Are We Pathologizing Basic Life Activities When We Label Everything AS “Medicine” ?
Pathologizing Daily Activity
It’s been in vogue lately to refer to everything as medicine. “Nature” as medicine”, “Food as Medicine” “Exercise as Medicine”, “Rest as Medicine”, “Self-care as Medicine”, “Happiness as Medicine” and the list goes on. It’s my opinion, when we label basic life activities and referring to them as “medicine” we run the risk of pathologizing the best of life’s experiences. The risk of perpetuating a pathological mindset that suggests if we’re not actively pursuing “medicine” in all our activities, there must be something wrong with us. That mindset, along with “I’m not enough; I’m not OK the way I am” perpetuates depression and anxiety disorders. We know mental and metabolic disorders are inseparable at the fundamental level of mitochondria. By adding the descriptive “medicine” label to activities that don’t need any conditionality, that can simply be enjoyed, are we actually introducing pathology where it isn’t necessary? Are we taking away from the beauty of activities as they are?
The Pace of Life and Daily Activities
The past few weeks I was afforded the opportunity to work from a place so remote, there were no signs, nor sounds of mankind. Outside of work hours, this opportunity focused my attention on basic life activities which eventually brought forth deep appreciation for the pace of life as it is; not that of my insistence. Every simple activity from cooking to washing laundry in a bucket, using a broom and dustpan, and even dog care took 3 times longer than usual. At first tasks seemed annoyingly slow, challenging my limited levels of patience, and quickly rightsizing any expectations of time management. Originally this trip was intended to last four days, I extended out to 14. With great team members, projects and the administration of my practice were accomplished perfectly well without me or my daily barrage of emails and reminders. I achieved peace with the pace of daily activities and could explore the majesty and intricacies of life with wonder and vitality, rather than purpose-driven execution.
Being Healthy and Content Without Labels and Conditions
Returning home I found that I couldn’t summon my familiar frenetic, hyper-focused Monday morning energy. Energy, excitement, and a mindset that typically prompts “feet on floor; out the door” around 5:00. In mild bemusement I felt as though the wiring harness to my batteries had been severed. The cortisol “low level” indicator was flashing amber. With no consternation, I dawdled in bed, read Ted Kyle’s and Angela Fitch’s latest LinkedIn posts. I sipped a mug of coffee so slowly it went cold. On rising I took time to perfect eggs over easy, wandering barefoot across dew laden grass to cut fresh flowers for my husband’s bedside table. Later, my work day began with patients at 8 AM, but there was slower, less directive quality to sessions. Maybe even a heightened awareness of my patients energy; and greater empathy for their challenges. I realized more keenly that across my workweek, the majority of my patients suffering with mental and metabolic health disorders beat themselves up mercilessly. Blame and shame regarding self-view, life-view, history, perceptions, and choices are constant life-draining companions. The startling dichotomy between this mindset and mine, so recently tempered by the natural flow of life and nature itself, prompted me to wonder:
To what extent are we pathologizing daily life activities, and how can we retain or retrain the appropriate use of the term “medicine”? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Heather Hamilton PhD
Director of Innovation, Research, and Content Development