As the pace of modern life continues to quicken and as the amount of information we are each required to process on a daily basis increases exponentially, it is vital to our health and well-being that we take the time to become aware of fundamental principles of living in balance.
In this series of short articles, I’ll be sharing a careful distillation of some of these principles, in a form which is easy to digest and easy for you to begin to integrate into your day-to-day life.
Living in Balance means making wise choices that do not disperse your energy excessively in one area of life at the expense of others; and that sustain your creativity and imagination and support good health and relationships. Such choices are founded upon the principles of integral health.
Integral health regards overall well-being as a function of a number of interconnected levels, including physical health, psychological health, emotional health, social health and spiritual health.
Physical health is about the biological health of the body. It is the area of health that is most often considered as healthy or unhealthy. Yet it is not the only thing that affects our state of health. Good physical health includes nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and medical help when needed.
Psychological health encompasses the way we think and the neuroscience of how the brain works. It is a very broad area that takes into account genetic influence and innate survival needs. It factors in environmental influences and the impact of early life experiences in shaping our behavioural and relational habits.
Emotional health is being increasingly recognized as fundamental to well-being, due to the work of people like Daniel Goleman and Karla McLaren. Emotional health is about having the ability and capacity to understand your emotional responses and how or why they exist or repeat. While at the same time having the capacity to work with the emotions of others to build trust and good relationships.
Social health is vitally important too. It is to do with our human need to belong to a group. In simple terms, social health means the ability to prevent and avoid loneliness, through positive relationships, positive social experiences and a good support network. For some this means treasuring one friend who truly understands them and for others, it means a big group of good friends and vast social circles. It depends on what’s right for each individual.
Spiritual health is commonly misunderstood. It considers the ability to fulfill our innate need to be connected to something much bigger than ourselves. This does not have to be God or a deity of any sort. It can be the Universe, Mother Nature, or a Higher Power or Higher Self within us, or serving a Greater Cause that brings meaning and purpose. Recent findings of neuroscience, and fundamental spiritual practices such as mindfulness and meditation, are beginning to work together to help individuals find peace on the inside whilst the world may be chaotic on the outside. Spiritual health means the ability to see the bigger picture and our place within it, and to know the meaning and purpose of life, of yourself and others.
It is helpful to keep these areas of integral health in mind, particularly at the start of this new year, when many of us find ourselves reflecting on intentions for the year ahead. For instance you may know deep down that you have poor “work-life balance” but often do not appreciate precisely what this means, other than too much work and not enough life!
More and more studies are now giving integral health the recognition it deserves. Reflecting on the above five areas as a guide to healthy living will help you make choices that with the right support and intention will naturally lead you in to living a balanced life.