We all know what we need to do to live healthy lives. Eat right, exercise more, sleep, and have positive social interactions. It’s an incredibly simple formula.
But how many people actually do it? Well, according to the statistics, almost nobody.
For instance, when researchers looked into how many people were eating a healthy diet, they found that it was actually less than one percent of the population. The vast majority of people weren’t getting enough beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in their diets, and were suffering because of it.
The statistics weren’t much better for exercise. Around three-quarters of people don’t get the recommended minimum level of physical activity.
But why is this the case? Why can’t we just look after ourselves?
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We Can’t Accept A Little Pain
Being healthy requires pain now for reduced suffering in the future. Unfortunately, many of us are so intolerant of uncomfortable experiences that we avoid them entirely.
For instance, to get healthy, you might have to eat less and go hungry for a while. Even though this approach is effective, the vast majority of people can’t stomach it. They feel fear and anxiety, just at the thought.
The same is true of exercise. It actually feels good in the long run, but if you aren’t used to it, it can be a painful experience.
The key here is to learn to get comfortable with pain. You can deal with it by telling yourself that it is a necessary part of the healing process.
Another common issue is renegotiation – changing your plan at the slightest sign of discomfort or temptation.
For instance, suppose you’re trying to eat healthily and prepare yourself meals from scratch in the evening. Ostensibly, it’s a great idea. However, it takes time. Eventually, you start making excuses, like “I’ve prepared four meals already this week, a quick take-out won’t hurt,” or “I’m too tired to prepare anything fresh so I will eat a ready meal.”
While these excuses sound rational and convincing, they will eventually derail you.
We Fall Prey To Habit
As treatment centers such as Sunshine Behavioral Health know all too well, people often fall prey to habit. It can be difficult to get out of an entrenched pattern of behavior and follow a new one. People can do it, but usually only after some sort of enormous crisis in their lives.
Taming habits can be hard, but it can be done through conscious effort. For instance, if you eat potato chips in front of the TV in the evening, don’t buy them at the store. If you must snack, eat fruit.
Similarly, if you always drive the car to work, sell it and cycle instead. This way, you have to exercise, whether you like it or not.
In many cases, we’re simply not all that fussed about our health goals and forget. The consequences of the bad choices we make today seem so far off in the future that we don’t worry about them.