German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: ‘The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness.’
And yet many of us do this all the time don’t we?
In the pursuit of happiness, many people will choose instant gratification over that all-important focus on our health and wellbeing.
That second helping of cake when out with friends, that boozy afternoon long lunch in the bistro, that realisation on a Sunday morning that you haven’t done any exercise this week because you were too busy getting that project finished.
Many of us know we smoke, drink or eat too much. We realise that working long hours, not making time for physical exercise and not getting enough sleep is bad for our physical health. We accept all this, but do we really, truly ‘know’ it?
We may even know that not relaxing, having no perspective, allowing ourselves to be blown about by our emotions, ignoring our fears and burying anxieties under a mountain of other mental health concerns so high that we need a ladder to peek over the top, is not good for us.
We know all this, but do we really ‘know’?
Knowing something as in ‘I know I should stop smoking, it’s costly and bad for my health’ is not the same as ‘knowing’ it deep down in your tummy. Really knowing it to the point of commitment to make and execute a change.
Many of us become resolute when faced with tragedy. When my best friend died of breast cancer, I vowed to keep myself fit and healthy. I vowed that a life cut tragically short at 42 should mean something, that I would live my life to the full and not work such long hours. I was no longer going to be a slave to circumstances that I could easily change, and I was going to deal with any fears I may have, resolve any false and limiting beliefs that were holding me back.
But did I actually do any of this?
No, of course I didn’t. I knew I should do it, but I didn’t ‘know’ it. I was reacting, yes, but what I really needed to do was be proactive.
And that is at the heart of looking after our wellbeing as well as often being the greatest challenge we face.
Many of us can’t see it at all because other stuff gets in the way.
We can’t see the damage our unhealthy lifestyles are causing. We can’t easily check on the condition of our heart, liver, kidneys or lungs. We can’t see the struggles our minds go through while we try and navigate the choppy waters of our day-to-day lives.
They should invent an app which tells you:
‘Good morning, given the current data we hold, you will have a heart attack on 4th October, or ‘Your cortisol levels are so high right now, we estimate you’ll have a mental breakdown by next Wednesday.’
Maybe if you had that confirmation in plain English, you would do something about it.
Or would you?
I know quite a few people whose GPs have told them bluntly: ‘If you carry on drinking, in six months’ time you will need a new liver.’
Did it stop them?
No, it did not.
And that is because another factor kicks in – denial. It’s not only that that person can’t see it, but they think it will never happen to them.
Which is odd because genetically we are hard-wired towards negative bias, always looking at the negative before the positive so why doesn’t denial work for us?
Because denial gives us the excuse doesn’t it?
That busy businessman or woman may say: ‘I’m not going to develop stress just because I have to work seven days to get my business off the ground. It’s what everyone does, right?’
Or ‘One chocolate bar isn’t going to see me off is it?’
When asked by your GP or nurse how much alcohol you drink, how many of you reading this have shaved a few units off?
If denial is such an issue, then what is the answer?
It’s choice. Because choice makes us look at reality.
You were given this wonderous gift of your body and mind. It may have not been perfect at birth or you may develop ailments along the way. Your body serves you well. It’s yours to do with what you will. Embrace it and love it, it is the most amazing thing you will ever have.
Don’t get complacent. You wouldn’t pick up the keys to your new car and drive it into the nearest wall. You drive it carefully to start with but then complacency can easily kick in and, hey, those few scratches can be dealt with another time.
It’s the choices you make which are important, crucial even. Look after your body, treat it well and if you are lucky, it will reward you with a long life. Look after your mind, treat it well and it will carry you through many a tricky situation.
It is a good idea to take a holistic look at your lifestyle. Take the time to identify the small changes you can make today to create healthy habits. Don’t view them as restrictions.
Make your life your priority because a year from now you’ll wish you had started today.
Your life only gets better when you do. Work on yourself and the rest will follow.
And if you want a different tomorrow, then today needs to change.
Nicole Huthwaite, Psychotherapist & Clinical Hypnotherapist
Nicole Huthwaite Therapy
Nicole is a member of the Woman Who Achieves Academy. You can find out more about the Academy HERE