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The Difference Between Sick, Well, & Whole

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The Difference Between Sick, Well, & Whole

As I described here, I don’t think it’s enough for us, as doctors and other health care providers, to aim for helping our patients get well. Yes, it’s critical to help people move from sick to well, but then what? So many of my patients go to their doctors, complaining from symptoms of this mojo-sapping epidemic that seems to be infecting the developed world. We feel fatigued, depressed, listless, unfulfilled. We suffer from decreased libido, lack of spiritual connection, insomnia, anxiety, and other vague symptoms.

So we go to the doctor, feeling like something must be “off.” And the doctor runs tests but pronounces us “well.” Only we don’t feel well. We’re not technically sick, but we’re definitely not vital.

Beyond Wellness

When I think of my definition of health, it extends way beyond wellness. Vitality, life force, verve, and joie de vivre come to mind, but we mustn’t discount the body itself. We need a word that encompasses all that it means to be globally healthy. Personally, I prefer the word “mojo,” which someone in the Owning Pink community defined as “MOre JOy.”

Many people don’t really understand when I use the word “mojo.” They think I’m talking about what Austin Powers lost – and that’s certainly part of it. So I’ve started using the term interchangeably with the word “whole” instead of “healthy.” Try it out. See how it feels for you. Do you want to be whole?

Being whole means that you are enough – just as you are. defines “whole” as “pertaining to all aspects of human nature, especially one’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.” And that’s a good start.

A synonym for “whole” is “complete,” and yet, “complete” doesn’t do it for me. “Complete” implies a beginning and an end. “Complete” suggests that you can arrive and be done, that you can achieve completeness and then rest on your complete laurels.

“Whole” knows better. “Whole” understands that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. “Whole” is an ongoing process, something you continually strive for and never give up seeking.

But to me, “whole” means much more. It encompasses everything we think of when we think of “vitality,” “life force,” “verve,” and “joie de vivre,” but it also contains within it many other facets of who we are – not just the physical body and our mental health, but our spirituality, work/ life purpose, creativity, sexuality, environment, financial issues, and much more.

To me, when all those things are in balance, we feel whole.

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Read more: Alternative Therapies, General Health, Health, Men's Health, Mental Wellness, Self-Help, Women's Health, , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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5:25AM PST on Nov 6, 2011

My mother has lupus and fibromyalgia, and is _definitely_ not well, but she's the most energetic and busy person I know. She runs two small businesses from home that she started herself and are now know internationally, she travels all over the world, she's very active in her community with church, choir, a craft group and a Welsh language class. She also spends a couple hours every day walking her dogs. I have no idea how she does it, so I can only assume it's some of that vitality you're talking about Lissa :)

3:28PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

I just got a medical checkup from a doctor. He is amazed at my excellent health at my age - 69 Halloween.

I gave him my testimony of how God healed me. I don't think he's a believer but he listened and was exclaiming over my health, happiness and attitude.

All of the tests showed radically excellent health. Even my memory.

And the records are there. They prove my story of how I was once dying and Jesus made me alive. What can Dr. say?

He said he really enjoyed meeting with me and we were both glowing.

I put no pressure on him, no evangelism. I just shared when he let me know my excellent health and attitude, at my age, had him impressed.

We completly enjoyed each other.

And by the way, I've often mentioned in comments how I eat almonds to keep cancer away. Dr. told me people go to Mexico to get over cancer. They are given almonds. They get well.

I said, "Well, why don't they stay over here and eat almonds?"

He said, "People don't believe in that over here."

I said, "More and more people are believing."

2:01PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Thanks for posting.

12:51PM PDT on Oct 2, 2011


12:51PM PDT on Oct 2, 2011


11:55PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Very touching. My Mum died recently at 95 and I see some parallels. She had not been well for a year, but fought and always claimed she was fine. Suddenly she said she would like to go to sleep and not wake up. A few days later she suddenly developed pneumonia, I admitted her to hospital. She went into a coma. She left us 3 days later very peacefully while I was holding her hand. She seemed to have a smile on her face. She knew and was ready. I was not. But I am happy for her.

4:33PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Thank you Lissa, this is a lovely article. Your new book seems like it shall be a good read.

1:12PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

thank you

9:04PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011


11:20PM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

Interesting article, thought provoking, thank you

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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