Dr Sumedha Kushwaha
This week on 7th April, we celebrated World Health Day, globally. This day is celebrated to create awareness about health and wellbeing among people around the world. The COVID pandemic has taught us that health starts primarily with one person (an individual’s responsibility), which affects the entire society (community responsibility) and which in turn changes the fate, economy and policies of nations and hence the world (national and international responsibility).
A simple question thus to ask is “What is Health?”. It might have a very different definition for each individual. The perspective of being healthy might differ according to the gender, age, socio-economic status, society etc. of any person. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “Health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The definition is very well thought of. It brings out crystal clear that just if you do not have any disease, it necessarily does not mean that you are absolutely healthy. Health in turn is a balance and wellbeing of various factors i.e. physical which means your body, mental which refers to your mind and inner happiness and social which means your surroundings in the form of people and environment.
Health is not as simple as it seems. There are various factors that influence it- like genetics, environment, society, family, technology, stress and whatnot. It’s a complex phenomenon. There are two types of factors which control it- Modifiable “which are in our control” and Unmodifiable “which are not in our control”. The ones which are in our control are the only ones we can change and strangely enough, they are the cause of most of the diseases on this planet.
What are modifiable factors then? These are the habits which bring humans close enough to their own doom like unhealthy eating, no exercise or reduced physical activity, smoking or chewing tobacco, risky alcohol consumption, abusing drugs, unsanitary living conditions, excessive mental stress etc.
Now, you must be thinking, we already know this. What is new in this? Probably nothing. But the important question is that if we know all this already- why are we still not adopting healthy behaviors? Why do we then choose junk food over fruits? Why do we still keep smoking? Why can’t we stop at one drink? Why are we choosing not to keep our surroundings clean? Why are we taking so much stress? Why can’t we reduce the amount of salt and sugar? Why are we not wearing masks properly?
The answer to this probably is – that the world sells us different things and influences our behavior every second. And we look for immediate pleasure, gratification and satiety. This satiation of our earthly desires becomes a habit over time. Taking out time to journal and meditate is difficult in the beginning. But, taking pills for anxiety and stress for the rest of your life is even more difficult. To wake up early and push yourself out of the bed every morning to go for a run absolutely hard, but it is harder to live a life with high blood pressure too. The fact of the matter remains, that it all starts with you, meaning it's only you, who has to put your own self before anyone and anything else and take out time every day for yourself and make healthy habits a part of our routine.
And if you don’t know how routines are a very important way of life, please understand that they are brain wiring structures. Your physical, mental, social and even economic state is a byproduct of what your daily routine looks like. There are various books on this subject like the 5 am club, Power of Habits, Atomic Habits etc. which can help you understand the importance of this subject at a deeper level.
The theme of World Health Day, 2021 is “Building a fairer, healthier world”. It is based on the existing COVID 19 pandemic to highlight the inequality in global healthcare systems which brings harm to societies and economies on a worldwide scale, rather than solely affecting the places where it is most profound. Let us ponder that how in our small own ways, we can contribute to this humungous goal? Once health becomes a habit- an unnegotiable necessity- that’s when ripples of change will flow from you to all others around.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine put it beautifully “If someone wishes for good health, one must ask oneself- if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then it is possible to help him”.
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