Monday, July 3, 2017

The Power of Independence

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

“I am free to choose with awareness how I participate in challenges I intend to create.” - Elizabeth Barrett

How free do you feel to do what you want to do? What do you want? Independence Day is a time to reflect on not only our freedom as a country, but also on our individual freedom, independence and power to take control of our own lives. When it comes to your health and well-being, are you an active participant in your own life?

According to the 2016 Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index® which looks at Americans’ perception of their well-being in the five dimensions of sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, and physical health, New Jersey ranked 25/50. On the whole, we have historically low smoking rates, historically high exercise rates, and the highest scores recorded for Americans who have access to healthcare. Yet, chronic disease rates such as obesity, diabetes, and depression continue to rise since measurement began by Gallup-Healthways in 2008. In order to live our healthiest lives as New Jersey residents and members of our greater United States nation, we must look at how we are living as individuals and get to the underlying root causes of poor health.

Do you recognize that you have the power to control your destiny? The word “power” may trigger initial judgments of control, dominance, hierarchy, force, or influence. Dr. Elizabeth Barrett defines power as, “the capacity to participate knowingly in the nature of change characterizing the continuous mutual process of people and their world” (2009). According to the nurse Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings Theory, humans cannot not participate in change. In health coaching, we look at power as knowing participation in change through awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating change; it is an “experiential process” that can manifest in two ways: power-as-control and power-as-freedom (Barrett, 2009). When we look at power-as-control, we recognize our ability to have control of our health and well-being. The science of epigenetics is proving that we have an opportunity and ability to control how our genes are expressed. We may be at risk for chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease based on our family history, but the lifestyle choices we make have influence on those genes turning on or off. When we look at power-as-freedom, we see how a person is free to make choices regarding health promoting changes and their life situation. We can recognize the power of the amount of sleep we prioritize, the amount we exercise, the food we put in our body, the strategies we use to self-regulate our stress and how we live with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Dr. Elizabeth Barrett calls attention to the healthcare revolution going on in our country where we are looking more at “healing” versus "cure." Just as the United States of America is not just a sum of its parts, but is more than and different from the sum of each individual state, in this healthcare paradigm, “the whole person is not a sum of parts, but rather is more than and different from the sum of the parts” (2009). At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we look at health from a whole person perspective; mind, body, and spirit. Our five pillars of health include sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition, and resilience. We are on a mission to partner with the people we serve, and to empower them to access their full potential of well-being. By owning individual power as both control and freedom, we can all be the creators of our future.


Barrett, E. A. M. (2009). Living Powerfully Through Health Patterning. Retrieved from:

Dossey, B. M., Luck, S., Schaub, B. G. (2015). Nursing Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing. NY: International Nurse Coach Association, pp.303-306.

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