I would say most people care quite a bit about their health. Most of us really value being well. That has been even more evident over the last couple of years as people have prioritized health as a high priority in their lives.
But what defines the quality of health?
Everyone’s body is different. Therefore, the health of one person is unique to that individual. Is health just feeling physically well? I would say not. Many of us value our mental health just as much as our physical health. Being well encompasses many things.
Several years ago, I attended a continuing education course where the instructor said,
If you eat well, move well, and sleep well – then you will be well.
I wrote that down on the back of our handout as I listened to him explain that if a person (for one reason or another) is not eating well or can’t move well or is unable to sleep, then the quality of their health will be disrupted. And we, as healthcare providers, can help the person regain their health and independence by addressing the issues.
As an occupational therapist who works in skilled nursing and hospital environments, I see patients who are usually over 65 years old. After that continuing education class, I started asking my patients about their eating, moving, and sleeping. I explained that I was curious how their lifestyles influenced their health. I listened to their perspectives on being well (or not being well) and how they contributed to their overall health.
Meals in the Midwest are heavy on the red meat and potatoes. Potlucks are a staple. And daily desserts are a given.
But most of the patients who recovered quickly from an illness and who had the least complications after a surgery often reported eating lighter meals that were full of fruits and vegetables. No surprise there. And they also reported having nutritious snacks between meals if they were truly hungry. But I learned that almost everyone allowed themselves treats. One man told me, “I never deny myself anything, but I always make sure I don’t go overboard.” Everything in moderation does seem to be the key to eating well and being healthy.
I would love to research the link between health and people who plant a garden, walk their dog, play billiards at the Senior Center everyday, or (this is a big one in my community) hang their laundry outside to dry.
None of these specifically sound like exercise, but they are indeed forms of healthy exertion and often include a social aspect. One woman said she always looks forward to putting her laundry on the line because she can look over the fence and talk to her neighbor, who is often doing the exact same task. Movement of any kind is so good for the body and if you can incorporate a friend (furry or human), that it makes it even better.
Ahhh. One of the most allusive factors of life. Anyone with small children is chronically sleep deprived. Sometimes, people don’t recover from those years of fractured sleep, or the lack of sleep stems from other issues. And as we all know, sleep is vital to our well-being.
The patients who mentioned sleep when I asked about their quality of life would typically list two things: getting up early and napping when needed. Of course, this works well for someone who is retired, but it is so important to begin the day with the sun. Exposure to the morning rays stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. And it is equally important to listen to your body when you need rest. Adequate sleep is key to staying healthy.