The Blog

What Would You Swap Your Health For?

When asked, most of us would say that being healthy is a top priority. In a survey of 100 people that I have just made up for this article, 87% of people list it as the single most essential aspect of a fulfilling life. At pretty much every celebration you'll hear wishes of 'good health' and 'health and happiness' (usually by someone after glass or two of fizz). And those people in the adverts! We know they're models and it's all staged, but look how happy they are - they must be healthy and we want to feel like them too!

Most of us do something about it as well. Whether it's taking the stairs, looking out for 'low fat' and 'with added vitamins' in the supermarket or inhaling as much of the latest superfood we can get our hands on, we're game to give most things a go if only to keep the marketing nudgers happy.

If being nudged isn't enough then the powers that be try to give us a shove by taxing nasties like cigarettes, alcohol and soon to be sugar if Jamie gets his way. On a much smaller scale, some healthy stuff is subsidized to encourage us to do it more; think swimming at your local pool and... well that's probably it come to think of it.

So given our appetite for health it's amazing how confused we are by it. I like to think of it as an even more complicated version of bitcoin; it's worth a lot, not many people have it, we all really want it, at a minimum we'd love to understand it, the chap sitting next to you at a dinner part actually claims to be able to make sense of it, yet when you speak to someone else they'll tell it's something completely different.

It also doesn't help that we talk a lot about caring (but rarely actually doing anything about it) when we're not being healthy until we become properly ill. Strangely we often feel a lot more motivated when we feel unwell. At least until we stop being ill and then we feel better and can be start being unhealthy again.

Not only is it painfully confusing and horribly intangible but it's also constantly changing, partly as the science evolves but mainly as fads come and go. Drink a glass of red wine today and you might be cutting your risk of heart disease. Take the chance of drinking another one tomorrow and you'll probably find out that you're now 14% more likely to be hit by the free bus which takes you past the hospital to your local supermarket (this hasn't been scientifically proven).

So what to do? My advice is to pick a currency you do understand. Swap your bitcoin for dollars and start to work in currency that both makes sense and motivates you. And don't be surprised if the starting point doesn't include the word health (it rarely does for our clients).

The health issues that come with being inactive are too distant for most of us to really care about but the motivation to be able to get our arms out come the summer can drive real change. The downsides of drinking too much too often are easy to understand but are nowhere near as motivating as wanting to keep up in that sponsored 10km run.

I'm a huge believer in the saying 'motivation is temporary, but habits last forever', but that doesn't mean that you need to find your own motivation alone. Yes it has to mean something really important to you, but speaking to friends, loved ones or experts can also be the catalyst to get you started. It can help you to understand what 'health' means to you.

So if you value your health, exchange your goals for a currency that truly motivates you. Pick out a small dress, set a personal best or think of a friend you want to out-do and really go after it. And the best part is that 'health' will come along with all these changes as the happiest of passengers. And once you've reached your goal, I guarantee you'll have a much better idea of what health really means - not least because you'll feel it every step of every day.