Health is a defining characteristic of our lives; getting healthy, being healthy, eating healthy are things we talk about constantly in society and are being marketed to us all of the time. I mean who doesn’t want to be healthy, right? But the question is what does it really mean to be healthy? Is it absolute? Can it change? Is there a single scale to measure your health? Does it vary between people?
These are all valid questions about the aloof concept that we center our lives around. The answer is — health is complex and can mean different things in different contexts. However, health is definitely fluid; it changes and develops constantly. Healthy and unhealthy behaviors are not mutually exclusive; they are in constant limbo.
The extensive questions about health and how to promote health are what I have chosen to center my college career around. Recently in my coursework for the Health Promotion and Health Equity, specifically in Kinesiology 150, and more so in the face of a global pandemic, I have had a lot of time to think about our personal control over our health.
It might be unsurprising, but there are many things that affect our health that are out of our control. Nonetheless, there are strong forces that are within your control. I am not talking about washing your hands and wearing a mask, even though you should absolutely take these and other steps to protect yourself. I am talking about the psychological components that change your behaviors and outcomes.
Health determinants are broken into three categories: biological factors, psychological factors and social factors. Unfortunately, there is little you can change about the social factors, and even less you can change about the biological factors. However, you can influence the psychological factors that affect actions and behaviors that lead to your health state. Not to say that it is easy or completely possible to adjust your psyche, but if you are looking to feel in control of your health, especially in today’s world, this might be where you start.
There are many psychological components at play and they each affect one another, but a few places to start are your knowledge, your attitudes and your intentions.
Knowledge — it doesn’t really matter if you want to be healthy if you don’t have the information to know what can make you healthy. For example, if you don’t know that processed sugar is bad for you, you probably won’t stop drinking soda everyday.
So the first thing you can do is seek out information, whether it be from academic articles, your favorite Youtube fitness trainer or health professionals, and try to educate yourself on what behaviors of yours need work.
Attitudes — this is a big one when it comes to health. The way you feel about and look at situations is going to determine how you handle them. So if you think that mental health can’t be helped and treated, it is much less likely you will seek help for yourself or others in the midst of a mental health crisis. It is really important to be self aware and cogniscent of how others are feeling around you.
Intentions — this is arguably the biggest factor in your health. As an adult with autonomy, you are allowed to do what you want and you usually will do only what you intend to do. So if you know something is bad for you and you think it is a treatable and fixable issue, perhaps smoking cigarettes, you have to have the intention to quit.
To be healthy at some point you have to want to make the choices and practice the behaviors that make you healthy.
The good news about being healthy is that it is fluid. Maybe today you read an article and learned why it is important to have a balanced diet. Then, maybe next week, you try adding exercise in your routine to see if it makes you feel good.
The little steps and changes you make to achieve living your most healthy and happy life are what counts, especially in a time when your health can feel very out of your control.