Good health is a gift that many of us take for granted until it’s lost. But how exactly would you describe good health?
Many doctors would say that being healthy is the absence of disease. This may be good enough if you’re applying for life insurance, but what if you don’t sleep at night or can’t get down and back up off the floor to stretch or do a sit-up? Certainly in Chinese medicine, health is much more than simply not being sick. To an acupuncturist, symptoms such as retaining water, constantly feeling cold, or having a bitter taste in your mouth are signs that something in your body is out of balance.
Based on Chinese medicine, experience, and common sense, here’s a list of some elements of good health:
Being Free From Pain
There are many people who are seemingly healthy except that they struggle with some kind of pain—chronic headaches, aches that change with the weather, or pain that has lingered from old injuries. Along with the absence of disease, the absence of pain is also a good place to begin in defining good health.
The Ability to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Your body heals, recharges, and rejuvenates during sleep, so your ability to fall and stay asleep is crucial. And beyond getting enough sleep, having some psychological downtime is also important. During those periods in your life when you’re stressed or consumed by some project, school, work, family, or caregiving, you need to take a break to avoid exhaustion and emotional burnout.
Appropriate Expressive Emotions
This is emotional wellness that includes a life that has meaning, joy, gratitude, resilience, an open heart, and loving relationships. Moreover, emotional health means you possess the tools to deal with the hard times and stressful situations that life throws your way.
A Good Appetite and Digestion
Most people would describe their appetite as being “too good.” However, it’s possible to have a hearty appetite and eat healthy food, but if your digestion is funky, it’s tough to have optimal health. That’s because your digestion transforms the food you eat into energy and nutrients. If your digestion is compromised, it impacts your health. So if you’re reaching for antacids after every meal, suffer from gas or bloating, have heartburn, stomachaches, constipation, or any other unspeakable digestive ills, your health could be just a little bit better.
Optimal health goes beyond just a lack of fatigue. There are many busy people who get through their day because they have no choice. They’re driven by all they have to do, not by abundant energy. In a perfect world, the definition of good health includes the energy to do the things you want, plus enthusiasm and engagement.
An Element of Movement
This may mean physical movement in the form of exercise or stretching, but movement encompasses much more. In Chinese medicine, good health is all about flow—the flow of blood through your vessels, food through your digestive tract, and even the smooth flow of emotions. Good health through flow also relates to external factors such as your ability to change, try something new, and demonstrate flexibility. Like the element of wood, the ability to bend without breaking is a sign of good health.
Appropriate Use of Medications
Over the years, I’ve seen many patients who were taking 10 or more prescription medications plus numerous over-the-counter preparations. Can this be healthy? Clearly, there are many health conditions that are managed or treated with medications. However, in many instances, one drug is prescribed to offset the side effects of another, drugs are prescribed as a result of drug company marketing efforts, and patients are routinely prescribed medications indefinitely with no alternative or end in sight. Taking medications is not inherently unhealthy, but overuse of medications can be.
Finally, being healthy is about how you feel. Good health feels good. Your health may not be perfect, but it’s the rare person who never gets sick or has a health issue. The bottom line is that if you’re able to eat and sleep well, enjoy your life, have events that you look forward to, and the energy and functionality to do them, your health is pretty good. Appreciate it!
Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of “Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.” This article was originally published on AcupunctureTwinCities.com