What keeps healthy? Venture Life
In 1994 the German GEO magazine titled the publication of a representative survey by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Survey on the topic: "What keeps us healthy, what harms our health? Where are the dangers? The answers to these questions were surprising at the time and have remained so to this day.
The hazards which, in the opinion of the population, harmed our health at that time were listed in descending order: toxic waste, asbestos, side effects of strong medicines, car exhaust fumes, drinking water pollution, AIDS and nuclear power stations.
The experts from science and technology, who were also interviewed, gave a completely different assessment of the risks. At 81 percent, the tar and nicotine vapour from cigarettes posed the greatest health risk for them. 71 percent pointed out that people do not get enough exercise. 58 percent reminded people that alcohol is poison. At 42 percent, "fat" and "too much" food was also classified as far more dangerous than asbestos, toxic waste or the dangers of nuclear energy.
What keeps you healthy?
Obviously, it is difficult to agree on "health risks". Do we at least know what keeps us healthy?
Karin Felix could help us answer the question. She has written a bestseller called "Fitness and Beauty". It reads like this in the opening credits:
"The book wants to inspire women to do something for themselves - for a healthy, beautiful body, for serenity and self-confidence, it wants to stimulate them to an active, relaxed life. Every woman can choose what she likes from the variety of possibilities offered. Because an all-round good self-esteem is not a question of age or fitness."
Today, you have to choose this language to attract many readers. Self-confidence, fun, an all-round good sense of self-worth - such concepts hit the zeitgeist. Health as a central part of the quality of life - this message sounds good, is heard. It is right to answer health questions positively and to refrain from threatening situations.
With all the fundamental approval of this book and its positive outlook on life, I would nevertheless like to add two reflective question marks.
First question mark: The "healthy, beautiful body" - does this catchy and superficial equation really exhaust our concept of health? Is that what keeps us healthy?
Second question mark: Can my ultimate goal be called "health for me"? Health for me alone, for my beloved self-esteem? Or do I get to the World Health Organization's more humane demand: "Health for all?"
WHO: Keeping things healthy
The WHO names seven basic health conditions:
1. a stable self-esteem
2. a positive relationship to one's own body
3. friendship and social relationships
4. an intact environment
5. meaningful work and healthy working conditions
6. health knowledge and access to health care
present worth living in and a
well-founded hope for a future worth living in.
What threatens our health today? What endangers our body, mind and soul? What overtaxes us?
Our lives are often determined by overstimulation, haste and restlessness, anger and aggression, lack of movement and noise, mass traffic and spatial narrowness. We like to see ourselves in the role of the maker, who masters technology and uses the new media with confidence. But far more often we are threatened to be physically and mentally subject to the apparatus we have created ourselves. Pressure to perform is everywhere. He has a firm grip on students and athletes, drivers and professionals, self-employed persons and employees. Frequently enough, even leisure time, vacation and pleasure are determined by stress, which tugs at our strength and nerves.
Where can we start if we want to build up a counterbalance to the "syndrome of the overburdened human being" in us? Maybe by trying to stabilize our self-esteem.
According to Siegrist: "According to current knowledge, a stable self-esteem is a very important prerequisite for successfully coping with burdens, conflicts and emotional tensions. If the social environment prevents or hampers the development or stabilization of self-esteem, then the tolerance for stress is limited. Crises then unfold their shocking power to the full extent, the susceptibility to disease increases."
We should take countermeasures. With modern relaxation techniques we have the chance to counteract the inevitable and homemade stress to a large extent. For me, however, this means alleviating symptoms rather than solving the problem at its root.
It seems to me to be more crucial that we ask ourselves in a calm minute what our life plan is like. If we recognize what makes us ill, it is in turn possible to recognize what keeps us healthy. Aren't corrections overdue? Where should we start when the pressure of suffering takes over? Above all, we should no longer participate in everything that others - contrary to our inner conviction - expect from us. We should learn to say "no" in a friendly but definite way to things that we perceive as unreasonable. Even to things we put ourselves through without need. We should develop into "tolerant egoists" in a socially acceptable sense. It is quite possible that our family, our friends and acquaintances, even our superiors and career colleagues may find such a change in values even more attractive in the longer term than the overly deliberate and well-adapted participation. If not, we should keep telling them about our changed attitudes.
We should also actively face up to the question of what keeps us healthy. We are all subject to the constant balancing act between success and failure - no one is immune to it. But even if it looks like a contradiction: We need this vabanque game like the air to breathe. It's not so much because we're thrilled by the thrill, but rather because every risk offers tangible opportunities.
The more difficult the challenges we face, the more satisfying it becomes to have overcome fear and insecurity. Proud of an accomplishment that one did not dare to do before, means a valuable gain in mental health. Correctly understood prevention does not wrap people and their problems in cotton wool, but rather encourages them to lead a conscious life "here and now".
Our best protection of health seems to be that we learn to deal with conflicts and tensions in such a way that we do not become paralyzed by them, but rather grow on them. Part of this is that we feel at home somewhere. We recognize a sense of purpose in life and personal perspectives. We have confidence in the future. We cultivate relationships and can feel joy. We dare to do something and are grateful for the full range of our emotions - anger and envy and fear and sadness as well as love, lust and sensual joy. It's all part of being human, and some more.
Let us also remember
that it is not
only our fellow human beings who cause us stress.
We ourselves are
daily stressors for others. Perhaps this idea is a
from the ego to the you, from individual health
care to health promotion,
which includes everyone.
Health promotion means assuming responsibility in three respects. It is about responsibility for one's own health, responsibility for the health of fellow human beings and responsibility for the living conditions in this world and thus for the life chances of future generations.
The first objective - responsibility for one's own health - is immediately obvious. Here we will find the classical topics that aim at a healthy lifestyle, such as healthy nutrition, prevention of cardiovascular diseases through health sports, moderate use of stimulants.
To be achieved for this first goal:
that the individual is in a position to recognise life circumstances that are hazardous to health and to change them in his or her own situation and in his or her area of life;
that he learns to perceive and understand body, mind and soul in their interaction;
that he gains decision-making authority for his health.
By the second objective of health promotion, we mean responsibility for the health of our fellow human beings. How does this stand in practice? No one wants to endanger or harm the fellow citizen through reckless behaviour on the roads - which one of us would not have done it already? No one wants the stronger to do violence to the weaker one, to overreach him and put physical or psychological pressure on the weaker one - yet we know many examples of where it happens and we do not intervene.
We react appalled and stunned to reports of violence against the defenceless, in all terrible varieties. But are we really fighting with all our might to ensure that this kind of thing cannot happen again? We must also ask ourselves the following question: Do we help our fellow human beings willingly and altruistically to cope with their problems in life, do we give them the necessary social support? Do we stand in solidarity with old, disabled and chronically ill people?
How do we deal with the incurable cancer patients in our neighbourhood? Do we support and stabilize the addicted young people in our circle of acquaintances? Do we make our own personal contribution to freeing people from a vicious circle that ultimately makes suicide appear as the only way out?
Who would deny that all these issues have anything to do with health? Who would deny that we can and must do more than just worry about our own health?
A third goal of health
promotion is to
take responsibility for the living conditions in
this world and thus
for the life chances of future generations. This
topic will occupy us
more and more in the coming years, whether we
perceive this or want
to hide it from our consciousness.
Hope and reality
On "global" issues such as environmental or peace policy or a just world order, we should refrain from using purpose-optimistic whitewashing just as much as from discouragement and resignation. Let us put our faith in the principle of hope without losing touch with reality. Let us trust in a hope that is active and impatient, looking for every opportunity to act within our means. This applies above all to the manageable area that is familiar to us and for which we are jointly responsible.
According to a study by the University of Bielefeld, 61 percent of young people in our country consider their future to be endangered by environmental degradation. The number proves that it is quite possible to change attitudes and arouse concern with patience and persuasiveness. But from correct knowledge and good intention alone the necessary consequence is usually not yet drawn. Knowledge is not synonymous with action, acting is not synonymous with lastingly stabilized behavioral change.
Every one of us has to deal with this problem when we try to influence our own health behaviour and that of our fellow human beings positively and as permanently as possible.
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that it makes little sense to formulate a certain - quite sensible - preventive message and to spread it all over the world with the aid of well-known advertising media. With this procedure we can convince ourselves that we have done something. However, we do not really achieve anything and no one with it - at least not if we only use this procedure. Unfortunately, things are more complex.
We know from behavioural research and our own experience that the strongest motivation in human behaviour does not come from rational considerations, but from emotional impulses. Let us draw the necessary conclusions from this insight. Let us say goodbye to the attempt, which has failed a thousand times over, to try to achieve lastingly stabilised, positively changed health behaviour solely by conveying information. Let us also say goodbye to the attempt to achieve something positive by describing the darker consequences of a wrong lifestyle.
If we therefore focus
less on broadly
distributed print media and more on the means of
working in groups, we will try to convince through
our personality, our
openness and - if available - our own positive
health behaviour. Let
us motivate others to participate actively, let's
do it ourselves!
Disappointments and failures in health promotion
are, by the way,
also inevitable when we see our counterpart as an
object, but not
as an equal, self-determined, mature partner who
has as much to give
us as we give him.
Those who have committed themselves to the good task of promoting their own health and the health of their fellow human beings live in the constant danger of being disappointed and resigned sooner or later. This danger - to give up - is reduced to the extent that we succeed in assuming a realistic image of humanity and attainable goals.
So let us take a self-critical look over our shoulders from time to time. Our own enthusiasm, our own ability to perform, our own health successes can tempt us to overtax our partners who are looking for advice. We must offer achievable milestones and thus a real personalised help. Let us not make our partners in health promotion a victim of our own broad objectives and expectations. In the end, we make the sacrifice ourselves. It means disappointment, resignation and abandonment. We must protect ourselves from this in good time. Sense of reality is our protection.
Fortunately, today there are people in the medical and health professions, in the educational and social professions, in the political and journalistic field who correctly interpret the signs of the times and act in the sense of health promotion. People who look for and need partners.
Teamwork and multisectoral approaches are - generally speaking - indispensable when it comes to illuminating social and psychological backgrounds of behaviours that have an impact on health. Let us not forget the importance we attach to dealing with conflicts, our personal and social anxiety, our fear of exclusion and discrimination. Let us not underestimate the impact of prestige and peer pressure on our health behaviour. Let us be aware of the power of the media and advertising.
Health promotion is only effective if it has a positive effect on behavior and circumstances, if it takes into account the social environment and at the same time is tailored to the individual person and his/her living conditions.
Anyone who has recognised that health promotion means teamwork also understands that no professional group holds the "Philosopher's Stone" in their hands. Openness, diversity of opinion and tolerance are in demand in the discussion about the goals and contents of the joint work. What is needed is responsibility for health, which includes everyone. That's what keeps us healthy.