I believe that health is more than merely the absence of disease. It is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.
Dr. Mark Hyman
I full heartedly agree with Dr. Hyman about the definition of health. However, the question becomes how do we achieve this? Or perhaps, more accurately, how do we choose this?
I had to think about when in my life I first felt the healthiest as defined above, and the answer is when I was pregnant with each of my children, the first time at 36 years old and the second time at 40 years old. Perhaps I had this state of well-being as a child, but I don’t consciously recall taking note of my health or lack thereof.
The first time I was pregnant, I recall it actually being an incredibly stressful time in my life; due to my husband traveling overseas, transitions in the company I owned which included the ending of cherished relationships, and my mother being treated for breast cancer. At the same time, I loved being pregnant and felt the most at peace with myself then I ever had. There was a sense of calm, a knowing that I was part of something bigger, and an inner joy I had never felt.
I ate healthy for the most part, and if I didn’t I wasn’t hard on myself. I exercised regularly, I spent time with the people that nurtured me, and I allowed myself to be supported.
Even the difficulty in some relationships, and the endings that occurred during this time, felt like ways in which I was being supported in order to grow into this next phase of my life.
So, what was going on for me? I chose to care for myself because I understood it was what was best to support my unborn child. Through a mother’s love for her child, I was able for the first time to feel a sense of love for myself. I was given the gift of understanding the miracle of the human body, and I was given the gift and honor of carrying life inside of me, which resulted in me feeling the most alive I ever had.
When I felt love for myself, the choice to eat healthier became easier. The choice to have self-compassion when I didn’t eat healthy became easier. The choice to get massages and other treatments that used to feel like “indulgences” became easier. The choice to be in the company of those who loved me became easier, the choice to feel gratitude, and allow myself to not only feel the life of the child inside of me, but to feel my own light burning inside of me became easier, and the choice to surrender to the changes happening in all areas of my life and to trust became easier. As a result I felt healthy. I felt okay for the first time in as long as I could remember.
I also began to forgive myself for all of the times I turned on my body. For the times I felt hatred towards my body, for the times I worked too hard and didn’t rest, for the times I held my breath and shut myself down, for the times I fed myself unhealthy foods, and for the times I fed myself too much or too little, for the times I didn’t move my body enough, and for all of the ways I mistreated, disrespected and hated myself.
I began to feel gratitude that my body kept working for me regardless of my mistreatment. I felt gratitude that my body never abandoned me, even when I abandoned myself. I felt gratitude for how my body informed me through illness, even though I was angry believing it was turning on me, when the truth is my body, my spirit and my soul were yelling “wake up!” and then patiently waiting on me until I was ready to listen.
Being pregnant was the life event that initiated my first experience of self-love, and allowed me to see and feel my history with my lack of self-love, and also offered the realization that I can choose self-love again and again. For others, it may be a serious illness, a loss, or another wake-up call. My hope is, if more of us can not only begin to love ourselves, but start owning it and sharing it, that our children and their children won’t need to have extreme wake-up calls to experience self-love and good health. They will simply recognize it and embrace it as part of who they are. Thus, they will make healthier, more loving choices.
Life is a miracle. It doesn’t just refer to the miracle inside of a woman when she is pregnant. It refers to everyone and everything that breathes. I am a miracle. You are a miracle. I don’t love myself all of the time and I don’t love myself unconditionally all of the time. I am committed, however, to choosing self-love as often as I can, and when I allow this I make more loving choices, and as a result, I am healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.