that does not support the body in another area of life. An example of this would be someone who watches what they eat, goes to the gym most days yet on the weekends drinks and eats fast food. Yet health here all takes place in isolation to life, as one part in life but not a natural part of a way of living.
This means that activities and behaviours that go completely against ‘true health’- ones that in fact abuse the body such as dinking, excessive exercise, smoking, starving one’s self, over eating, eating sugary and fatty foods, spending excessive time on technology devices, getting little sleep, working in a drive and so on, can play-out while the body that is doing them still considers itself ‘healthy’, simply because it does ‘healthy’ so called activities. And - here, the lie behind the meaning we have for health today, is revealed.
Meeting the criteria of the current compartmentalised perception of health today, such as going to the gym, exercising, eating certain foods does not mean that one is truly healthy. One could say that this mentality allows society to continue in its ill ways and deteriorate without choosing to be aware of unhealthy patterns and behaviours, let alone look at the root cause of why we choose them. This lack of self-responsibility is then taking place because we collectively now ‘box’ what ‘health’ is.
How can we ever really considering that true health is about the all of us, our mental health, our physical health, our way of relating to people, our confidence, feeling settled and supporting our body and ourselves in all areas to be all that we are designed to be in life if health today is a limited tick box?
The thing is, we all have values and every human being on earth knows these deep down.
True Health means we consider how we look after ourselves in every part of our life, how we work, how we relate, speak with family and friends, how we listen and honour our body, what we eat, how we rest, how open and loving we are, the depths and quality of all our relationships and interactions with a consistency, respect, sensitivity and much more. It means we consider absolutely everything about us, how we are and know that others are always on some level affected by what we say do and express in life.
By Johanna Smith (Bachelor of Education (Major Special Needs, Minor Psychology), Graduate Certificate of Early Childhood, Studying Diploma of Counseling, Esoteric Complementary Health Practitioner, Woman, Teacher, Mother, Wife and Friend)