Taking Responsibility for Your Own Health

No matter what area of your life you examine with the intent to improve, you may have heard that “it’s your responsibility” or “you have to take responsibility for your life”. This well meant advice can be intimidating and may even cause you to resist taking steps to improve or change.

This is just as true when your focus is on improving your health as in any other area of your life. The reason for this may be rooted, at least in part, in a common mis-interpretation of the meaning of the word “Responsibility”.

So, what does “Responsibility” mean? First we’ll look at the common uses of the word.

Responsibility is commonly taken to imply obligation or duty with the often hidden but implied belief that the person who is not being responsible is not doing what they are “supposed” to be doing. This is based on what is socially and/or culturally expected and acceptable.

In this view of reality, the irresponsible person is somehow “bad” and is shirking their duties. What’s implied is that this person could “fulfill their obligations” but chooses to be a “slacker” instead.

A related view is the idea that some people do not have the appropriate authority to accept a responsibility. For example children are not expected to be responsible for paying the mortgage or rent. However, they are usually expected to accept age appropriate responsibilities and they are seen to be “goofing off” if they do not fulfill these reduced responsibilities.

Similarly, the person working in “the shop” is not expected to balance the company’s books (unless they also happen to own the business). The shop worker does however, have their own set of duties or responsibilities to complete.

I am not suggesting that these beliefs are wrong. We all have things we need to get done if we are to achieve what we set out to achieve. However, the meaning of responsibility as discussed above may not be the best or most effective way to approach some areas of our lives.

Let’s consider an alternate view. “Responsibility” is simply the ability to respond. However, it’s not quite as simple as it first appears. In order to respond to a situation you need to have choices. If you have only one way to deal with a situation then you end up reacting to the problem. As has often been said, “If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail”. If the problem is a screw you will be “un-screwed” if all you have is a hammer.

So, responsibility is about having or creating choices. You can then select from these choices in order to deal with your health (and life) issues. There is no “badness” or blaming when people are not responsible / responsive. There is simply a need to have or find or create more choices.

It has been said that when people are confronted with difficulties the person with the most choices will most successfully handle the problem. When people have choices they will usually pick the one that works best for their specific situation. This may sometimes involve trying different things to see what works best. However, if we accept that it’s about making choices and not about duty or blame, we then become free to find our best solutions.

“So what does this have to do with your health?” you might be asking. Consider this example:

If you are stressed due to your work and quitting the job is not an option, you could have your doctor prescribe some kind of anti-stress pills. Or you could go see an alternative health practitioner. Now you have two choices. A third choice becomes available to you if you use your mind to help you heal. You may also have some other favorites you like to use.

You might decide to learn some deep relaxation techniques as well as some methods for rapid relaxation which you could then use anytime you are in a stressful situation. Alternatively, you might begin to practise yoga or qi gong to help you maintain a more relaxed approach to your life. These and more choices are available to aid you in your search for better health.

These “tools”, which you can add to your “health choices toolbox”, can help you deal with more than just high stress. They can, if practised regularly, help to improve heart function and health, lower high blood pressure levels (or raise low levels), balance blood sugar levels and improve your body’s flexibility and overall fitness. You can improve your health in many other areas as well, using these and other “Mind – Body” methods.

Now you’re ready to accept responsibility for your health using the choices you have at your disposal. (both those suggested above and others you may know of or discover on your own).

The “Mind – Body” methods suggested in this article are meant to complement your current health care choices. If you are being treated by traditional doctors you should continue to do so and should not stop these treatments without first discussing with your doctor.

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