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Salutogenesis…An Idea Whose Time Has Come!

Health

It’s been a whole year.  Now more than ever the time for Salutogenesis has come!

In March of 2020, my family had Covid19 back when the whole thing seemed surreal.  We were scrambling to figure out how to operate our chiropractic business safely–wondering if we had all the needed supplies.  We did our best to keep up with guidelines that were changing daily so we could take care of people in a safe way.   That was the first week and by the following Tuesday, we closed our doors due to symptoms.   My husband and I rarely miss a day of work so this was, to further overuse a word, unprecedented.  

This turn of events gave me some unrequested time off and a lot to think about.  The silver lining of the year is that many of us have had good cause press pause.    To step back and evaluate the things that matter most to us and decide how we will navigate them…family, community, relationships, work-life balance, education.  And hopefully, a chance to ponder our own health and well-being.  

Health can be so dang simple and we make it so hard and that’s why I love this concept of Salutogenesis.  In his 1979 book, Health, Stress and Coping Aaron Antonovsky proposed the concept from a mental health and resilience perspective.  How I see it…salutogenesis asks the question “what builds health?”, instead of orienting our ideas of health around combating disease.  It’s the concept that being “healthy” means a lot more than being just “not sick.”  The absence of pain and disease is not the sole indicator of good health.   Does that make sense?  Poor health develops over time, it’s not an on/off switch.  And good health is built over time as well.  Imagine a continuum.

 

Health Continuum 

Every one of us falls on a continuum of health, and whether we move toward vitality and health on one end or toward illness on the other largely depends on choices and habits.  On the continuum, we are always moving one way or the other.  You don’t hang out in one spot every day, each choice moves you one way or the other.   I’m not here to argue about genetics but we know most of the health issues that plague Americans are environment and lifestyle-related.  This way of looking at health from the perspective of “how do we move in the direction of health?”–that’s the Salutogenic Model. 

Think of toasting a great meal with the word ‘Salud.’  Salutogenesis means embracing practices that support good health and abundant well-being versus merely avoiding disease.  Conversely, the avoidance and focus on disease is the pathogenic model.  Our system of medical care has long been skewed, almost entirely, in the direction of the pathogenic model.  It’s not wrong or bad, it’s just incomplete.   And for all the gains that were being made in moving toward salutogenic health practices, the pandemic has landed us square in the middle of pathogenesis again.  Like really landed us–turtles on our backs–you get it!

 

Well, it’s time to get back up!  

 

What does that mean in this context?  

The very dominant message right now is that the keys to health, as they are currently being broadcast, are almost completely geared toward the avoidance of a pathogen.  None of those practices cause us to be truly healthier, they only presumably keep us from getting sick.  I’m not here to dispute ANY of these, because there is a time and place for this type of mitigation.  However, uncoupled with a salutogenic approach, at best incomplete; and at worst, it’s costing lives.  There is a WORLD of building health beyond these measures.

 

This was a meme a while back:

What Bolsters Health

That stated, “I’m still waiting on the press conference where they tell us how we can better fight illness by eating right, avoiding toxins, drink water, and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine…”

Am I naive?  Surely this is an important piece of the pandemic puzzle!  But, it’s almost completely absent as far as what we have seen from government agencies and health organizations. Perhaps I’m wrong.   I will admit I have fallen away from reading every new thing that comes out because I can’t reside in that world and still do a good job for my patients.  I have to shift my focus on what BUILDS us up in terms of health.

All of us have a responsibility to bolster our health at times like these.  At any time, really.  Not because we have total control over what comes our way (we don’t, and that’s life), but so we can afford ourselves some reserves.  It is possible to stack the deck in our favor and it doesn’t take an advanced degree to know how to do that.  It’s innate…if we pay attention. 

We KNOW the feeling of a good night of sleep, of starting the day with a healthy breakfast, of drinking enough water.  More importantly, We know how these things feel, how WE feel when we inhabit our own amazing, bodies rather than think of them as a vehicle for our overthinking mind!   Or worse, a faulty machine at the mercy of genes and germs.

 

Your Salutogenesis Approach

So in this time, when we are all just so tired and done with this last year, how do we sustain?  I think we welcome the arrival of spring, take a deep breath and ponder a salutogenic approach to health.  What do you have control over?  Think about a few things you can easily do and start the “upward” spiral. 

For me it almost always comes down to the little things, the habits we can build on like bricks, building ourselves up.  Find what works well for YOU–the owner of your body, the expert, the one who knows it like no one else ever can.  Explore that and find what makes sense and don’t make it too big or too difficult. 

  • Buy a new water bottle and commit to a certain number of ounces per day.  
  • Try new plant-focused recipes each week and build a list of favorites. 
  • Mind your blood sugar rollercoaster. 
  • Get fresh air. 
  • Sleep well. 
  • Pray. 
  • Meditate. 
  • Walk. 
  • Run. 

Build-in time to do things that you enjoy.  Spend time with people you enjoy.  Take care of your spine, move your body, get a chiropractor!  Don’t think of these as orders but possibilities. It’s not all or nothing, it isn’t something we need to make a resolution about…we don’t have to do anything perfectly, the body is so forgiving and gives us grace for the times we fall short.  Brick by brick start building your most important asset-your health!

 

In Health,

Dr. Stacy LeQuire

 

 

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