Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
Health is more than mere absence of disease; yet, a lot of us consider ourselves fortunate if we have been spared of a major health disaster; "So far so good," we might say with a sense of relief.
During the fifth or sixth decade of life, such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, heart problems, diabetes or psychological disorders such as malaise, apathy or memory problems. We take such conditions to be normal or inescapable.
How depressing! People are getting older and expecting a whole gamut of diseases to creep in their lives. Doctors are expecting, at best, to manage and slow the progress of disease albeit the toxic side effects of medications patients have to contend with. Who is minding the store or our health? Surely, we can do better than that. How about a more positive mindset for lifetime good health?
The word "health" (heal) refers to the state of "being whole," which implies being or becoming a whole person, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. The Indian word for "health" is "svastha" which literally means, "being in the state of self." These terms imply that our natural self is whole and healthy. Disease is unnatural and alien, and not a part of our true self.
Dorland's medical Dictionary defines health as "a state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease."
The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that health is a "positive concept emphasizing personal and social resources, as well as physical, mental and spiritual capacities."
Dorland and WHO of the current times, as well as the ancient societies such as the Greek, Chinese, Japanese or Indian subscribe to a comprehensive view of health with spiritual, psycho-emotional, social, and physical criteria. They required a much more exacting task from physicians. Physicians were the guardians of health than managers of diseases. Where did we go wrong?
Someone once asked an interesting question to a group of opticians and eye-doctors, "Why do you call them 'corrective lenses' when the eye is never corrected? The fellow had a point. The longer you wear them, the more high-powered lenses you need.
Gary Ratson, M.D. author of The Meaning of Health in his third year of medical college used to ask his medical instructors and advisors if their patients whom they had treated over the years were any healthier. Some of his teacher-doctors avoided him like a plague. It raises an interesting point about our lowered expectations of health.
It is only in the most recent years that medical world has begun to pay attention to the problems in the emotional, social and spiritual aspects of a patient's life. We should aspire for optimal level of functioning of a person we treat.
Dr. William Osler pus it succinctly, "It's more important to know what sort of person has the disease than what sort of disease has the person."
Chronic fatigue, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and many stress-related disorders can be more effectively treated by addressing the person as a whole than a part of the person directly affected by the disease.
Here are four essential qualities Dr. Ratson believes we must possess in order to enjoy life-time good health: 1) Purpose 2) Love 3) Responsibility and 4) Freedom.
A person must recognize the inherent PURPOSE of his or her own life. The constant awareness of why you are here and whether you are working towards that purpose can help you to wade through the conflicting and confusing mass of expert advice. This is important because there is a lot of confusing and conflicting expert advice available and it's going to get worse before it gets better.
When you feel unconditional LOVE for yourself and others, you cannot help hut feel that the entire universe supports you. There won't be room for a cynical or hostile view of the world or its people. Many negative emotions arise from a cynical, paranoid and hostile view of the world. Believe it or not, but our view of the world affects our health.
When you take total REPSONSIBILITY for your own well-being, you can trust and rely on your innate biological, psychological and spiritual healing power. Also, when you assume total responsibility, you can never abuse your personal power.
With inner FREEDOM, you can no longer be a slave to external pressures or other handicapping conditions. Inner freedom, to quote Dr. Ratson, "gives you hope for the possible and faith in the probable." You are then able to experience genuine joy. When you characteristically experience genuine joy, something interesting happens. Others cease to irritate you or give you any more grief, even though their behavior might not have significantly changed.
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Copyright 2003, Mind Publications
Posted September 2003