The great web resource Jewishhealing.com ran an important series of articles on various aspects of wellness from the traditional Jewish viewpoint. We would like to share this with you now.
Wellness: the Jewish pathway towards health
Maintaining our health is an important Mitzvah of the Torah: Shemirat Ha-briyut – The Mitzvah of staying well. In addition to requiring a response to illnesses when they occur, Jewish law also requires that we make all attempts to stay well. In Deuteronomy, God tells the Jewish people, “take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously.”
The Talmud derives from the verses that a person must scrupulously guard his/her physical health (Berakhot 32b), and this ruling was codified by Maimonides (Hikhot Rotzeah 11:4) and the Shulhan Arukh (Hoshen Mishpat 427:8). Maimonides understands this obligation to include both positive aspects, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and the seeking out of proper medical care, as well as negative ones, such as refraining from damaging one’s body through the consumption of harmful food, drugs, smoking, or the overconsumption of alcohol. (Hilkhot Deot, 4:1)
The recent Health Care Reform act promises to afford more medical services to those without insurance and to increase benefits for people with insurance. However, it does not in any way promise us healthier lives. In fact what it does is enables more sick people to be treated. Unfortunately, the term “health insurance” is unsuitable. It would be more appropriate to call it “sickness” insurance, which pays the bills only when we are sick. It is somewhat like life insurance that has nothing to do with life but only pays after we die. It sounds strange, but it’s true. No national laws and no doctors can make us healthy. Becoming healthy and staying healthy is up to each one of us alone. Health is our own responsibility.
Medical science would have us believe that only through its system of testing, pharmaceuticals, surgery, and hospital recovery can we regain our health. They insist that their methods are the only way to maintain health and avoid illness. Nothing could be further from the truth. This article and those to follow each month address alternatives to the costly medical health care model and ways that healthy living can treat the pantheon of illnesses we suffer from today.
Practitioners in the world of wellness certainly would subscribe to the use of the medical system for the following situations:
1. Annual routine exams and testing
2. Prescribed medication for maintaining a disorder
3. Life threatening situations (heart attacks, stroke, uncontrollable bleeding, severe accidents, etc.)
In addition, it is important from a wellness standpoint to develop a good working relationship with your primary care physician. That means to arrive at appointments with a full list of questions and concerns to discuss with the doctor. Also, investigate, in books or on the Internet, concerns you have, in order to discuss problems to your advantage. If your doctor is not open to such discussions, maybe it is time for another doctor.
Alternative health care in the Health Care Reform act, recently passed in the US Senate, includes language that some believe would require insurance companies to expand their coverage to include complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), reports the Los Angeles Times. The bill would also allow doctors to use alternative health providers in some treatment plans. CAM includes dietary supplements, acupuncture, Yoga, and certain other modalities. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health Committee, is the leading champion of these measures.
The Los Angeles Times reports opponents say this new measure would increase costs of the health care system by including unproven treatments. Nevertheless, keep in mind that complementary and alternative medicine is still a part of the medical model whereas wellness is a choice we make to keep ourselves well.
What is wellness?
Wellness is primarily a choice to assume responsibility for the quality of your life. It begins with a conscious decision to shape a healthy lifestyle. Wellness is a mindset, a predisposition to adopt a series of key principles in varied life areas that lead to high levels of well-being and life satisfaction. A consequence of this focus is that a wellness attitude will protect you against temptations to blame someone else, make excuses, shirk accountability, or whine in the face of adversity. Wellness is a word that’s used a lot these days, and you most likely hear it all the time. It is a buzzword. Traditionally, health and wellness have been thought of as the mere absence of disease and disability, but in recent years there has been new thinking in this area that led to the development of newer models of health.. The wellness model that people adhere to today encompasses from the mere absence of disease to the optional functioning of each individual regardless of current health status or disability.
So, wellness exists on a continuum and is unique to each individual person. Each of us defines our own wellness. It’s hard to say: you’re well or you’re not well. That’s not the way it works. It’s a unique thing based on our individual circumstances. And wellness in this view is seen as a holistic concept. It’s looking at the whole person and not just at your blood pressure level or how much you weigh, or how well you manage your stress. It’s not one thing; it’s all of these things connected. Wellness involves the spiritual, the body, the mind, and the concept
Wellness combines seven dimensions of well-being to maximize your quality of life. Overall, wellness is the ability to live life to the fullest and to maximize personal potential in a variety of ways. Wellness involves continually learning and making changes to enhance your state of wellness. When we balance the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, and environmental aspects of life, we achieve true wellness.
A healthy body maintained by good nutrition, regular exercise, avoiding harmful habits, making informed and responsible decisions about health, and seeking medical assistance when necessary. To remain well, physical wellness requires that you take steps to protect your physical health by eating well, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a proper weight, getting enough sleep, avoiding risky sexual behavior, and restricting intake of harmful substances.
An aspect of wellness where we keep our minds occupied in satisfying pursuits. This dimension of wellness implies that you can apply the things you have learned, that you create opportunities to learn more, and that you engage your mind in lively interaction with the world around you.
The ability to understand your own feelings, accept your limitations, achieve emotional stability, and become more comfortable with your emotions. Emotional wellness implies the ability to express emotions appropriately, adjust to change, and cope with stress.
This area refers to the ability to relate well to others, both within and outside the family unit. Social wellness gives us the ease and confidence to be outgoing, friendly, and affectionate towards others. It involves not only a concern for the individual, but also an interest in humanity and the environment as a whole.
Preparing and making use of your gifts, skills, and talents in order to gain purpose, happiness, and enrichment in our lives. Occupational wellness means successfully integrating a commitment to your occupation into a total lifestyle that is satisfying and rewarding.
The sense that life is meaningful and has a purpose. The values that guide us give meaning and direction to life. Spiritual wellness is a search for meaning and purpose in human existence leading us to strive for a state of harmony with ourselves and with others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world.
The capability of living in a clean and safe environment that is not detrimental to health. To enjoy environmental wellness, we require clean air, pure water, quality food, adequate shelter, satisfactory work conditions, personal safety, and healthy relationships.
Wellness is the pursuit of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. It involves finding a healthy balance of the mind, body, and spirit, which results in an overall feeling of well-being. By promoting wellness, for ourselves, we can decrease risks for developing diseases or disability, prevent rapid aging and premature death. By being well, one can also increase life satisfaction and happiness. True wellness is more than the absence of diseases and symptoms. It is a way of appreciating and fully experiencing life. It involves the process of living, growing and achieving the life that expresses one’s maximum potential as a human being. Wellness is about living life to its fullest. Remember, however, that wellness is your own responsibility.
Other articles in the Jewishhealth.com series: