At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas, the CEO of Verizon gave us the following bucket of unhappy stats about what health care costs lately.
He said, “In this country alone, we spend $3 Trillion a year on health care, and it’s rising at more than 5 percent a year. In 2013, health care will consume 19 percent of the Federal budget, more than any other single item. Half of our health care bill goes to just 5 percent of the population, much of that for the treatment of chronic diseases. Yet for all of this, the state of Americans’ health has declined by almost 70 percent, compared to the 1990’s.”
Translation: Apparently, health care is expensive, and what we’re buying isn’t doing much good.
I, however, would argue that while health care may be expensive, even rightfully expensive, the pursuit of health is actually much like the pursuit of of happiness: it is free.
And yet while we are all very clear that it is our individual obligation as Americans to actively pursue happiness, we seem to think the opposite about health.
The idea that health is passively bought is wrong. If you want health you have to pursue it actively and not just when you’re sick. You wouldn’t stop working because you got one paycheck, so why we stop actively working on our health whenever we feel good is crazy.
The key to health is curiosity. Curiosity about your body, about your food, and about how you feel when you sweat and move vs. when you don’t, and how your stomach and heart react to stress and sadness and anger vs. how they feel when you’re smiling.
I’ve found these three ways to indulge my curiosity and successfully pursue health bonus while doing so:
1. Yoga. Yoga lets me actually feel my body in a way that I don’t when I’m pounding it into the floor with cardio and weights. I learned a lot when I stopped running marathons and started doing yoga. I’m not saying you can’t run a marathon too, but the view from your neck down drastically changes when you bring yoga into the mix. Classes can add up, but there is no gear – just you and a mat and your body. And you can do it anywhere.
2. Cooking. The only reason I know what’s in my food and what makes me feel good vs. bad, or fat vs. thin, is because I cook meals. You have no idea what’s really in restaurant or packaged food. If you learn to cook some simple things you learn what your body feels when you eat certain ingredients, and then you get way savvier when it comes to eating out too. When your body gets used to real ingredients it will loudly tell you when it gets anything less. It’s also cheaper to cook, hands down.
3. Sitting still and watching my breath for 5-10 minutes a day. When you sit and watch your breathing, doing nothing else, for a few minutes a day, you realize pretty fast where your head is. Usually it’s going 150mph in circles, churning out thoughts most of which are undirected and useless, driven by fear, anger, worry and preoccupation. Taking this bird’s eye view of your mental habits is a huge wake-up call. Doing it retrains your brain to focus, and is a practice that is in every “top habits of successful people” list you’ll ever read.
Being healthy is being curious. Much like happiness, if you aren’t interested in health, you won’t have it. You’ll just have a lot of really expensive health care lying around.
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