We're Obsessed With Wellness. So Why Don't We Live Healthy Lifestyles?

 According to The One Brief, 80 percent of millennials say that physical wellbeing is among their top life priorities. Young people want to achieve health more than practically any generation that came before and spends inordinate quantities of time browsing blogs and consuming content, telling them how to get there. 


But here’s the weird thing: we already know what we need to do to make ourselves healthy. It’s no big secret. Simple things like eating right and getting sufficient sleep all play a massive role in determining our long-run health and the rate at which we age.


And yet, when you look at the behaviors of the people around you (and perhaps even yourself), you don’t find a firm commitment to health. Instead, you tend to see lifestyle patterns scientists have been telling us for years lead to disability and disease. 


So what the heck is going on here? Why don’t we all live healthy lifestyles, even though they’re something we seem to want? 


We Don’t Think About Wellness Holistically


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When it comes to wellness, we have a habit of breaking it down into different categories. Sleep, diet, and exercise all become central topics of interest, and we focus on each of them individually with great passion and vigor. 


Interestingly, though, they all feed into each other. If you have a sugary, fatty meal containing thousands of calories before you go to sleep, the quality of your rest will suffer. And, when you wake up the next morning, you’ll feel tired and less inclined to engage in exercise. 


A lack of exercise can then lead to weight gain, which can further harm your sleep, and so on. 


Instead of categorizing health aspects, we should instead try to view them as a series of broad, related lifestyle interventions. Eating and sleeping might seem like two fundamentally different activities because of their content (one involves chewing things; the other, falling unconscious and dreaming). But the goals of those two activities are identical - to achieve better health. Thus, they both complement each other and relate through multiple channels. Often, though, we treat them as if they're separate, undermining our efforts. 


We Want Results Now


Achieving health is a medium-term process. It’s something that most people begin to experience within a few months of changing their lifestyles. What’s more, improvements happen gradually - almost imperceptibly. We often find ourselves several weeks into a health kick feeling better, but not really appreciating just how much. 


The problem is that we want results now. Spending all day eating nothing but salad and veggies feels like a chore. And so when we do it, we expect to see differences emerging almost immediately. 


Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. Instead, it usually takes the body several weeks to adjust to the changes that we make. And it is only over the long-term that profound differences start to show up in our physiology. 


Take a look at some of the weight loss transformation that people post online. Not only do they often take a couple of years, but the aesthetic differences are almost always backloaded. It is only during the last few weeks of dieting when fat recedes sufficiently to reveal the structures of the face, the person looks different. 


Wanting results now is a sure-fire way to avoid wellness long-term. A better approach is seeing it as something that you live, instead of something you do. It should feel automatic, like cleaning your teeth or making the bed - not just a chore you have to grind out daily. 


We Don’t Understand Wellness


Here’s another thing that often goes wrong: we don’t fully understand wellness. 


This argument might sound a little strange, given our conversation earlier. But when you think about it, it makes sense. 


Most people, for instance, don’t understand the real power of lifestyle interventions. They think that it’ll make them healthier, but they can’t form an accurate picture of the extent of the health gains. Diet and exercise always seem like things that tinker around the edges of our health, instead of revolutionizing it entirely. 


As this website suggests, there is still massive confusion around individual chemicals in some food or food-like substances. Popular culture (and even the law) doesn't quite know how to approach the subject. 


The truth, though, is that these interventions are much more potent than popular culture knows. It’s not that eating fruits and vegetables is “good for you.” That’s the understatement of the century. It’s that these foods contain powerful chemical signaling that impacts genetic expression. It’s part of the reason why people who follow healthy eating long-term often look profoundly different from their peers. 


We Don’t Understand Our Bodies


There’s also an argument which says that we don’t really understand our bodies, even though we experience them directly. For instance, many of us get so used to feeling tired and lethargic all the time that we begin to consider it a normal part of life. We forget that it’s not. We often think we are well, even if we have continual bouts of anxiety or our stomachs regularly give us grief. 


Some of us have never experienced what it feels like to achieve bodily wellness, so we have nothing to compare our current state. We assume that how we feel is just a normal part of life, even if it isn't. 


We Don’t Want To Do The Work


Finally, many of us simply don’t want to do the hard work involved in achieving wellness. It requires a real commitment that both takes up time and energy. It doesn’t happen automatically. 


First, you have to research the subject and find out what you need to do. Then you need to apply it practically in your life by changing the foods that you eat and altering your work schedule. And on top of that, you have to fight against your urges to do things that could potentially hurt you, many of which are pleasurable. 


So that could be the situation we’re in right now. We all want wellness. But actually getting there is difficult for a host of reasons we don't yet understand. 



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