Taking Charge of Your Wellbeing

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Living Well

What does it take to flourish in life? A strong work ethic and perseverance are undoubtedly positive traits for personal success, but one crucial aspect that’s sometimes overlooked is a person’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being, otherwise known as “healthspan.” Whereas “health” refers to your physical state at any given moment (from healthy to unhealthy), healthspan refers to the part of your lifespan during which you are in good health. But fully understanding why it is so important to care about your healthspan is no easy task. It requires a difficult—but necessary—journey to understand that, to live as a human being, you must use your capacity to think (reason) to pursue goals that promote and extend life. 

Even among those who agree with the importance of healthy habits, it is an unfortunate reality that many Americans see maintaining a long healthspan as impossible. According to a 2019 survey by OnePoll, 67 percent say that while they believe their health to be important, they don’t have the time to invest in personal care. The repercussions of this lack of proper self-care are already starting to rear their heads: Chronic disease is currently prevalent in 47 percent of the population and is expected to worsen over the next several decades among all age groups.  

We all have distractions and outstanding commitments that can make it difficult to focus time and effort toward adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I’ll be the first to admit that my schedule in college made me fall off my normal health routines. All of my energy was focused on classes, with many sleepless nights or binges of unhealthy food only working to my detriment. But these unhealthy practices are not sustainable and only ruin your overall standard of living. 

Luckily for me, I took advantage of being trapped in a small apartment during the 2020 COVID lockdowns for introspection, and I decided to make a course correction toward a more health-conscious lifestyle that I knew would require a lifelong commitment. This might be daunting for some people. It is far easier to become lax in caring for your health when life is busy or filled with temptations for an “easier,” self-indulgent path. And yet, taking care of your health is absolutely necessary for you to reach your potential, knowing that the decisions made today will have a lasting impact on the future.  

But what does it mean to be health-conscious, and why should you go out of their way to be so? 

Not too long ago, I attended a funeral for a friend—I’ll call him John Doe. I share his tragic story here in the hopes that it serves as a wake-up call for why you must be your best advocate when it comes to your health, and regardless of age or fitness level, the time to take action is now. 

John was always a physically impressive individual. In our time at college, he was an ace in activities such as football, dodgeball, and anything that required one to be in good shape. He even took the time to teach me how to make the most out of exercising. Someone so young, so fit, and so full of life never stood out as a person who might be at a high health risk. And yet, just a few days before his graduation, John was dead.

How could a man in his mid-twenties leave the world so suddenly? It was due to a time bomb in his thyroid known as Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is rare, especially in young men, but what makes John’s death all the more tragic is that this disease could have been easily diagnosed and prevented . . . if he had ever gone to the doctor.

When it comes to being “health-conscious,” many young people believe in a dangerous myth today that being young equals being healthy. It’s a view where the natural course of life is for you to become sickly in old age. According to a 2018 survey from NORC at the University of Chicago, 40 percent of young Americans skip medical care or treatment, and 44 percent don’t go to the doctor when they are sick or injured. To be health-conscious ultimately means you need an active interest in your own health and well-being. While John’s story is a rare one, it highlights the fragility of personal health when you neglect to properly care for your body. But making the decision to invest in healthy lifestyle changes is more than just flipping a switch. You have to learn what it means to be healthy. 

Taking Charge of Your Health

The first step to becoming health-conscious is accepting that such a lifestyle is more than simply following a diet or exercising. Proper diet and exercise will certainly go a long way toward achieving and maintaining your healthspan (recent data even indicates how resistance training helps older people prevent physical and mental diseases). Still, the body is a complex and interconnected system where one issue can directly or indirectly affect other areas when it comes to health.

Recall that healthspan relates to your physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. If any single area is not considered in your personal care routine, its decline can seriously affect your overall healthspan. Your life may continue even after your health declines, but the quality of said life decreases. 

There is no easy way to support your health. Exercise alone won’t help you lose weight, nor is a diet enough to stave off age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). Even going to a doctor regularly is not the end-all-be-all for personal care. 

A healthy lifestyle requires you to manage your health by tackling it from multiple angles (diet, doctors, exercise, self-testing, etc.), all the while dedicating yourself to upholding these healthy, life-affirming values consistently, without compromise, as a matter of principle. This level of personal responsibility and effort can make it difficult for many people to put in the work to be healthy. But if you truly want to commit yourself to promoting and extending your life, then it is absolutely necessary.  

You only live once, and truly embracing a lifestyle dedicated to personal flourishing means striving to be the best version of yourself. One of the benefits of living in the modern era, however, is that we now have access to more ways than ever to do research and find ways to make living healthy easy to practice. Such a commitment requires an active mind ready to jump into the driver’s seat and ask, “What do I need to do to become healthier?” All you need to do is be willing to take the time and effort for the first step.

On Solid Ground is a community blog where we publish articles by guest contributors as well as by the staff and officers of OSI. The ideas offered by guest contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the ideas of the staff or officers of OSI. Likewise, the ideas offered by people employed by OSI are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of others in the organization.

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