I love the Internet. I don't miss the days when one had to go to the bookstore or the library to read up on anything and everything. Whatever there is to know about any subject, it's right at our fingertips.
I can see a difference in my clients, too. They are so much better informed about all their aches and pains, even before they come to my practice, and every so often they give me a heads up on the latest news, too.
Never before in our history have we had we so much knowledge available to us in an instant. Search the word "health" on Google and you find more than 4 billion hits. Narrow that down to "good health" and you still have more than 2 billion hits to sift through. A search for "fitness" gets you more than 2.5 billion. Search results for "weight loss" number more than 400 million.
Considering these resources, how is it possible that we find ourselves so confused about seemingly simple matters, such as eating right, staying fit, managing weight, dealing with stress, etc.? Some people argue that we may have become "overeducated" in these matters and that we are bombarded with too much information, which only adds to our confusion.
Frankly, I don't believe that. I don't think there is such a thing as being "overeducated." That's like being considered "overqualified" for a job because you have more than the minimal qualifications required for a certain position. What's the harm in having as much knowledge as possible?
I think the confusion comes from something else, something more fundamental. While most people would say that good health is extremely important or even the most important thing in life, it is not always as clear what actually constitutes good health and well-being. Absence of illness and pain is certainly part of it. Being free from any dependencies on toxic substances is.
But does it go beyond the physical? Is happiness also a part of good health? Is living one's life to the fullest and realizing one's potential important? Are meaningful relationships with friends and family a factor? How about a positive attitude, optimism and a sense of humor? Or faith and spirituality? Aren't they all components that make up a healthy life?
What strikes me the most when I see new clients is their attitude toward their health needs. Many come for quick fixes, the way one brings a car to a repair shop for a tune up. Those with more serious health issues may be willing to undergo the required treatments, but then they find it hard to make the necessary lifestyle changes. The larger picture of what it means to live a healthy life is rarely addressed.
But then, what would the larger picture look like? To me, it's making a conscious choice to be healthy. It starts with what I call "health literacy," that is the explicit effort of informing ourselves about the inner workings of an all-around health-promoting lifestyle.
All the information we need is readily available. What really matters, however, is to turn our knowledge into action.
This is not about depriving and restricting ourselves and saying goodbye to our dear old habits. It's actually about freedom -- our freedom to choose what is good for us over helplessly and fatalistically continuing what we know is detrimental. Yes, in some cases it may require making changes in someone's eating habits, which can be a challenge. It may require taking up physical activities, which at first can be uncomfortable and painful. It may take some reevaluation of priorities in order to achieve a more sustainable stress level, which may seem impossible. In the long run, however, these efforts will be rewarded by the positive effects they have on the entire person.
Yes, I do believe that good health is first and foremost a matter of choice. It has to be an informed choice, though -- not another fad, not another short-lived resolution or a quick-fix measure.
No one else can do the work for us. The choice to live our lives to the full measure of our potential in every aspect can only be made by each one of us and only for ourselves. But once we take ownership, there is a better chance that the accomplishments will last.
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