By Mark Lundegren
Health – we all know we need it and most of us take at least some steps to ensure it. But often, our health efforts are less than effective or ideal.
And in truth, our health efforts are never optimal and can always improve, since health is an open-ended natural phenomenon that exists without obvious limits. This is true in principle, and it is in true in our individual lives and groups.
As my title suggests, I’d like to talk about an alternative way of thinking about natural health promotion, one that seeks to bridge or combine approaches that are overly personalized or excessively focused on the science of progressivity.
If you are familiar with the HumanaNatura natural health system, the idea of excessive progressivity might seem like a strange idea, since our overriding focus is on intentionally re-naturalized and progressive modern living. But just as our health pursuits can be too personalized and not make use of scientific principles, they can be inadequately personalized too or not sufficiently grounded in our personalities and the enduring power of our personal motivations.
In both cases, by being excessively consumed with either personalization or progressivity, we can miss important opportunities to advance our health and quality of life. We can fail to achieve what I will call, and explain next, health actualization – a higher category of health advancement based on attentive choices that span purely personal and purely progressive considerations.
Let me start this important and potentially life and health-liberating discussion with a definition, and then turn to a simple model you can use to think more concretely – and more personally – about progressive life and health for yourself and others you influence.
As you may know, when HumanaNatura talks about progressivity or progressive living, we mean simply – and not so simply – an informed and sustained practice of seeking greater levels of health and well-being in our lives, groups and communities, or in our global society more generally. Key themes in describing the process of progressive Natural Living are that it is continuous, lifelong, compounding or pro-cyclical, and revolutionary.
Given this definition, the converse of progressivity is of course regressivity or the permitting of our individual and collective health and vitality to systematically stagnate or decline, rather than naturally advance as quickly as possible. In our modern world, now significantly isolated from natural health demands by technology and mass society, areas of health regression appear widespread. In fact, given these new isolating features of modern life, we now need only become or remain indifferent to our health needs and our health will reliably decline – either in real terms or against our modern health potential.
If these ideas about modern health dynamics are new and somewhat unintuitive or unclear to you, it may help if you think of health less as physical strength or robustness and more in terms of adaptiveness, resourcefulness, and sustainability. In an important sense, and owing to the process and ongoing challenge of natural selection, all of life is based on and must be dedicated to adaptive health promotion, at least to some minimum degree, to ensure viability and adaptation in time.
But evolving life, including evolving modern life, need not be based on minimums and can instead seek optimal amounts of adaptive health and vitality. The sustained quest for more optimal health is of course the essence and overarching goal of the HumanaNatura approach, embodied in our central focus on continual, accelerating, and open-ended health progressivity.
In practice, this critical change to a new human commitment to ongoing progressivity and adaptation is a modern-day and far-reaching natural revolution, altering how and why we individually and collectively live, each day and over time.
Our Need For Personalization
If we entertain the idea that we might and even should seek to live more progressively and adaptively, as a matter of principle and as a natural opportunity, the obvious question is: where first or next?
The HumanaNatura system seeks to comprehensively answer this crucial question, first in broad and essential terms through its overall science-based and pragmatic approach to progressivity, and then more specifically and actively via our four open-ended health techniques: 1) Natural Eating, Natural Exercise, 3) Natural Living, and 4) Natural Communities.
Importantly, although HumanaNatura aims to promote progressivity in a systematic and generalizable way, we also know that all progressive and informed choices and actions are inevitably from a particular place and point in time, and are always taken by a specific person or group of people.
Thus, the recognition and even active promotion of personalization is essential to our otherwise systematic approach (and even unavoidable). When I talk about personalization, I mean making health decisions or taking quality of life steps based on the wants, needs, and opportunities of a specific person or group of people.
Not only is personalization unavoidable in a general sense – since there are no abstract choices, only abstract ideas – a high degree of personalization is also highly desirable, as long as this personalization is progressive and health increasing. Why? Because an adequately personalized approach to health promotion is more likely to be motivating and naturally self-sustaining, and thus more likely to lead to higher states of health over time. A common behavioral optimum may wait for us in theory, but this path may be less compelling, and thus sustainable and productive, for us individually than pursuing health-centered life via an ongoing series of heartfelt and tactile progressive steps.
That said, I must also quickly add that personalization on its own is less desirable than when it is combined with a progressive and information-seeking ethic or ideal. For a variety of reasons, including our potential to act from limiting bias and misperception, an exclusively personalized approach is at least as apt to be health stagnating, if not health regressive, as one that is excessively theoretical or abstract.
Personalization Versus Progressivity
To illustrate the natural power of an individual or group strategy that is at once personalized and progressive, I’ve included the following Progressivity Versus Personalization exhibit, which introduces my Health Actualization Model. This simple but important model contrasts high and low states of personalization and progressivity, and shows how high conditions of each can be combined.
As you can see in my two-by-two matrix model, this approach highlights four archetypical states of personal or group functioning, all of which I think will be familiar to you, that together provide an often very helpful way to think about and improve health promotion activities:
1. Disengaged – this first category of functioning in my model is marked by both low personalization and low progressivity. The category describes highly regimented or habituated and generally health unaware life or groups. It is the case of modern living marked by the motions of life, but without its progressive emotions, and with limited attentiveness to life and its ever-present opportunities for progressive health. New heath and adaptivity therefore occurs here mostly randomly or by chance, or not at all.
2. Immersed – this form of individual or group functioning describes life that is a step up from disengaged living, life that is now marked by greater engagement in life and even a celebration of individuality and uniqueness. But, by definition, this approach lacks a progressive and information-seeking sense of our possibilities. It is therefore life and functioning that is vulnerable to idiosyncrasy and over-personalization – and to more limited health outcomes than are possible over time. Health here is dependent on the quality of our personal or group intuitions, which may or may not be adequately informed and accurate enough to enable sustained, let alone steadily accelerating, progressivity.
3. Analytical – this third approach to modern life and health is more progressive and deliberate than the first two model categories, and thus can be expected to be more information seeking and fact-rich. But definitionally and as suggested before, this new category of health promotion lacks personal or situational engagement and thereby risks operating without the strong emotions and engagement usually needed to propel the application of progressive knowledge into the future. In this case, we may know what to do next to advance health but can be at a loss to feel or sense why, and thus fail to act against our health opportunities. This lack of volition or sense of engagement can greatly limit our health advancement, and that of others, since the case for or opportunity of new health and vitality is only vaguely felt, pursued, and/or inspired. This category is health by numbers and, like painting this way, is unlikely to make the most of the paint that is our lives and progressive health opportunities.
4. Actualizing – diametrically opposed to the disengaged or health indifferent person or group is the health actualizing one, a state marked by both high progressivity and high personalization. This category is the HumanaNatura ideal. It is personal and collective functioning ever in search of new information and ideas about progressive health, and new inspiration and motivating opportunities to apply or use them in practice. The approach recognizes that we are human first and require humane methods to pursue progressive living. It is an approach that bridges our head and heart, mind and will, present and future, in a new modern harmony or synthesis of our natural faculties and potential. Personalized and motivating, functioning in the actualizing category is more likely to be creative, meaningful, and sustained. By being equally information-seeking and principled, it is also more likely to be health progressive, coordinated, and optimal. Health here is arrived at through both attentive and engaging choice – and in practice is nothing less than a revolutionary step forward in modern life and quality of life.
I hope this simple but important and far-reaching model of how we can approach modern life and health proves helpful to you, in your own life or in help others achieve new states of natural progressivity.
To deepen your understanding and develop your ability to use the model, I would encourage you to take a moment to locate not only yourself in the four categories, but also at least three other people and perhaps three groups you know well enough to categorize on the model’s two dimensions.
Alternatively, you might start to use the model by identifying a person and a group you know that functions in each of the model’s four categories.
Personal & Progressive
Whether you approach and consider my Health Actualization model as a HumanaNatura health practitioner, coach, counselor, or advocate, there are immediate steps you can take to apply and explore the model in practice.
This application of the model seeks to increase both the personalization and progressivity of your health promotion efforts, and to practically guide your quest for new states of health amidst our concurrent needs for new information and renewing motivation to act.
These steps for better health functioning and promoting states of health actualization include:
- Commitment – begin with a personal or group mission of progressive life and health advancement, each day and in everything you do
- Valid Models – seek and apply science-based health models and tools, especially ones that engender actionable and useful new health awareness, insights, and plans
- Assessment – develop the practice of candidly and curiously applying or probing valid health ideas to surface new health opportunities, as opposed to confirming our current approach (which is never optimal)
- Integrated Priorities – always balance realism and idealism when setting priorities, including considering both what we might do and what we want to do to fulfill our ongoing progressive health commitment
- Rapid Cycling – since progressive actions can create more learning and new health opportunities than intended results, leverage this important natural fact and accelerate progressivity via regular and attentive revisions to health and life goals and plans
As suggested by my last bullet, with new action, there is always the potential and even likelihood of new learning. And with new learning, there is always the potential for more progressive and more personalized states of health promotion.
I would encourage you will make use of these important ideas and to seek your full personal-progressive health potential, in your own life and in your health promotion efforts with others.
Whatever lessons you take away from Personal Or Progressive, I’d enjoy hearing about them, via comments below or Contact Us, especially as you begin to make use of these important concepts within the HumanaNatura natural health system.
Health & best wishes,
Mark Lundegren is a writer and teacher, and the founder of HumanaNatura.
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