The Checklist to Being Healthy… Does it work for you?

FEEST Youth Journalist

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “Health” has three definitions. The first one and most popular among people is, the state of being free from illness or injury. The second is a person’s mental or physical condition. Finally, the third definition of health is friendly feelings toward one’s companions before drinking. These are the three “official” definitions of health. But as you will soon see the dictionary definition does not fully give this word the meaning and power it deserves. When the first two definitions are combined, the word health now means a person’s mental and physical state of being free of illness and well. The dictionary definition now covers both aspects of mental and physical health; not only a healthy body, but also a healthy mind. But the question is how many aspects of health are there? I believe health is meeting the biological needs of health, food, and shelter, the need of support and love, self esteem, the need of belongingness and self actualization. Although health can be different for every person depending on their culture, experiences, age, and values.

When I asked one of my friends, Emily King, a student in the Health Sciences and Human Services High School what health meant to her, she replied by stating “Health is when your life is balanced physically, socially, environmentally, mentally, and emotionally. You eat a variety of foods from each group, you exercise regularly, and you keep proper hygiene. The environment around you is clean, open, and safe. You have a strong support system, which includes friends, family, co-workers, teachers, etc. Your emotional and mental levels are balanced, meaning you do not have tons of stress, you enjoy activities involving your values, you have goals or dreams, and you hope for the future.” Furthermore, when I asked one of my mom’s friends, Nora, what health meant to her, she replied by stating, “The true meaning of health is being happy; a person could be sick, poor, mentally ill, and living in the harshest environment, but if they are happy, then they are healthy. Health is here.” (Pointed to her heart)
The two responses I received were different because I was talking to different people with different ages, experiences, cultures, and values. Emily talked about the elements that are essential to healthy living while Nora’s response stated that the only essential element to being healthy is being happy with your life. Nora’s Sudanese culture values happiness and the tough times she has gone through in her life have made her ever so grateful to finally be happy. Emily on the other hand is a student meaning she values self actualization and believes health is balance of life, environmental wellness, hygiene, social support and goals.

To me, health follows Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs. Similar to Emily’s response, I believe health is not one thing, but many things and a person is not truly healthy until they have met all of these basic needs including, biological needs which consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, shelter, and a relatively constant body temperature. Second are safety needs which are the feeling of safety in the environment a person is living in. Third are needs of love, affection and belongingness which include being supported, having friends, and fitting in. Fourth are needs for esteem which are not only impacted by other peoples’ views towards a person, but I also want to stress the importance of how people view themselves which to me is the most important part of self esteem. Finally is the need of self-actualization which means a person is determined to be the best they can be. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.” “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.”

I believe a person is only healthy when they have met all of these needs of safety, love, health and shelter, social and self-actualization. But as I said earlier, every person can define health in their own way depending on their age, culture, experiences and values. So what is your definition of health?