Attention for HEALTH?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín

Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain

Health in the Constitution of the WHO is defined as follows: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not the absence of disease or infirmity.”

It is talking about physical, but also mental and social well-being.  It is accepted that our health is not good if it is not all-encompassing.  We probably know from our own experience that when we have thoughts that make us anxious our health deteriorates.  The same as when we feel negative emotions or feelings or when we live in a crazy society that pays more attention to having than being.  All of this makes us feel malaise and leads us to fall ill.

Where is a physician who understands health in its entirety?  It seems that the first one who should know about their own state of health should be us.  I realise that I get stomach pains if I eat certain things and I can give details about why I feel bad and apply a remedy.  However, when it comes to emotional or mental health, I am not that good at it.  I believe that, on the one hand, there is a lack of knowledge and, on the other, there is prejudice. We do not know how to identify the emotions or feelings that we have.  What is more, we have a prejudice that knowing ourselves from within is unnecessary, difficult or nonsensical. 

Here we come across two obstacles, but they are not insurmountable.  It is all about paying attention.  Let us look at an example: I go to a meeting where I have to do a presentation and I come out with a headache.  Possibly, I explain it by telling myself that speaking in public makes me nervous.  Did I notice when the tension started that turned into a headache?  Did I realise that perhaps I felt insecure at that moment and felt that I was losing control and thought that I looked like an idiot whereas I believe that I am a capable and responsible person?  Perhaps I did not appreciate it, since if I had actually realised it – because I was attuned to what I feel inside me – I would not have got to the point of feeling my head ache.  Observe how easily a thought and a feeling end up producing a headache or a stomach ache or fear of repeating the experience.

This is just an example for us to understand that when we are not aware of what is happening consequences arise that are difficult for us to understand.  Would it not be better to pay attention and observe what is really troubling us and causing malaise?  The origin of the concern tends to be within us.   Based on everything mentioned above and many other things that will not fit here, it seems essential to learn to be sensitive, to be aware and observe what is swirling inside us, since this saps our vital energy with tangles to which we have no solution.  Learning to pay attention is like focussing a light on ourselves and being aware of the intrigues that we create within us.  Attention, honest and kindly observation and a subsequent overall understanding of ourselves restores us immediately to a good state of health in all its senses.  And that is something that only I can do.  That is good news, since the responsibility for the majority of my health lies with me and, therefore, I can change it.  Get to work!