Health: Not Just An Individual Matter

Do you know how it feels to be healthy, really healthy? A new eating program I’ve been following has caused me to pay attention to what foods seem to increase that healthy energetic, yet relaxed feeling. This practice has generalized to noticing other things that seem to contribute to a greater sense of well-being.

Grandma.SheilaMost of us pay attention to health when we get sick. As a kid, I’d be leaning over the toilet bowl or lying in bed trying to get comfortable enough to go to sleep with a blocked nasal passage and I’d think, “Yesterday I was feeling great and I didn’t even realize it. I took for granted feeling healthy.” I’d vow to appreciate the days I felt good, but of course, it didn’t take long to forget again to notice and be grateful for the gift of health.

Maybe it’s natural to take good feelings for granted and become super aware of the painful ones, but I’ve been trying to reverse that habit lately. Perhaps my journeys with two of my children through disease, diagnosis, treatments, medication side effects, and surgeries have taught me to savor the moments when nothing’s the matter.

But the feeling of health is more than just the absence of feeling sick. My friend Cynthia, in describing an experience we both shared with InterPlay leaders around the country wrote, “Health is not an individual matter.” This truth was reinforced for me last week when I injured my hip leaning over the back seat to unbuckle my 2 year-old granddaughter from her car seat. The twisting action threw out my sacroiliac, and pain accompanied most every step I took. I wondered how I’d get home in the next three days as I’d be traveling alone through two airports. And there was the presentation I was due to give in two days.

Kyra 2nd birthday

I attempted to be a good sport and participate in my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday party, but apparently, I wasn’t doing a very good job disguising my discomfort. A friend of my son and daughter-in-law, who’d only meet me once before, asked my son, “What’s the matter with your mother?” When he learned of my injury, he approached me, introduced himself as a fitness instructor, and offered to do some bodywork he felt would be helpful. I, with some trepidation, accepted his offer.

After the twenty-minute session with Paul, and after performing the exercises he gave me to do the following day, I was able to dance during my book presentation, and to make it gracefully through the two airports I needed to traverse in order to get home. Thinking back on the “kindness (and skill) of a stranger,” I’m reminded again that health is not an individual matter. Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher on the science of positive emotions, says that “the positive emotions people feel in connection with others seem to be a real driving force behind the health benefits,” her work has documented.    

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