The is the first post of many that will address health as it relates to happiness. In particular, I’m going to be talking about the three pillars of health: exercise, diet, and rest. There is a TON of scientific evidence out there that says your happiness level is related to all three. I’ll probably share a few choice articles, but for the most part I’m just going to be talking about common sense stuff, and things that I have noticed in my own personal experience.
I think we can all agree that the health of the average American has been steady on the decline for a few decades. Skyrocketing obesity rates. A lot of cancer. A huge percentage of the population on prescription medication. We aren’t doing so good at taking care of ourselves. Sure, our life expectancy has been going up, but that is mostly due to advancing technology and reducing infant mortality rates. Besides, there is evidence that unless something changes this generation will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Think about that for a minute. Technology and science and medical breakthroughs are all increasing at the fastest rate ever in the history of mankind, and yet we are going to live shorter lives. Something has seriously gone wrong. Lucky for you I’m going to offer advice on how to make sure you don’t fall into those statistics.
This is where the big three come in.
Exercise. We all need to get more. But we’re so busy, right? Who has the time? Let me offer you a different frame of mind. We all have a finite amount of time down here on Spaceship Earth, right? And we all want that time to be as enjoyable as possible. Some studies suggest that walking 30 minutes a day adds 1.3 healthy years to your life. Just so you don’t have to do any math, that’s about a week of walking in a year. So you give up a year, for every 52 years, give or take. So the break even point is roughly 68 years. Meaning, that if you walk 30 minutes a day for 68 years, you will gain 1.3 healthy years of life, but you will have spent 1.3 years walking. Now, you may be thinking, “Well that’s only breaking even! That doesn’t sound like a good deal.” But you’d be wrong. For one, you get to ENJOY all that time walking. Especially if you have someone to walk with. A nice leisurely stroll on a lovely day, is one of life’s best simple pleasures. Not only that, but we are ignoring an operative word here, “1.3 healthy years.” All that walking adds up to a healthier you. Lower risk of heart disease and diabetes (among others). Lower risk of cancer. Less likely to need joint replacements. Not to mention that simply exercising alters your genes! All good stuff, and I’ll delve deeper in later posts. Plus, that’s only walking. There are hundreds of ways you can get exercise, and a lot of them are really enjoyable. I’ll be giving you some fun exercise ideas as these posts come along.
Diet. I’m not talking about Atkins, South Beach, or the Ice Cream Diet (yes, that’s really a thing). I’m just talking about the food you eat everyday. Over the years Americans have been eating more and more fast food and, in general, have been eating out more often. This is bad. For one, we are now a nation of fat-asses. Seriously. I live in the South and we are uber unhealthy down here when it comes to food. Think about evolution (remember, we already agreed it was a thing). We evolved eating plants, and the occasional meat when we were lucky enough to track and kill something. So why do we think it’s OK for us to be stuffing our faces with preservatives and chemicals and pink slime? This stuff is unhealthy. The weird thing is, we all know it’s unhealthy, but we eat it anyway. Myself included. It’s like we are addicted. In the future I’ll be issuing some food related challenges and talking more about how eating and cooking affects my happiness. Plus, I’ll be giving you guys some healthy, delicious recipes on occasion.
Rest. Good old fashioned sleep. It’s a catch-22. You don’t want to waste your time sleeping (or maybe you do… I love sleeping), but you can’t get the most out of your day without it. Where do you draw the line? Eight hours is what we’ve all heard for most of our lives. I find it really depends on what I’ve been doing recently. If I’ve been getting a ton of exercise I can sleep 10 hours no problem. If I sat on my ass watching Netflix all day, then 6 or 7 is probably fine. Rest is really important, but it’s also the easiest fix. Get your sleep. Seriously, because new research suggests that going even one week with bad sleep affects your genes! I will be talking about rest in at least one future post, but I have more to say on the other two, because I think that is where most people are not maximizing their potential happiness.
There you have it. Some general thoughts and promises of good things to come. This is a topic I feel really strongly about. I have devoted a lot of time and energy to thinking about my own health, and ways to hack my lifestyle to get the most reward for the smallest amount of work. Everyone has room for improvement when it comes to their health. And I promise that if you just devote a little more time to cultivating a healthier lifestyle, you will be so, sooo happy you did. Not to mention the 50 or 60 year-old you will give you a high-five through the space-time continuum. OK, so maybe you won’t bend space and time by being healthier, but you will definitely look and feel better. If that’s doesn’t motivate you, then I don’t know what will (other than bending space and time, of course).