We often think that good health is produced by healthy habits such as exercise or eating a healthy diet that helps keep cholesterol levels in check and promotes good heart health. The truth is, however, that good health may be less a result of our healthy habits and more attributable to our overall sense of well-being. In fact, having a good sense of well-being may actually be the most fundamental factor in determining how well we engage in all those other healthy habits.
While it is true that good health has a profound effect on your well-being, it has long been believed that the best way to improve your well-being is to improve your physical health. After all, if you eat well, get plenty of exercises and sleep well, then all of those habits will have a profound effect on your well-being. The truth is, however, that the key to improving your physical health may actually be to first improve your well-being. If health is how you feel, then well-being is how you feel about yourself.
For instance, science has clearly shown that adequate sleep is critically important to overall good health. Yet, people that struggle with psychological, spiritual or emotional issues generally tend to have difficulty sleeping. In addition, when we are tired, science has also shown that we are more likely to make poor food choices. Being chronically tired can lead us to make chronically poor food choices, which in turn affects our overall health. In addition, when you are tired, it also takes away your motivation to exercise and can make you overly dependent on stimulants like caffeine, which can also have a detrimental impact on your health.
Many seniors have difficulty sleeping and unfortunately, this is all-too-often treated as a medical issue. Doctors often do what doctors do and simply prescribe medications for sleep. In truth, however, while up to 40% of seniors complain of having difficulties sleeping, only a small fraction of them have legitimate sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
In the Western world, whenever we have a physical problem, we see a medical doctor who addresses the physical issue. In truth, however, there is a wide range of psychological, spiritual and emotional issues that can also make it difficult for people to get a good night’s sleep. By nature, seniors have lived longer and therefore have had many more years to carry around emotional baggage. This can include long-held secrets, grudges and even romantic feelings for someone. In the emotional world, just as in the physical, the longer you carry southing, the heavier it becomes. While seniors may take medications to help them sleep, it’s not going to have any impact on the emotional weight they are carrying.
The truth is, that in many cases, before our physical health can improve we need to actually deal with the psychological or emotional issues that might actually be the root cause of our bad health habits. For instance, if you are miserable, you have very little incentive to practice good health habits. No matter how many times your doctor tells you fried chicken is bad for you, if fried chicken makes you feel better, you’re not going to give up your fried chicken. No matter how many times your doctor tells you to get up and exercise if you are too depressed to do it, it’s not going to happen.
While the Western world is hugely enamored of the idea of physical health being simply a byproduct of good health habits, the truth is, those good health habits are generally just a byproduct of a high level of overall well-being. If your blood pressure is too high, you can go to a doctor to get medication to help bring your blood pressure down, or you can learn meditation techniques or do yoga or engage in other practices that help calm the mind, promote peace and reduce the stress that might be the cause of your blood pressure.
When we think of a “high-stress” lifestyle, we often think of a person who is under a lot of pressure and constantly busy all the time. While this can certainly include some seniors, overall, seniors tend to move at a more sedentary pace throughout their day and don’t feel as obligated to cram their schedules full. Being busy is not the only cause of stress, however. Carrying around emotional baggage can also cause stress and the longer you carry it, the more stressful it becomes.
This is not to imply that medications are not important or that doctors can’t help, it just means that in many cases, doctors are treating symptoms, but the real issue won’t go away until you get to the root. It means that in many cases, no matter how many pills your doctor may prescribe, you won’t actually get better until you improve your well-being.