How healthy are you?

October 20, 2017 15:31
One area of healthiness often leads to healthiness in other areas. Physical exercise, for example, also boosts a person's emotional health. Photo: Reuters

Last week I was leading a teacher training session and the topic was character education and classroom management, but I started the workshop with something that was seemingly unrelated.

I asked the teachers to reflect on how healthy they are.

Now most people will just think of their physical health when asked this question, but the World Health Organization defines health as follows: "A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

In other words, health is a combination of physical, mental and social health. For ease of brainstorming, I separated it into five categories: physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental. Environmental health includes things in our surroundings that can affect other areas of health.

After introducing the five categories, I invited the teachers to think about one habit in each area that they could establish for better health.

And after the roomful of teachers brainstormed, they shared some really great ideas. One teacher said that for her physical health she would eat an apple instead of drinking coffee every morning as it’s a healthier way to start the day.

Another teacher said that for her emotional health, she would use her commute to work as a time for reflection and mindful thinking instead of spending it on her phone.

As for me, I told the assembly that when my desk is messy, I easily get stressed and my emotional health is affected. So for my environmental health, I promised to keep a tidy workspace. 

Regarding spiritual health, it doesn’t necessarily have something to do with religion, even though it usually does. For some, being mindful is a spiritual practice.

What we have learned is that one area of healthiness often leads to healthiness in other areas. One teacher shared that she would go to the gym as a way to be physically healthy, but she knows that after going to the gym, her endorphins kick in and she feels happier. So exercise also affects her emotional health.

In my case, being spiritually healthy boosts my emotional and social health.

So after all the brainstorming on healthy habits, I told the teachers why I wanted to kick off the training with this topic.

It’s because their health and well-being will directly affect their teaching and the health and well-being of their students.

As a teacher, I know that if I didn’t sleep well the night before and am physically tired, I’m less likely to be attentive to the needs of all my students. Worse still, I’m more likely to get frustrated with them on things that wouldn’t have bothered me if I had had a good night’s sleep.

Or if I’m emotionally unwell, it’s less likely that I will be patient and calm in addressing a student’s needs. My health affects their health. And so, as teachers, we have the responsibility to ourselves and to our students to be healthy.

If I as a teacher can have such a great impact on a child, how much more so as a parent? As the mother of a toddler, I know how unrealistic it is to have sufficient sleep while maintaining a healthy social life but it’s something we must strive for.

If we are not healthy, then it is likely that we’re not giving our best to our children.

So how healthy are you? And what healthy habits can you start developing today?

Whatever you choose to pursue will have a direct bearing on yourself and your children. So start today and live in a healthy way!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 19

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Founder and Principal at JEMS Learning House