The health triangle borrows the laws of geometry to illustrate how the foundations of our general health and well-being are dependent upon one another. We are all familiar with exercise and diet being important aspects of health, but many may not take into account other important factors that contribute to the bigger picture.
Each side of the health triangle is representative of an important facet of overall health, including:
Balancing all three aspects of your health underpins the theory behind the health triangle and is key to achieving the true meaning of wellness. Excelling in one or two areas of your health can lead to imbalances to your overall well-being. For example, perhaps there is a world class athlete suffering from mental illness, or a monk with the highest level of enlightenment, yet lives a sedentary lifestyle.
Taking all three sides of the health triangle into consideration when assessing your overall well-being can offer a broader perspective and clue you in to areas you may need to work on in life if you are not feeling you’re functioning at your best.
Before we jump into how to balance your physical, mental, and social health, let’s explore what the health triangle is.
What Is the Health Triangle?
Simply put, the health triangle (also known as the wellness triangle) consists of the three facets of a person’s overall health in the shape of a triangle. The design is based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of a person’s best health being a balance of physical, mental, and social aspects. According to WHO: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The health triangle consists of three sides of equal length—and equal importance—to our general well-being. All three sides of the triangle are dependent upon each other as they all interact and have an effect on their two neighbors.
For example, sometimes physical illness can be a symptom of poor mental health and vice versa. And oftentimes, physical health solutions may offer some mental health resolutions. Social isolation and loneliness may lead to mental health disorders and a lack of motivation to exercise, thus affecting physical health.
The key to an optimal health triangle is to maintain the equal length of each side and subsequent congruent angles. When one side of the triangle is longer or shorter than the others, the other two sides will be affected and your overall wellness is compromised.
What Does a Balanced Health Triangle Look Like?
In order to achieve an equilateral health triangle, you can be more mindful of including daily habits and activities that fall on each side of the triangle. There is often overlap as something as simple as going for a walk with a friend can contribute to strengthening all three sides. Next we’ll explore how you can balance the three sides of your health triangle.
1. Physical Health
Physical health pertains to how your body functions. Keeping your physical health in tip-top shape includes maintaining your body’s daily systems and giving your body the tools it needs to operate at its best. Here are four areas to keep in mind in order to maximize your body’s overall physical health:
1. Yearly Wellness Checkups
Get those doctors appointments on the calendar and stay on top of your health care on an annual basis. A complete physical is a preventative measure that will optimize your physical well-being and put the kibosh on potential chronic diseases. Book regular appointments with the following health care providers:
- Schedule your annual physical with your primary care physician
- Stay on top of dental health and book an appointment with your dentist regularly.
- See specialists for annual screenings (skin, eye, women’s and men’s wellness, etc.).
2. Exercise and Physical Activity
Whether it’s a daily brisk walk, high intensity interval training, swimming, yoga, etc., find an activity that you enjoy that gets your body moving. Consistency is key when it comes to maximizing the benefits of exercise and even a little bit of movement will reap benefits. A recent study showed taking a five minute stroll every half hour had health benefits and can combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Here are six tips to fit more fitness into your daily routine:
- Try a new exercise class or sport
- Commit to a morning walk in your neighborhood
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator
- Park further away from a destination
- Take standing breaks throughout the day
- Stop smoking
Healthy eating is paramount to physical health. A balanced diet will ensure you get all the nutrients you need and help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Smarter nutrition choices support your overall health, including mental health. Here are six healthy nutrition tips you can incorporate into your day:
- Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast
- Add a vegetable to every meal
- Drink more water throughout the day
- Choose high-quality sources of food and reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods
- Eliminate sugar from your diet
- Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages
4. Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is when the body rests and repairs itself physically. Giving your body this down time is invaluable to your overall health. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to poor mental health and anxiety. Here are four tips to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Take a morning walk with sun exposure to set circadian rhythm
- Limit screen time in the evening or wear blue light blocking glasses
- Establish a nightly wind-down routine to prepare your body for sleep (bath, chamomile tea, journaling, etc.)
- Create a dark, cool, and quiet sleep environment with minimal distractions
2. Mental Health
Mental health encompasses your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and how you manage them. Developing tools to cope with stress and anxiety, bringing awareness to your thoughts and their impermanence, and understanding your reactive versus responsive behaviors, are all important components of managing your inner world.
Incorporating habits that help broaden your skills will help with mitigating stress levels and honing stress management. Addressing extreme feelings and how to regulate them will help optimize your emotional health. There is also a correlation between depression and poor mental health and an increased risk in physical health issues, including heart disease and diabetes. Here are eight tips to help you stay on top of your mental health:
- Regular therapy or counseling sessions with a mental health professional you trust
- Start a meditation practice
- Journaling (free form or structured, such as a gratitude journal)
- Practice mindfulness
- Take a relaxing bath
- Box breathing or a breath practice
- Daily affirmations
3. Social Health
Humans are social beings and interpersonal relationships are fundamental to our overall health. A strong social support system can help boost happiness and overall well-being. Social isolation and loneliness have also been linked to poor cardiovascular health. Here are seven tips to improve your social health:
- Volunteer with others
- See friends and family regularly
- Go outside of your comfort zone with certain social situations
- Play with your pet or animals
- Join a sports league
- Take a new class or learn a new interactive hobby
- Join a church, synagogue, or spiritual group
Ultimately, all three sides of the health triangle are intertwined and important to our optimal health. It’s often easy to cover all three with one habit, as well. Perhaps you take a weekly morning sunlight walk with your family or friend, join a sports league, or swap healthy recipes and cook with neighbors. Maybe you try out somatic therapy to address physical manifestations of your mental health woes.
Our bodies are holistic. Every system is working together, including your mind. Addressing your health with all three aspects of the health triangle is an invaluable approach to overall wellness.
A myPrimalCoach is skilled in addressing all three sides of the health triangle and can help you build healthy habits to keep your angles equal.