Good health is not only about not being ill, it is about being happy and feeling whole from a physical, mental and spiritual point of view.
Being healthy is not anymore just about taking medicines when unwell, it means taking care of ourselves to prevent any illnesses and to change our attitude when we need to heal or get better after the illness. Taking care of our health today means doing a lot of things to feel good, from eating the right way to taking vitamins, from exercising to having a job we enjoy.
A few years ago, healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses used to treat any illness in a fairly standardised way: symptoms were checked against those of a well known condition and there would most certainly be a tablet that we could take to make it all better.
But sure enough, our bodies have a way of letting us know when something is wrong and when we are pushing ourselves too much, and not only in a physical way. We might have a headache because we are very stressed; we take some paracetamol and it goes away, but what brought the headache on in the first place is still there: sooner or later the headache will come back.
Because of the strict relationship between the way we live and our health, healthcare professionals now assess patients in a ‘holistic’ way. This means that not only they will ask about symptoms, but also about lifestyle, work conditions and family life. So it is not just about tablets anymore, it is also about support and understanding us as patients to improve our general health. This is particularly true in long term and ongoing conditions.
A little can be a lot
Diet, exercise, five-a-day, three-a-day, work-life balance: now more than before we can take charge of our health and feel better. Health promotion is a very powerful tool and it is used constantly to remind us that we have the opportunity to make our bodies and our minds feel better. It is no longer the case of spending a few hours in the gym every week, or eating entire meals of vegetables and fruit, or banishing sugar from the kitchen cupboard. Health professionals realised soon enough that by suggesting the gym at all costs or tormenting us with eating greens was not going to get us anywhere healthy soon, so now the focus is different.
We are told to try a little bit every day, and it will eventually pay off: a little exercise, a few portions of fruit and a little sugar (oh yes, because remember that we have to keep the mind happy as well as the body). This new approach seems to be giving better results than the old fashioned one, so it appears it is the way forward. A lot of problems still remain: obesity and binge drinking, to name just two. But health promotion will continue to be the key to teaching everyone how to take care and feel better, in the hope that, eventually, a few initial attempts will become good habits for life.