Isn't it all about Health!

Health seems to be the one thing most valued by human kind, yet it is all too often taken for granted and allowed to slip away. When people have lost money, houses, land and others they love, they often say "well at least I (we) have my (our) health."

Health can be thought of as the status quo, but in contemporary society, there are so many ways that it becomes hampered through modern technology, diet, urban and workplace design, to name a few. People are seeking remedies to maintain or to regain health as it has been weakened or lost.

What is it then?

For me, health is a part of the person, including body & mind, social relations and community, environment and political realities.

I began my journey into understanding and promoting health in the mid 1980s when I took a course on health psychology at McGill University. Being between degrees and taking a few years out, I was in a period of exploration of ideologies and practices as part of my then young adult identity crisis. At that time I also began to explore practices like Tai Chi and Yoga and some of the potential health benefits, including a focus on hypertension and heart disease. It was while search for research articles at Redpath Library that I stumbled on a paper by Anand Paranjpe on Yogic philosophy. At the time I told myself that while it would not help me on my term paper, that I should look this professor up when I am back home in New Westminster and visiting Simon Fraser University.

Meanwhile I had become aware of the connection between psychological (mental) processes and physical health through my studies at McGill, also understanding the breadth of potential applications of psychology to health and healthcare. My Journey began.

What really is health?

Marks, Murray, Evans & Estacio (2011) present several models of health, including a historical account of its philological roots. The term arises from old English and Old German terms of Hale, Whole, Holy and Heil or Hail. These gave rise to the greeting "Hello". Here one can see the interest in wholeness, being un harmed or morally good.

For Marks et al., taking a holistic approach, the health of the person is connected to the health of the family, the community and the environment and the world. The planetary health ultimately rains down upon all of its beings, including us. Thus to protect and foster positive growth of our environments and places of agricultural work and recreation we are enhancing our own social, physical and psychological health.


Upon my return from Montreal to Vancouver in the summer of 1986, I looked up Professor Paranjpe and soon became his student working on an honours project on social identification and moral reasoning. I continued to work with Dr. Paranjpe throughout the next decade on my master's on Identity and Acculturation among Indo-Canadian youth and young adults and later my PhD on Identity and acculturation among Canadians and immigrants.

It was during that research that I began to research stress as part of acculturation and later during a Postdoc with Anand working on the Metropolis project that I got more seriously into studying the nature of stress. I have since been developing a bio-psycho-social measure of stress and adjustment for international students and new immigrants.

Since 2012 I have been refining this measure, having used it for several studies, including: Tonks (2014); Wu, Tonks & Sorokina (2014); Wu, Tonks, Chim & Karkon (2016); and Sorokina, Tonks & Puzanov (2016).

I have continued to research health process, specifically both factor analysis of stress (Tonks & Sorkina, in preparation) as well as social relations and identity formation (Lowe, Tonks & Shah, 2016).

Along side of my development as a psychologist in the areas of health, acculturation and identity development I also have been developing as a practitioner of Tai Chi and a follower of Traditional Chinese Medicine beginning when I arrived at SFU in the fall of 1986.