Health is not Everything?!
Congratulations to you, reader! If you are reading these lines, you are most likely concerned about your health, think about your future, want to become tougher and stronger, live longer and better. Concern about the optimal state of health is already an indication of health since people who live one day simply don’t think about the long-term consequences of their actions. However, you are here, which means that you believe in yourself and are ready to handle various challenges.
Referring to the question: “What’s the most important thing for you?” we confidently respond, “Health!” I guess you’d be surprised if I suddenly say that health shouldn’t be your primary goal. After all, we end conversations by wishing each other to stay healthy, and one of the toasts during feasts (which aren’t always healthy) will definitely be to everyone’s health.
With all responsibility, I declare that the excessive pursuit of health is a symptom of poor health. A person who sets health as their main goal is certainly unhealthy and likely even suffers from hypochondria. Why?
The thing is that health is an instrument and a method of existing and reaching something; it is a secondary value and not an end in itself. We need health for life, not life for health. Also, secondary values, such as love, a beautiful body, money, power, moral principles, and self-expression—they arise from the pursuit of different goals spontaneously, mainly as a side effect. When people lead a healthy lifestyle and like it, they don’t put in any special effort, and they become healthy as a result.
An attempt to become healthy quickly and at any cost leads to an obsession with strict diets, marathons, dangerous experiments on yourself, consumption of questionable pills—all to receive an immediate effect. The more we wish to possess good health, the quicker it slips from us. Very often, people imitate health, creating an image and using a whole range of means for this.
For example, beauty. Evolutionarily, beauty is an indicator of health and energy, an external reflection. However, an attempt to become beautiful quickly leads to dangerous types of diets, disfiguring cosmetic procedures and plastic surgeries, and a loss of adequate self-esteem. The same can be said about social influence: ideally, power emerges as a side effect of your competency and ability to get along with people.
Health develops spontaneously when you reach and reflect upon your place in life, set ambitious goals, care about yourself and others, and have the desire to achieve more without excessive tension and effort. Don’t fight with your body and mind, as they also wish to be healthy.
When our goals require us to be healthy, when we expand our resources and influences, our body and mind receive a powerful impulse to improve, to become stronger, more active, intelligent, and resilient. That’s why the correct question that I would like to hear from you is: “Why do I need to be healthy?” In each of my studying courses, I ask: “Why do people come to learn about health?” Most often, I hear the following answers:
To avoid discomfort, suffering, and pain. People turn to health improvement courses to solve already existing problems. Diseases drain our resources, make us more sensitive and weak. Improving health not only helps us to enhance our organisms but also increases the level of control over our bodies, which leads to reduced pain sensitivity and improved conditions even with existing diseases.
A healthy lifestyle is very effective for disease prevention, even cancer. It is established that the risk of cancer is 40% lower for a healthy person than for a person with weaker health. Even if a person who leads a healthy lifestyle becomes ill, the risk of a lethal outcome reduces by 14-60%.
To increase energy levels and intellectual and physical capabilities. Today, many people come to me for their health, but they label it differently—they call it energy. Such a request arises when a person feels well but faces an increased workload. Often people refuse a promising job or business expansion due to exhaustion and burnout. Their usual health level is insufficient, and to adapt to new demands and avoid burnout, they need to increase their “health reserve.” Don’t sacrifice your health for work; improve your health, and work with pleasure! I am convinced that having stronger health will ensure you a higher capacity for working without burnout.
The good news is that maladaptiveness isn’t indisputable since skill can be trained and developed. Health becomes a superpower: after all, the larger the adaptational resource you have, the more you can do and the higher you can reach. Things that will tire out a weak person with a low energy level won’t stop a person with a high energy level. The more energetic you are, the easier it is to receive what you want.
Many have already realized that the main value is not time, but specifically energy: any deviation from the optimum leads to a decline in health and energy resources. When our organism only assumes a potential lack of capacity, a threat to its state, it automatically switches to “saving mode.”
The abundance of health resources allows us to spend our efforts generously and direct them fully to important tasks. Energy begins from the physical level, where it is supported by nutrition, physical activity, and sleep. From the physical level, it shifts to the psychological level, where it is realized as stress resistance and the ability to concentrate your attention. Next, on personal and social levels, it unfolds as goals, values, and meanings that guide our actions.
The desire to become stronger, increase personal resources, and develop abilities, the will to live and have power over yourself, and the instinct for survival and self-preservation are natural and healthy impulses that are present in each individual. Listen to yourself, listen to your body—it wants to live at full capacity. Give yourself the opportunity to live each day of your life healthily and energetically.
To become more beautiful and attractive. Health improvement? Firstly, it’s beautiful. It is programmed evolutionarily: attractiveness is perceived as health. Moreover, it refers not only to physical attractiveness but also to psychological resilience. Face proportions, symmetry, gait, waist-to-hip ratio, smell, and other “signs of beauty” have great importance, of course. However, a healthy person is also relaxed, charismatic, and attentive to others, and in being so, attracts attention.
Psychological health and confidence are no less noticeable than physical beauty: even “shining eyes” isn’t a simple metaphor but rather an accurate health indicator. I receive aesthetic pleasure from healthy people; it is nice to be around them, and it is nice to deal with them. I’ll note that when you are healthy, your relationship with yourself also improves: life is much happier when your reflection looks excellent. Your desire to be beautiful is natural, so support and encourage it!
To live longer. Fear of death and helplessness scare people. Often health is perceived as an opportunity to live longer, to avoid or minimize helplessness and frailty of old age, and to prolong not only the lifespan but specifically the time of activity in your life. After all, amid the increase in life expectancy, the number of illnesses that darken the last years of a person’s life and the state of people around them grows.
A healthy lifestyle by itself cannot drastically extend the lifespan, and supercentenarians mainly have a corresponding genetic predisposition. However, simple rules of health maintenance can extend men’s lives by 7-8 years and women’s lives by 10 years on average and also noticeably decrease risks of many diseases.
You won’t simply live longer but also will stay younger for a longer time and delay the onset of diseases. It is in your hands. And most importantly: health significantly increases the quality of life in practically all aspects!
To become happier. The question of happiness is largely the question of health. After all, the quality of our mind is the quality of our whole life. Can an unhappy person be healthy? Of course not! It is quite the paradox: while we have much more than our ancestors had, we haven’t become happier, but rather the opposite, since depression is becoming more and more common.
Depression can occur in conjunction with multiple biological factors, including obesity, chronic inflammation, impaired thyroid function, and lower testosterone levels, and not only because of stress.
Genetics are also of great importance: well-being is 35-40% defined by genes. For example, the carriers of “long” variants of serotonin gene 5-HTTLPR are happier than owners of “short” variants. Or maybe this is about a low level of lithium in drinking water or folic acid deficiency? As you can see, the question of happiness is largely tied to our biology.
If you often experience a prolonged feeling of unhappiness, it might be a symptom of an illness. However, for happiness, you need both physical and mental health. Happiness is an experience and fullness of life. It’s not only possession of money but also an opportunity to spend more on yourself: your health, a trainer, or a psychotherapist. Happiness is a process, a practice, and not a result. And like any other skill, it can be learned. The pursuit of happiness is an integral right of every human being.
Aristotle believed that happiness is not so much hedonia, pleasure from food or music, as it is eudaimonia—satisfaction from the right way of living. Happiness isn’t a thrill, euphoria, pleasure, or just a prevalence of positives over negatives. Scientists have proven the existence of the so-called paradox of hedonism—the conscious pursuit of happiness or pleasure diminishes these states. Indeed, the attempts to reach sensual happiness through self-stimulation are meaningless.
Buddha compared sensual pleasures with a meatless bone thrown to a dog. When the dog tries to gnaw on the dry bone, its sharp edges hurt the dog’s gums, which start to bleed. The dog thinks that the bone is juicy and delicious, and its fervor only grows. By trying to pursue pleasure, we only lose happiness.
Happiness is a meaning, a purpose, and involvement. For a few decades already, philosophers have been talking about the “meaninglessness epidemic” that generates an existential vacuum. The reasons for the crisis include suppression and weakening of biological instincts, the collapse of traditional roles, and a low number of people able to create meaning in life by themselves. That’s why many fill the emptiness inside with unhealthy behavior.
Happiness is a joy from realizing your potential and relationships with other people. Happier people have close and high-quality connections. Our social connections are a sort of buffer from the blows of life. A low level of awareness and “mind-wandering” decrease happiness, while practicing awareness or a flow state increases it.
Each of the health resources we will study in this book is directly related to happiness as healthy people live noticeably longer and get sick less. That’s why I hope that the book will not only make you healthier but also happier.
Questions and Assignments
1. For what purposes do you need health? Is what you have now enough for you? How many years would you like to live?
2. Which of your physical and mental characteristics would increase the probability of reaching your goals? Is it important for you to be more attentive, beautiful, smart, energetic? What does being happy mean to you?
3. Do you know someone who was forced to end a project or leave their job due to health reasons? Is it possible that the reason wasn’t the job itself but a low health level?