There is a saying that goes, “It’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest you.” I would alter this phrase to actually state “it’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest AND HAPPIEST you.” As my family and I embark on a much-needed vacation (don’t worry, there will still be a Dr. G blog next week), I’m reminded that we tend to forget about the HAPPY part in our collective health journeys. The word “Health” is thrown in our face on a daily basis - in pop culture, at the local gym, watching your favorite team, or at your physician’s office. In pop culture, we equate “Health” with how an A-list celebrity looks. In fitness, we equate “Health” with a certain physique. In sports, we equate “Health” the ability to perform a particular skill better than most others. We live in a society that is deep-rooted in image. Expectations of health reflect our own preconceived views of it.
In my specialty of internal medicine, we evaluate “Health” by asking our patients to do screening tests, physical examinations, labs, and various diagnostics studies. All of these are performed to either prove someone is healthy or not. Don’t get me wrong: routine, periodic medical examinations performed by a primary care physician are paramount to any formal wellness strategy. So what is the impact of “Health” imagery and its inherent expectations? I have encountered patients who are demoralized, frustrated, and burdened who still feel powerless or fail to celebrate the small, yet monumental steps they are taking to care for themselves. I ask again, what about “Happy?”
As medical doctors, we must always consider the emotional health of our patients. Not only am I talking about the 20-something year-olds who take no medications and only see their doctor once per year, but I’m also referring to the individuals with multiple medical conditions that see their doctor numerous times per year. FACT: The number of medical conditions an individual must face is directly related to either their vulnerability or resilience to the mental health effects of these same medical conditions.
Is it just me or does it seem like “Happy” has just been pushed aside? “You mean I have to work out all the time?” “I have to eat right?” “I have to sacrifice relationships and recreation to achieve ‘Health’?” “Then I have to do it all again tomorrow?” I’ve been there. I hear you.
On my 4/18/18 show, I’ll be exploring mindfulness with leading experts in the field. They will show you a framework for integrating “Happy” back into your life, even when you’re faced with insurmountable challenges. They will teach you how to clear your mind of distracting thoughts and mental clutter that accumulate day-to-day. Finally, they will show you how to live in the present moment in an enjoyable and harmonious way. So as I stated in the beginning, “it’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest AND HAPPIEST you.”
To Your Health (AND HAPPINESS)!