The Health Triangle serves as a chart for measuring an individual's mental, physical, and social health. The Health Triangle was originally developed in 1997 as a class project for an Alaskan middle school. It was adapted by the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". Maintaining a balance in all three areas is important for a healthy lifestyle.
Why the three components are important
Health is more than just being fit enough to lift weights and eat healthy. True health encompasses all aspects of well-being, including physical, mental, and social health. Your choices about what you eat, how you exercise, and who you spend time with affect your risk of disease and your overall health.
Physical health encompasses everything related to your body, including exercise, diet, drug and alcohol use, weight, and water intake. An active lifestyle is one way to ensure your physical health, but it's not the only key to physical health.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you get at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate to vigorous cardio exercise each week. Often broken out in 30-minute increments over five days, this stint can range from a walk around the block to an intense cardio session. The AHA also recommends strength training at least twice a week.
Physical activity affects many - if not all - of the body's systems that work together to keep you healthy and happy. All of these systems are linked in intricate ways, but overall, physical activity is key to the harmonious functioning of these systems. Exercise improves muscle and bone health, can increase flexibility, prevent chronic diseases , boost the immune system, and even improve sex life.
Exercise has also been shown to have a significant impact on mental health. Research has found that exercise can increase serotonin levels, which allows the brain to better regulate mood and appetite. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, natural hormones produced in the brain that promote feelings of happiness and well-being.
diet and water intake
What you put into your body is one of the most important aspects of your physical health. What you eat can affect not only your physical health but also your mental well-being. The WHO confirms that diet plays a crucial role in your health. Good nutrition leads to a stronger immune system, a lower risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and longer lives.
Food often plays a particularly important role in the social environment. Most holidays are spent eating (or not eating) food, and each event has its own food traditions. The social aspect of meals is just as important as what you eat when it comes to meeting your primary nutritional needs.
Your body is made up of 60% water and needs adequate daily hydration to function properly. Dehydration can lead to headaches, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and dizziness, but poor hydration doesn't just affect the body. Studies have shown a link between dehydration and feelings like depression, confusion, and anxiety. So it's important that you drink enough water to keep your body and mind healthy.
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy; many people around the world suffer from chronic sleep problems. Stress, anxiety, illness and poor diet can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. As with hydration, getting the right amount and quality of sleep doesn't just affect your physical health. Lack of sleep also affects mental health, and the Sleep Foundation has found that "sleep is associated with a number of specific mental illnesses and neurodevelopmental disorders". And mental health affects sleep health: people with anxiety and depression are more likely to suffer from poor sleep hygiene than people without these conditions. So it's important that you make sure you're getting enough and quality sleep to keep your body and mind healthy.
Your mental health encompasses your emotional well-being - your inner thoughts, feelings, behaviors and emotions and how you speak to yourself. When you are mentally healthy, you are able to deal with life's difficulties and overcome feelings of stress and anxiety. Your mental health affects both your physical and social health and can lead to physical symptoms (tiredness, weight loss, digestive problems) and antisocial behavior as you become more withdrawn from social circles.
Stress is an inevitable part of the human experience, but you can develop tools to combat stress and improve all sides of your health triangle. In times of depression and anxiety, motivating yourself to exercise can be difficult, so it's best to start small. Small, incremental goals are critical to your success.
Affirmations can help you improve your psychological well-being. If you can control your thoughts and behaviors, you can control your stress levels. Use short, positive statements in the present tense to affirm and reinforce the desired feeling or outcome. Affirmations can help you become more confident, believe in your dreams, and achieve what you want.
To maintain your mental health, you should take mental illness as seriously as physical illness. Although the symptoms of mental illness aren't as visible as those of a broken hand or a cold, they can be just as damaging. Make time for activities you enjoy, spend time with friends, and get involved in your community to improve your social and mental health.
Social health is concerned with how you respond to those around you. This includes your family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, peers and the public. Your family relationships are your first and often most important relationships, formed from birth. A healthy, stable relationship with your core family can set the tone for how you shape other relationships in your life, but it's not a hard and fast rule. If you had an unstable upbringing, you can develop and maintain your social health by bonding with people outside of your family. These relationships can end up being even more important than the original family ties.
Strong and supportive relationships of any kind increase your happiness and self-esteem, and can reduce your stress levels. Stronger relationships can also impact your physical well-being. Loneliness has been found to double (in women) or nearly double (in men) the risk of early mortality. A research journal also found that loneliness is associated with "significantly poorer physical health," leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Having a community around you is important, not just for your mental health, but for your physical health as well.
The bottom line
While physical health is important, you can't feel good physically unless you're mentally healthy—and you can't feel good mentally unless you're socially healthy. The three sides of the health triangle are equally important, and you must address each aspect in order to live a balanced life.