Health is an important part of a happy and fulfilling life. It is defined as the state of being physically, mentally and socially well.
The term is a complex concept with many different definitions. Health is a relative concept that depends on the individual’s own situation and on the environmental factors.
Physical health represents one dimension of total well-being and involves the normal functioning of your body, as reflected in your ability to perform sports, work, play and daily activities. Regular moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity improves health and is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. Physical health also includes eating a nutritious diet to fuel your body.
Historically, the definition of physical health has included being free from disease and disability but today, it is more broadly seen as the ability to function in your body at the level that you expect and want to. This requires proper nutrition, a regular exercise program, sufficient rest and a formal recovery plan.
Mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, learning, resilience, self-esteem and hope. It is also key to relationships, work and contributing to family, community or society. The good news is that mental illnesses can be treated and most people recover with the right support.
Research suggests that many factors – both environmental and biological – influence mental health. These include genetics, aspects of social learning, stressors and traumatic events. Many mental health conditions can mimic symptoms of physical illness and so a full medical assessment, including blood work is required to diagnose and treat them.
Individual, family and community factors both protect and undermine mental health. These may include local threats such as economic downturns, disease outbreaks or humanitarian emergencies and global risks like the growing climate crisis. These may enhance or undermine mental well-being – but affordable, effective strategies exist to promote, protect and restore it. The highest rates of mental illness are seen in people from multiracial backgrounds and those from lower income groups.
Social health refers to the quality of your relationships with others. Healthy relationships can be nourishing and empowering. They can also be challenging and draining. If you prioritize relationship building, your social health will improve.
Researchers have found that the quantity and quality of our social ties influence our mental health, health behaviors, and mortality risk in direct ways. In addition, a growing body of research indicates that social ties are unique in their ability to foster cumulative advantage or disadvantage in health over the life course.
These findings suggest that a policy focus on relationships can be an effective strategy to promote health at the population level. Several existing programs explicitly or implicitly address social ties, including home health care and meals on wheels for the elderly. However, efforts to enhance the health-related benefits of a person’s social connections should be mindful of the potential for overburdened, strained, conflicted, or abusive ties to undermine health.
Spirituality ties physical, mental and social health together into a holistic whole. It’s about a deep connection with something bigger than yourself, such as a higher power. Many people who aren’t religious can also find a sense of spiritual well-being in nature, or in practicing mindfulness and connecting with their values.
The religious component of spiritual health involves a belief in God, a relationship with Him, prayer, forgiveness, pacifism and knowledge, attitude and behavior in relation to God. The individualistic component of spiritual health includes self-scrutiny, examining the meaning of life, hope, inner peace, moral virtues, balance and transcendence.
Some therapists have been exposed to trauma related to religion and spirituality, or may not feel comfortable exploring these concepts with their clients. If this is the case for you, be sure to seek out a therapist who can respect your spiritual beliefs without interfering with your therapy goals. This is called a supportive therapist. There are many resources that can help you find a therapist who can work with you on your spiritual journey.