Health in a Box

We wanted to start the year by discussing the pitfalls of being too ‘health focused’ and talk about how to prioritise health and wellbeing to get the biggest benefit as we move into a New Year. There are 168 hours in a week and we probably make 21-42 eating decisions per week; we spend something in the order of 60 hours per week sitting down at desks and in cars; perhaps 10 hours per week commuting and unfortunately, most of the population miss approximately 10 hours of sleep per week! All of these elements, which take up a very significant proportion of our life, play a very large role in determining our health and affect our overall wellbeing.

The strategy for many of us is to schedule perhaps 2-4 hours of exercise each week (be it personal training sessions, yoga classes, etc.). Those of us that are particularly health focused will want to exercise as hard as possible during these gruelling sessions! We can fall into the trap of this becoming our sole means of attaining ‘health’. This is what we call the 'compartmentalisation of health' or ‘health in a box’ – this being a reliance on a ‘big-ticket’ health strategy which can be scheduled into our weekly diaries in order to help us feel fit and healthy.

Of course, spending time with trainers, teachers, nutritionists and exercising hard is a great focus to have. But we just need to be realistic about it and realise that those few hours per week are a small proportion of it compared to the many other aspects of modern life which can compromise our health and leave us feeling stressed and unhealthy. A good analogy for this would be scheduling a weekly ‘deep clean’ session with our dentist but failing to brush our teeth throughout the week. This type of ‘dental health in a box’ probably wouldn’t offset the damage we would do from not taking good care of our teeth throughout the week.

One of the biggest pitfalls for us ‘healthy folk’, looking to improve our health in one way or another, is that we can become too focused on one or two big ‘tick-the-box’ plans which fit neatly into our week without enough thought to the small decisions we make daily that affect our overall wellbeing. In effect, the dentist can become more important than the toothbrush.

Finding 20 three-minute opportunities to stand throughout your day can have a dramatic counter-balance affect to sitting for long periods in the office. Getting off to bed 30 minutes earlier each night is actually much better for us than sleeping in late on a Sunday morning to catch up. And 10 minutes in the bright natural sunlight, talking to a real person, is going to be as good a ‘pick-me-up’ as a quick coffee in the staff room whilst scanning through emails and social media land.

Ultimately there is more to be gained from daily ‘brushing and flossing’ type health habits, which can be clustered together and integrated into our day, than there is from one or two weekly/monthly/annual ‘deep clean’ type approaches to health. This is why we try to promote all 10 of our ‘Healthy Habits’ in equal measures. Grab a piece of real food that will help you sleep, forego a piece of fake food which might make it harder to nod off, stand up where you can, add a few extra steps each day (preferably in the sunshine), perhaps even with a friend or colleague, use engagement with physical play as a way to help ‘manage your thinking’ and to add fast movement and strength into your day wherever possible.

This kind of diversification of our health portfolios doesn’t leave our health reliant on us going as hard as we can in that PT session. If we slip in one area, we will receive a degree of health insulation from the other strategies we have deployed. Just as it is far easier to floss while you are in the bathroom brushing your teeth, integrating ‘bitesize health habits’ with one another reduces the burden on our overall day and gets us away from the mindset of needing to schedule 10 non-negotiable health strategies into the week.

Our advice as we move through January, and the New Year’s Resolutions become harder to sustain, is to see where you can find a few minutes here and there to integrate a few ‘bitesize habits’ and take the focus off ‘health hour’. By doing so, you might be surprised just how much less pain you will need to endure from both your personal trainer and your dentist ;-)

Have a great start to the year folks!

The Synergy Health Team

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