VINESH  SUKUMARAN

THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL NATURE OF HEALTH AND WELLBEING

All too often, people tend to anchor their good health and well being to a specific set of causes or parameters. Many health and wellbeing enthusiasts are convinced about ideas like:

“Work out for an hour everyday and you will be fit and fine”
“Drink two litres of water a day and you will be in good health”
“If you don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes you will live long”
“Practice yoga for an hour every morning and you will not have any health problems”
“Shift to a vegetarian or vegan diet and you will have more energy”

This is what I call the “Apple A Day” mindset. It is the mindset that causes people to believe that their health and wellbeing can be reduced to one specific magical variable. In reality, being healthy is the result of a combination of factors; some well within our control and some completely out of our control. The converse of the “Apple A Day” mindset and the more useful one is what I call the “Way Of Life” mindset. The mere phrase “Way Of Life” suggests consistency and it refers to the multidimensional nature of health and wellbeing. A state of good health is the outcome of a number of factors like the right eating and drinking habits, the right amount of exercise, a blessed genetic inheritance and several others, many of which might not even be in our popular consciousness. If you drank two litres of water a day and sat on your couch all day long watching television, you would be as unhealthy as if you practiced an hour of yoga in the morning and spent the rest of the day drinking large amounts of alcohol and smoking 60 cigarettes. The “Way Of Life” mindset also applies to ill health and disease as much as it does to good health and wellbeing. I have often heard people say things like:

“God! She ate so healthy and never missed her morning walk and exercise and she still had a heart attack at 40”

OR

“I can’t believe that after a lifetime of smoking and eating fatty food, this man is still hale and hearty at the ripe old age of 85.”

Statements like these just go on to show that there isn’t just one dimension to your health and wellbeing. The 40 year old might have exercised regularly but could have been stuck in a job that she hated and faced extreme levels of stress day in and day out. On the contrary, the 85 year old smoker might have been from a family where his parents and even grandparents went on to celebrate their 100th birthdays.

In a day and age of quick fixes and one stop solutions, the real perks go to those who realize that merely eating an apple a day might not keep the doctor away, if everything else that you do is counterproductive to your health and wellbeing. When it comes to good health, it is not one factor overriding the others, it is each factor working in tandem with all the others, many of which are yet to be uncovered by our scientists and researchers. The future might well shock us by revealing some of the most unexpected factors and their correlation with human wellbeing. While it is impossible to spot every single dimension of your health and wellbeing, a wise approach is to identify the ideal combination of factors and work on keeping them under check.

 Article in the Mindscape Section of the May 2015 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran