In Nigeria, “How are you?” or the more colloquial “How you dey?” is probably the most asked question and definitely the one with the most frequent false replies. When you reply with “I am fine”, how fine are you? The truth is, many people think they are “fine” without realizing they are not.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It means that a state of being simply devoid of illness or pain isn’t necessarily a healthy one. The definition also classifies health into three mutually inclusive parts: physical, mental, and social. These parts are mutually inclusive because to achieve and maintain a healthy life, there should be a perfect balance.
Formula for sustained great health
Excellent health requires balanced nutrition. In primary school, we learned that a balanced diet is a meal that contains the classes of food in their correct proportions. With this definition, you will agree that a balanced diet also refers to a healthy meal. But healthy living doesn’t only involve eating healthy meals. It also means eating meals healthily, hand aving a healthy feeding pattern. For example, eating a “healthy” breakfast by noon is not healthy, just as having a “healthy” dinner by 10:00 pm is not healthy.
Moreover, a balanced diet isn’t just healthy meals; it includes everything that goes into your mouth at any time of the day. In between the healthy meals you relish, what else are you eating? What are you not eating? All of these constitute either a balanced or deficient diet. When your overall diet is not healthy, then it is lacking.
Plato agreed that “a lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
A fundamental feature of good health is exercise. The benefits of exercise are numerous.
It helps control weight and reduces the risk of heart diseases.
It helps the body manage blood sugar and insulin levels.
It helps to quit an addiction.
It improves mental health and mood; helps keep thinking and learning skills sharp, and strengthens bones and muscles.
It reduces the risk of certain cancers (colon, breast, uterine, lung).
It reduces the risk of falls, improves sleep, improves sexual health, increases chances of living longer, increases energy levels, and so on.
Good health has no room for deficiencies or excesses. It is living a well-rounded and balanced life. An Irish proverb says, “A good laugh and long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book”. So, form and maintain healthy relationships, laugh as much as possible, take time out, relax and unwind. These help to relax your mind, which is necessary because your social and mental health depends significantly on the state of your mind.
Just as your body needs healthy food, so does your mind. What are you feeding your mind? How edifying are the books you read, the things you watch, and the discussions you engage in? Your mind has to be cultivated positively and nurtured adequately.
To enjoy a healthy life, the goal is to balance each aspect of your life against the others— ensuring a work-life balance and at the same time, not neglecting the social and intellectual aspects. It is this balance that helps you stay connected with reality and also properly manage stress. Poorly managed stress affects mental and physical health. So, it is essential to destress and refresh as frequently as possible.
Taking proper care of yourself is a daily activity. According to James Clear, “the most important battles must be fought anew each day; exercising today does not render tomorrow’s workout unnecessary… learn to love the endless nature of things and life gets easier”. Caring for yourself is constant action and, thankfully, the benefits are constant and immediate.
So when next you’re asked, “How are you?” and you reply with a hasty, “I’m fine”, spare a moment to consider how fine you truly are and let it remind you to take care of yourself because your body requires daily care.