On a cold January evening more than 50 people gathered in a small central London work-sharing space to talk about health: mental health, physical health and social health. Under the title of What the Health? it was a fun, engaged, fruitful event, the first of a series planned by its creators.
Amy Abrahams is a journalist who loves to debunk health myths but wants to encourage readers to see beyond the Instagram filters to what is achievable for healthy people today. The strong response she had to her feature on loneliness in Women’s Health magazine was one of the prompts that had led her to launch What the Health?
Toral Shah is a chef and nutritionist scientist who wants to use evidence-based knowledge to help support others to lead a healthier life by eating delicious and nutritious food. She has also had cancer twice, so is especially eager to understand the role of food in disease and illness.
What the Health? is the idea of this duo (and PR Fran Bailey) and for their first event, the focus was on coming up with a Health Manifesto for the new year. Eat more mindfully? Exercise more regularly? Spend more time in nature? Spend less time mindlessly scrolling your phone?
They invited yoga teacher Jonelle Lewis whose motto “be brave, be fierce, be free” gives you an idea of her philosophy. While she was delighted to see the rise of yoga, she was concerned that there was too much competition in contemporary wellbeing.
And they invited me, to represent the place of mental health in our health priorities. I talked about what five years of welldoing.org had taught me about the stresses of modern life and work, and how critical it is to treat ourselves with compassion. I also introduced the Personalised Matching Service, which means that if you do decide to devote money and time to seeing a therapist you will be seeing a person explicitly matched with your needs. Find out more here.
The evening was a lively, informative, and nurturing conversation, first among the panel of four, and then out into the audience. One of the great revelations was that social health was a critical part of the mosaic that helps keep us healthy. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” and we could see that clearly at the event.
What were we experiencing that night, if not a great big, slice of social health? Talking to strangers, laughing in groups, exchanging tips and stories. There should be more such opportunities for people to gather together and, while talking about the way they live their lives, find pleasure and purpose, stay healthy in the world.
You can read about future What the Health? events here or follow @whatthehealthevents on Facebook or Instagram