Many people resolve to become healthier in the New Year, but improving one’s health is a broad goal that can encompass many aspects. Health has four main components that should all be addressed in order to improve it, and these four components work together to support one another and create a healthier you overall. Health means that a person:
- Is physically fit and at a weight proportional to their height
- Is mentally healthy and happy
- Has a strong immune system and is disease-free
- Eats a balanced diet based in whole foods
Those who want to improve their health in the New Year should address each of these components individually and in conjunction with one another. Improving health doesn’t just mean losing weight or getting more exercise.
Physical Fitness: This term often means something different for each person, depending on the person’s weight, height, genetics, build, and personal fitness goals. If you don’t exercise at all, your goal should be to get moving in any way you can, even if it means taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
As a general rule, a physically active person works up a sweat doing a form of exercise they enjoy for at least 30 minutes a day about 5 days a week, and is able to increase their exercise duration and difficultly level slowly but surely over time.
Mental Health: A mentally healthy person is clear-minded, happy, emotionally well-adjusted, and free from depression. Mental and physical health are directly related, so chronically ill people are commonly also depressed or unhappy. A healthy diet and physical fitness can drastically improve both physical and mental health.
Immune System: This is the aspect most commonly associated with health. While a person with a healthy immune system who is disease free and rarely gets sick may seem healthy, if the same person is overweight, never exercises, eats an unhealthy diet, or is depressed and unhappy, they are not truly healthy. However, people who are active, happy, and eat well tend to have healthier immune systems too.
Diet: A balanced diet includes all things in moderation. People who get all the vitamins and minerals the body requires each day through food sources are eating the right balance of whole foods—natural foods that are not processed or refined. A balanced diet supports a healthy immune system and body weight, which allows people to enjoy physical fitness, increased energy, and a better quality of life.
Addressing Your Health Goals Holistically
By focusing all your energy on one area of health and ignoring the other three, you may be setting yourself up for failure when it comes to reaching your health goals. For example, if you are chronically ill or depressed and unhappy, it may be impossible for you to become physically fit, even though exercise can greatly improve both conditions.
A holistic health plan addresses all four areas of health, but also prioritizes goals among the four areas so that you address major problems before less concerning ones. Using the above example again, a depressed or unhappy person may need to begin taking anti-depression medication or attend counseling before they can address other areas of health such as diet and exercise.
By addressing depression first, an unhappy person is more likely to find the motivation to set and reach other health-related goals. The good news is that by then addressing other areas of health, this person is likely to curb depression, making drugs or counseling a temporary fix and diet and exercise the long-term one.
Making Realistic Health and Fitness Resolutions
If you’ve been unable to meet health and fitness goals in the past, it may be because your goals are too far-reaching, which can cause you to lose motivation fast. It helps if your goals are on a smaller scale or broken down into milestones along the way to a larger goal.
For example, if your resolution is to get back in shape, don’t make your goal to run a marathon by the end of the year. This is a feat that takes most daily runners years to accomplish. Start by jogging as far as you can at a comfortable pace on the first of the year. Base your running goals for the next few months on where you started, not where you want to be in a year. Try going 1/10 of a mile further or running for one minute longer each day, and you’ll see noticeable progress in just weeks.
If your goal in 2012 is to improve your health, break your goal down into smaller ones that address the four areas of health. Chances are you need more work in some areas and less in others. Celebrate the successes you already have and use them as motivation to reach goals in the areas of health that are more challenging for you. And be sure to set goals you can actually attain, but plan to continue to improve those areas indefinitely after you reach your initial goals. Doing so will bring you health and happiness in 2012 and beyond.