What does it mean to have good health? Your “total health” refers to three kinds of health — physical health, mental health, and social health. These three things are called the “Health Triangle” model.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes “health” as having complete social, mental, and physical well being.
When people think of their health, it is easy to just think of their body. Someone might think their health is good just because they think they are in good shape, or that they may not have any injuries right now.
But your emotional and social health are just as important as your body. That is why it is good to think of your health as a “health triangle.” A triangle has three sides, and so does your health.
In this Health Triangle model, you can envision it as an equilateral triangle — because it is important for all three sides to be equal, or equally important.
The word “physical” literally means, “of the body.”
Your physical health refers to how well your body is.
There are things you can do to take care of your body, that will improve or maintain good physical health. Some examples of these things are:
- Good hygiene (bathing regularly, washing your hands often, brushing your teeth…). Keeping your body clean; avoid contacting or spreading germs and viruses whenever possible
- Exercising daily
- Getting enough rest daily
- Eating a diet of healthy foods
- Taking medications correctly if a doctor prescribed them to you
- Always being safe and following safety rules
- Seeing your doctor, dentist, or other kinds of medical professionals for regular check-ups, and to treat any injuries, cavities, or other kinds of corrections your body may need
A person’s mind is the part of them that thinks, feels, makes decisions, remembers things, and solves problems.
A person’s mind is also their intelligence, and emotions. Our minds are what makes us aware of ourselves, and the world around us.
Mental health refers to how well a person’s mind is working, but also how they sense and display feelings, or emotions.
Emotional health is part of mental health. How we feel is just as important as how we think. That is part of being human.
There are ways you can take care of and improve mental and emotional health:
- Studying, researching, and learning
- Listening to music
- Only watching movies, TV programs, websites, or video games that are age appropriate
- Talking about your feelings at appropriate times; telling others how you feel about them in appropriate ways
- Going to see a mental health counselor when you need to, just like you would see a dentist for a cavity
- Getting the right amount of uninterrupted sleep every night (which is also good for physical health — both your body and mind need rest in order to repair and regenerate itself)
- Spend time each day thinking of several things you like about yourself, to help maintain a positive self image. See also, Fun Facts About Me!
The word “social” deals with how we interact as human beings in a group. It also covers things like how we live or like to live with other people, and how we interact with companionship or company.
Social skills are a part of social health. Having good social health means to have healthy, good relationships with family members, friends, and other people in your life.
A few examples of ways to have good social health:
- Using good manners
- Treating others the way you want to be treated (this is often called the “golden rule”)
- Being loyal to your friends and family
- Never gossip, spread rumors, or talk about others behind their back
- Be pleasant, courteous, and respectful
- Working well in a team or group
- Having and showing good sportsmanship
- Showing the right kinds of respect to those who are above you in authority, such as parents, teachers, professors, police, or your boss at work
If your mental or emotional health is not doing well, your physical and social health may suffer. If you don’t take care of your body, you may find that your mental health and social health may also begin to have problems. In the same way, your social health can help or hurt your physical and emotional health.
Questions for thought:
- Can you think of even more ways that you can improve any of the three types of health mentioned above?
- What are some activities that you may do on a regular basis, and which of the three types of health do they affect?
One way to manage and keep track of your overall wellness that includes all three sides of the Health Triangle is to use a wellness scale.
Your health really is like a triangle. It needs all three sides. If you took one side away, it would cause the other two sides to fall apart. Taking care of all three sides to your health equally — physical, mental, and social health — puts you in more control of being the healthiest person that you can be.
All three sides of the Health Triangle work together. Your total health depends on all three things working well, and working together.
Constitution of the World Health Organization- Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006.
Everyday Learning Corporation. (1999). Totally Awesome Health 4th level. Meeks Heit.
Thorndike, E. L. (1983). Scott, Foresman beginning dictionary. Scott, Foresman.