So, what does it mean to Thrive?
If you search for the meaning in well renowned dictionaries such as Oxford Dictionary, you will find rather ambivalent definitions: “Prosperous and growing; flourishing”. This means that the definition is related to some form of success. It can also be related to being healthy and strong. With that being said, it doesn’t fully cover the meaning of thriving, especially from a medical point of view. It is interesting that most of us have an intuitive definition of the word Thrive. The nature of Thriving ultimately stems from human’s constant desire on improve themselves.
From a historical perspective, the word Thrive derives from “Thrifta”, which is an Old Norse name. Directly translated, “Thrifta” means “to grasp”. Also, if we look at Shakespeare’s English vocabulary, the word Thrive was used to describe something growing or increasing.
The researchers have been trying to define the full meaning of the word “thrive”. This research has gained momentum primarily in the end of the 20thcentury. So, why is it still difficult to fully understand this word. The problem lies in the way research about thriving has been undertaken. Most of the research is within a specific niche, such as kids going to school, military veterans or elderly and their recreation status. Thriving has also been a focus on various business studies, where the parameters are related to performance, such as a sense of accomplishment, success and creation of wealth.
Specifically, human thriving is defined as the joint experience of development and success, which can be realized through effective holistic functioning and observed through the experience of a high-level of well-being and a perceived high-level of performance.
So, why do I think it important to define the word Thrive. Well, knowing more about how people thrive has important implications for professional practice. If we fully understand the implications on how we fully thrive, doctors and health professionals will more effectively design interventions that enable positive outcomes for the patients’ success and well-being.
To elaborate, the identification of the various components related to thriving will assist practitioners in designing and delivering targeted, evidence-based interventions, that facilitate the experience of development and success. In therapy, once habits related to that individuals thriving is established, it is easier and more motivating for the patient to repeat these practices in future scenarios.
To thrive in life is not only marked by feeling of happiness, or a sense of accomplishment, or having supportive and rewarding relationships, but is a collection of all these aspects. This means that we can’t look at only one parameter, but a range of markers, that when combined, underscore the existence of thriving. It is a joint experience of development and success. Based on this notion, thriving can be achieved by having a high level of well-being and perceived high level of performance.
So, what is well-being? Well-being is described as a state of being or doing well in life, and can be categorized into physical, emotional, psychological and social dimensions. For a person to truly thrive, all of these aspects must be in harmony.
There are also other words that are associated with thriving, primarily the words ”prospering”, ”resilience” and ”flourishing”. These words may seem similar, but have slightly different meanings. To prosper capture the success component of thriving, but not the developmental aspect. Resilience often follows a negative encounter, where growth occurs through the standing up against this obstacle. Thriving does not necessarily follow working through an obstacle, but also relates to seizing life’s opportunities.
And then we have the word flourishing. Someone who is flourishing is described as being mentally healthy, and the person’s experience of development and success. Flourishing predominantly focuses on psychosocial and emotional well-being. Thriving in contrast, can also be described in terms of physical well-being and performance components.
So, what drives the desire to thrive? Research has shown that individuals are motivated and energized by their personal talents and interests. Furthermore, the individual is motivated by a sense of doing something meaningful. So, how can we use this to our advantage? This ultimately means that in order to create a positive outcome for change, we need the knowledge of how, and feeling a sense of empowerment from doing this practice.
We do a lot of these healthy habits all the time, from brushing your teeth (to prevent tooth decay), to chew your food thoroughly (to ease our digestion), to sleep properly (to feel refreshed). The more we positively reinforce these positive habits, the more we move towards a sense of thriving.
I believe both to understand how to thrive, and follow directions based on individualized precautions is particularly important in todays’ medical environment. As a physician, we learn how to alleviate symptoms through a range of therapies. Even so, I am all too aware of the time issue, and the difficulty in grasping the wholesome contest of what is going on with each patient.
Having met patients regularly for more than a decade, it is natural to establish a sense of intuition on what the main reason for why the patient actually comes to the consultation. Sometimes, the presenting complaint such as a sore shoulder, evolve throughout the consultation to be about something entirely different, such as how to cope in the workspace or the stress of losing someone. I therefore find it essential to have enough time for each patient, to truly come to the root issues of why they are having problems, and then make the therapy much more effective.
We, as doctors, are generally worldwide gradually shifting our viewpoint from figuring out how to treat specific diagnoses and symptoms, to actually approaching the problem from a more holistic approach. I therefore find that the study of how to thrive is truly the best measure nowadays on preventative health and how to live to truly reach your true potential as human beings.
In functional medicine, the main objective is to look at the root causes for why patients develop their various ailments. By registering and documenting these findings, it is often perplexing and dumbfounding to think about why some elementary precautions have not been addressed sooner. The reason often depend on the knowledge and belief that there is a connection, or that it matters in the big picture. For example, if we neglect good sleep, and rather drink coffee to compensate, it will only be a matter of time before some seemingly unrelated symptoms appear such as a chronic migraine. Is the best therapy then to prescribe pain relief medications?
As a teacher at Royal College of Surgeons told me once. If you sit on a tack and are being prescribed pain relief, the pain doesn’t necessarily go away. The solution is to go to the source of the problem and remove the tack. Similarly, if you sit on two tacks and remove one of them. Is your pain halved? Hardly. Therefore, sometimes, and particularly with chronic ailments, there are multiple reasons why the symptoms occur, and all of them must be addressed to fully thrive.
It has also become clear that the earlier the health implementations are commenced, the better and more effective it is for the patient. Also, it is reckoned that this has a HUGE socioeconomic impact, alas how this will give a major relief to the expenditure of health practices worldwide. People who are in full vigor, and happy about their life, will also function better in the society and in the workspace. It should therefore be of major interest to the various governments to learn more about the fundamental constituents of how to thrive.
Today, we have access to a lot of information about health, but not all is good, or even truthful. I therefore think that we need further studies on the components of how to truly thrive, and thereby make this information accessible to everyone. By learning about what makes us truly thrive, we will then know how to reinforce these positive behaviors in the future.