Health as it’s defined by the World Health Organisation is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Unfortunately that’s not how we use the word. As we use the word “healthy” today, it simply means that we’re not yet sick. Healthcare is sick.
Do the test:
Health has come to mean only “the absence of disease or infirmity” and this change in thinking is hurting us and I’ll show you how, do the following exercise with me:
Rate your health on a scale of 0-10 where 10 is your optimum potential. Read on to find out what the numbers actually mean before giving your final answer…
10 is having a zest for life, being vibrant and energetic, connected to your purpose in life, being in peak physical health and enjoying restful sleep.
At 7 your energy levels would be more up than down and your stress levels would get the best of you from time to time. Sleep is not a problem but you do wake up in the morning tired more than you’d like. Physically you might feel strong some of the time but you’re nowhere near your best; the area between your ribs and your knees might be larger than it should be and it’s tough to get to shrink. Mentally you’ll feel alright but there is the occasional brain fog and memory trouble and your sense of purpose in life isn’t very clear.
5 would be a neutral point where there is nothing really wrong but nothing right either. In and around 5 your energy will be lower than you’d like, you might have regular days with rings under your eyes and more than occasional problems getting restful sleep. You might have a spare tire around your waist or thighs and you might have occasional minor aches, pains or other symptoms like heartburn, period pains, digestive issues, headaches, sinus trouble with occasional acute episodes. Mentally and emotionally you’re up and down with what society might consider ‘normal’ brain fog and memory issues and there is no clear sense of purpose in your life.
At 3 you’d be be noticeably fatigued and usually have some difficulty getting restful sleep – the rings under your eyes tell a story. Stress levels would be moderate to high and feelings of irritability, anxiety or depression are noticeable. Physically you have more days with aches, pains or other symptoms that without with frequent acute episodes. Your moods would be more down than up and you’d have a distinct lack of sense of connectedness or purpose in your life.
0 would represent constant fatigue and exhaustion with poor sleep, stress levels would be pushing you to within inches of your breaking point. You’ll have some form of chronic pain or illness with frequent acute episodes. Mentally and emotionally you’d have severe depression or anxiety. This is the worst you could imagine yourself without being dead.
Obviously most people aren’t going to fit each of those descriptions exactly so rate yourself according to the one that best matches your level of health. Be brutally honest with yourself here.
I’ve done this exercise with with thousands of people from all over the world over the last few years and the most common range of answers is between 5 and 7. When I ask these people if they are healthy the answer is ‘yes’. They believe they are healthy simply because they have nothing specific wrong. They have the second part of the WHO definition of health, “the absence of disease or infirmity” but they are not in a “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” To me that is state occurs when you are between 8 and 10.
As we commonly use the word, health has lost fully half of it’s meaning and it’s a pretty significant loss.
Normal vs Average
When someone says they’re “healthy”, what they really mean is that they are living at 5-7/10. This means they are missing 30-50% of their potential for a happy fulfilled, vibrant life. That means they are 30-50% sick.
When did it become normal for us to live at 5-7/10 and call ourselves healthy?
When did it become normal for us to sacrifice at least 30% of our potential for a vibrant and energetic life?
When did we start teaching our kids that missing out on the top 50% of their potential for health was normal?
As a result we now think it’s normal to get chronically ill as we get older. Diseases that hardly existed 100 years ago are now the industrialised worlds biggest killers. Obesity, cancer, heart disease, stroke, depression to name just a few are so prevalent now that they seem normal but they were all but unknown about 100 years ago. Our version of “healthy” has led to 80% of the industrialised world’s workforce having at least one chronic, degenerative, incurable disease that requires them to be on at least one medication for for the rest of our lives.
The answers we have aren’t working
Western medical care that is the gold standard seems to be powerless to prevent this rising tide. Trillion of dollars (or pounds, euros, rands, pesos etc.) are spent every year on trying to treat these problems and research shows that many of what we would consider very effective interventions are, at best, only marginally effective. Drugs and surgery (our most common interventions) are not very effective at addressing the growing problem.
In our current version of “health” we are actually in the process of an inevitable slide toward chronic, degenerative, incurable disease and I don’t mean the normal process of ageing. In our current version of “health” we are experiencing less life. “Health” is waiting to get sick.
‘Wellness’ has sold out
Health became so corrupted that we started using the term “wellness” instead. The term was coined in the 1950’s by Dr Halbert Dunn and became more popular in the 1970’s. The best definition I can find for wellness is, “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.”
Wellness really took off when marketers go hold of it in the 90’s, it conjures up images of pretty models jumping around in green fields, or being pampered at a luxury spa or maybe even joining a gym. Wellness, which was supposed to be to an active movement toward 10/10 and away from 0 has now become a byword for taking a multivitamin, getting a massage or facial and doing a temporary detox.
Wellness has been hijacked by the beauty and supplement industries and we been marketed to death. Wellness has sold out.
Even when wellness is applied to our lifestyle it seems the results are less than stellar. The summary of the lifestyle advice that we currently have can be summarised as follows, “eat less, exercise more and manage stress.” That mantra has been repeated since the early 60’s and has resulted in worse health, again I will elaborate on that in later posts.
Health is dying and wellness has sold out so I choose to use a different term. One that has not yet been completely defined in popular culture. I choose to use the word vitality. You live in a state of vitality if you live in the 8-10 range.
Vitality is the expression of life, it is a state of energy, strength and vigour. It is the ability to heal grow and develop.
Each of us has the potential to live a life full of Vitality, science tell us that it is literally written into our genes. You have to potential to live a life of verve, energy and vigour, all you have to do is tap into that blueprint written in your DNA and let your light shine. All you have to do is give your body the raw materials it needs and the rest will take care of itself. Vitality comes from the inside out and you are the answer. You are creative, resourceful and whole.