Being healthy is a state of physical, emotional and spiritual balance that maximizes flexibility, strength and adaptability. It is helpful to view oneself as a connected extension of the source of creation, however you perceive it.  Embracing that concept, one can view total health as expanding circles of love and care starting with self, family, community and the world.

 I will start with a discussion of the first circle: personal health and self-care.

Essentially, to be personally healthy, one needs to develop self-awareness, have a health goal, a willingness to make necessary changes and an attitude of openness, acceptance and gratitude. We all have conditioned internal messages and beliefs that are at times helpful or harmful depending on the circumstances. Experience and training has taught me that cultivating moment-by-moment awareness helps accentuate adaptable traits and shed less helpful habits and conditioned reactions. This is the lesson that mindfulness has for us. Mindfulness is essentially moment-by-moment non-judgmental acceptance. I will expand on this concept in much more detail in future installments.

The only constant in life is that change is inevitable. We are constantly tested by internal and external circumstances over which we have no real control. Many of my family practice patients seem to expend large amounts of energy resisting or not accepting changes that have occurred. The visible suffering they endure tugs at my heartstrings. I often ask: “do you prefer to expend your energy trying to control circumstances or would you rather have the strength to manage them?” I try to promote the belief that the only thing we really have control over is our response or reaction to whatever the universe sends our way. Once that realization is accepted true healing can begin.

It is not necessary to have a pain-free, illness-free existence to be healthy. It is about accepting, living with and managing whatever condition you find yourself in at any given moment. Life’s stress waves, including illness, are inevitable, but suffering is optional. Suffering is the extra layer of resistance and wishing things were different that we might add to an unwanted experience.

Whether you feel well, have an acute illness or a chronic disease, I hope you will find these tips help you to develop the necessary tools to maximize your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Commit to writing down on paper a series of “health baskets” which are categories of goals to achieve optimal health. Your written goals may be categorized into such topics as:

  • personal health (physical, emotional and spiritual),
  • relationships,
  • career,
  • finances,
  • home,
  • community,
  • fun and creativity.

You are invited to make uninterrupted time to contemplate, create and journal these baskets. It is suggested that you review them several times per year, noting any successes or challenges. It is important to not get overly attached to any outcomes or get self-critical if certain goals have not been met. Simply be kind to yourself and ask what you can do differently to move towards your goals, resetting them if needed. The clarity and intention produced by this exercise can be powerful tools to move you toward your goal of total health.