Health: is it an on/off switch or a dimmer switch?

How the way you think about health can help you to become healthier

What do you think about health and wellbeing?  Or are you someone who thinks instead about illness and disease?  Of course they are two sides of the same coin and different people will find it easier to thinking about the coin in different ways. 

But really the question is:  are you an on/off light switch or a dimmer switch person? 

If you're with the light switch group, you think of yourself as either well or ill; the body works or it doesn’t.  It’s black and white.  And unless you become ill or something stops working, you’ll assume that everything is fine.  If you’re with the dimmer switch contingent then health is at the top end of a spectrum and it’s possible to move along the spectrum in either direction.  You can be relatively more well or less well than last week or last month.

Here’s a story – actually it’s a reality.  50% of men with coronary artery disease have no previous symptoms until they die of a heart attack (Alan Gertler, University of Alabama at Birmingham).  Incredible isn’t it?  They’re going about their normal everyday life and suddenly they’re dead.  No warning.  The other 50% do have symptoms:  shortness of breath, swelling at ankles, coughing and exhaustion.  And there would be earlier, more subtle signs too if someone was looking out for them:  being overweight, lack of fitness, high blood pressure.

Which would you prefer?  1) to know nothing until you drop down dead or 2)  to know there was a problem so you had a chance to do something positive to regain your health:  lose weight, change your diet, prioritise family over work, move your body more?

Some people might consider number 1) was an attractive option.  For those that chose number 2) welcome to the dimmer switch model of looking at health.  That is the idea that health is on a continuum.  Death, disease, illness is at one end and optimal health and wellness up the other end.  Most of us reside somewhere in the middle.  Nothing aches, everything apparently works.  We’re maybe not as fit as we used to be or could be.  Then it’s our choice if we’re happy to stay there, or choose to move towards the optimal health end of the continuum.  In which case, we’re using more subtle clues to guide us.  For sports people they might use their time, speed, performance or stamina as an indicator.  Others can judge by their immune system (the ability to be well when others get colds or flu).  For others, the mental and emotional capacity for challenging and stressful times while retaining a sense of humour, or ability to think clearly are also signs pointing to health and wellness.

If inhabiting your full potential in all aspects (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) is your goal, then actively moving towards your goal is a daily practice.  So, how are you going to start?  For ideas on how to get going, read the previous blog called “Where are you going?”.