10 Questions That Help Me Redefine "Healthy"

If someone had asked me 10 years ago to picture a "healthy" person, I might have envisioned something like this...

A tanned, toned, maybe even muscular person with minimal body fat, who could run a mile without wheezing or having to walk for most of it.

This is the "picture of health" that sources such as the media ingrained within me. It has taken much introspection (thank you, talk therapy) to change the way I define what "healthy" is.

Questions that help me evaluate my health

In reality, you usually can’t tell if someone is healthy just by looking at them. Health often has less to do with body size and looks than factors such as preventative medical care, genetics, environment, socialization, and much more.1

Below are some questions that I may ask myself to evaluate my own health. And they don't have to do with weight and body size.

1. Am I setting the right boundaries?

"Am I setting the right boundaries with the people around me?"

It can be easy to say "yes" to everything that is asked of us. Of course we want to help the people around us! But sometimes saying "no" is necessary in order to prevent burnout. Burnout for me looks like being chronically exhausted, feeling spread too thin, and not having enough time to take care of my own body and responsibilities.

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2. Is my lifestyle balanced?

“Is my lifestyle well balanced with work versus play?”

Taking time away from work can be difficult. It can make me feel like I am falling behind. However, it is essential to my mental and physical health. "Play days" can look as simple as getting a coffee and doing something I love, like visiting a bookstore or going on a hike. If taking an entire day off is too much, I can simply take a few minutes or hours away from work to do something for myself.

3. Am I expressing myself?

"Am I allowing myself to express my emotions in safe ways?"

Bottling up emotions is a surefire way for me to end up repressing them in unhealthy ways. When I don’t express myself, I find myself feeling stressed, on edge, and cranky. If I don’t have people to talk to, I can express myself through activities such as painting or writing poetry. Speaking of having people to talk to ...

4. Do I have people to call?

"Do I have people to call when I am stressed or need help?”

Interpersonal relationships are vital for my physical and mental health. Without friends, I can feel lonely and aimless. The world seems scary. When I have people to open up to, I find myself living a happier and less stressful life.

5. Am I getting enough sleep?

"Am I getting enough sleep?"

Sleep is ESSENTIAL to health. Sometimes I like to stay up late into the witching-hours doing puzzles and listening to true crime podcasts. But then the next day I end up feeling awful. Having a bedtime routine, and setting timers to tell me when it’s time to retire to my bed is helpful, and keeps me feeling my best.

6. Have I moved my body today?

"Have I moved my body today in a way that feels good to me?"

And NO, I don’t mean going on a run (unless you genuinely like running). I personally count housework as a physical activity. Dancing to music that I like, too. Taking my dog on a walk. Anything that is enjoyable and doesn’t take too long is something that I find myself wanting to go back to. If I make "exercise" unpleasant, then I never want to do it! The trick is to find activities that I genuinely like doing, so I am more likely to do it often.

7. Am I eating nutritious foods?

"Am I eating a variety of nutritious foods?"

Getting access to a variety of nutritious foods can be hard. Something I look for in eating is to make sure that my plate is balanced with carbs, protein, and fat. If you are unsure of what a balanced plate looks like, you can contact a clinical nutritionist to help you figure it out. Or even ask your primary care provider for a short run-down. (Personally I didn’t grow up knowing these things - I had to learn them as an adult. There is absolutely no shame in that!)

8. Am I numbing myself?

"Am I using activities or substances to 'numb' myself?"

We all do it. Personally I use too much screen-time to numb myself, but everyone is different. Zoning out can be good, to a point. If I find myself doom-scrolling on my phone too long, I often have to ask myself what I am trying not to think about. Journaling and other forms of self-expression can be a good substitute.

9. Do I get routine check-ups?"

"Do I get routine physical medical check-ups?"

Routine check-ups are vital for health, including cancer screenings, bloodwork, and more. They can be a pain to keep up on, but are worth it in the long run.

10. Am I take care of my teeth?

"Am I taking care of my teeth adequately?"

Neglecting to floss and brush my teeth regularly is one of the first signs that my mental health is suffering. Once again, I didn’t know what proper dental hygiene looked like until I was an adult. A dental assistant had to explain it to me once during a teeth cleaning appointment! Ever since I started taking care of my teeth better, I’ve had less cavities, and less stress surrounding dental appointments.

What does "healthy" feel or look like to you? Let us know in the comments!

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