There are three key aspects of your personal health, and here is how I define them:
Having a strong, functional, and energetic body; an absence of sickness, disease, and pain.
Psychological and emotional wellness; a lack of pronounced or debilitating anxiety, depression, grief, relationship problems, and addictions.
An overriding sense of meaning and purpose in life, and, for some, a belief in a higher power; an absence of existential loneliness, despair, and hopelessness.
All three areas of your health are, of course, quite important. If your physical health slips too far, then you’re incapacitated, or worse yet, dead! If your mental health is diminished enough, you can’t adequately function and handle your responsibilities. However, I believe your spiritual wellness is by far the most important aspect of your health, and I’ll explain why.
First, let me give an example from my own life. There was a time when I was physically healthy and mentally well-adjusted, and yet a lack of spiritual health brought everything crashing down. I have discussed this in other posts, when early in my retirement I lost a sense of purpose in my life. This lack of spiritual wellness caused a sharp downturn in the rest of my health and well-being. I became terribly depressed, and developed a host of physical problems, such as headaches and extreme lethargy. A major problem with my spiritual health dramatically impacted all areas of my health and made me extremely sick.
I have since gained a renewed sense of meaning in my life by determining that my purpose is to be of service to others. And while a lack of spiritual meaning quickly dragged me down, the revival in my spiritual life had the opposite effect, rapidly lifting me back up. The best analogies I can think of is that it is as though spiritual wellness provides a shield or defense—or buoyancy—in one’s life. A rising tide lifts all boats! My sense of purpose and positive outlook made me less susceptible to physical ailments and disease, and when I do have a physical problem, it doesn’t seem to impact me as much. My attitude is that I have too many important things to do to dwell on it! And I also seem immunized from the mental problems I’ve suffered from so greatly in the past. Now, when I begin to feel anxious, I say to myself, “I don’t care about that. If I have some anxiety, it’s okay, God will take care of me. He won’t let me fall too far. I’m just not worried about it anymore.” And what happens? My anxiety never really takes hold, and dissipates.
But don’t just take it from me. Christopher Reeve, the famous actor, became a quadriplegic after suffering a devastating spine injury, and yet the strong sense of purpose he adopted after his tragic accident propelled him to do great things. Also, I just finished reading a book titled “An Unquiet Mind,” an autobiography by a woman who has severe bipolar disorder, but has managed to lead an exemplary life. She earned a doctorate degree, was named a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and made it her life’s work to help other people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Both of these people called on a strong sense of spirituality and purpose to pull themselves up from the potential despair of devastating illnesses, resulting in them living highly energetic and useful lives.
You might consider thinking more about your special purpose here on earth, as a way to improve your overall health and the quality of your life. This can be achieved by finding some aspect of your existence that you choose to be even more committed to, like family, work, or some other useful purpose, and by believing in a higher power that cares deeply about you and won’t let you slip or fall. It might be just the thing to get you soaring through life!