Health and well-being are the most important and worthwhile aspects of what people value in their own lives because these two elements have an impact on quality of life, social life and the way we see ourselves.
“Health is a state of complete positive physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. (Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), 1946). This statement of what health is by the WHO guides this reflection about the meaning and sense of a strong relationship between health and well-being for people. As we can see from this definition, a healthy condition is made of several aspects: physical, mental and social well-being and not only the lack of disease.
The debate about the key factors that determine the state of health is still open, due to the fact that many issues, like chronic diseases, air pollution, catastrophic events and epidemics, affect the health of many people and the scientific world is looking for the best way to address these issues.
Health and well-being are the result of a combination of physical, social, intellectual and emotional factors. This is a holistic definition of well-being.
“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (WHO)” The main idea is that the absence of disease by itself is not equivalent to health and well-being and cannot bring happiness. The reason is because there are several factors that can influence our health and well-being. Factors that can influence health are internal: genetic makeup, sex, age, and external: the policies of the government, circumstances under which you work, culture and social environment.
The real difference is how a person decides to face these challenges, what mindset he or she has and what coping strategies he or she is able to use. Mindset is a particular way of thinking. A person with a closed or fixed mindset assumes that he or she is going to fail, and feels helpless, hopeless and not committed to finding a better way to change the situation. On the other hand, a person with an open mindset has a different attitude, trusts in the future and is engaged in finding new opportunities.
However the greatest challenge is to transform the narrow view about health and well-being, that sees them as the absence of disease, and expand our vision in order to gain awareness of several aspects (physical – emotional – life purpose and meaning – personal and social relationship – cognitive development), that are embodied in these concepts and have a relevant impact. How can we foster a state of health and well-being in our daily life? What are the catalysts already present or that need to develop in our life? What is our personal definition of health and well-being?
The metaphor that expresses this relationship between health and well-being is the melody that an orchestra can play. As an orchestra is made of different instruments and plays better together than apart, so health and well-being means feeling good and functioning well, playing at our best when all the aspects of our life (emotional stability, relationships, engagement, resilience, optimism, vitality, meaning) work well together. This melody can be interpersonal, expressing what is inside of us, or external, expressing the voice of our body outside.
The ability of our body to recover from an accident and to heal is strongly connected with emotional reaction. It is very important to enhance emotional health in order to have well-being. Changing our internal approach to reality and training our mind to try and have a deeper experience of reality by the practice of mindfulness is one of the ways to accomplish a state of health and well-being.
The practice of mindfulness trains some cognitive aspects like perception, letting go, acceptance and presence of mind. Understanding these and how they work helps us to manage our emotional world in a more self-compassionate, kinder and effective way and enhances health and well-being.