I once thought insanity was the most likely explanation that accounted for the fact that not everyone was living a healthy lifestyle. That was nearly twenty years ago. It was, of course, a jejune notion, shortsighted and unfair to those not living a healthy lifestyle.
I mention this because a lot of folks still think this way. I’ll summarize why I once did, and then explain why I don’t anymore.
Lunacy and Low Level Worseness
Mental disorders affect nearly one in five Americans, according to a succession of U.S. Surgeons General. This ratio suggests the U.S. harbors over 60 million troubled people, a good number of whom populate our prison system. The rest are out and about with little or no supervision. (According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons and county jails in 2013, plus another 4,751,400 adults on probation or parole.)
Given that the electorate last year voted Donald Trump into the highest office in the land, these estimates seem conservative. A more likely reality is that the reverse of the Surgeons General figures applies, that is, only one in five Americans is healthy. The other 80% have gone round the bend.
Officials continually advise citizens to seek help for recognized mental problems – and to be alert for symptoms of such in others.
Previous administrations urged Congress to enact laws requiring insurance coverage for mental and physical health treatments on an equal basis with physical troubles. ACA (or Obamacare to Republicans) did this to an extent.
What Constitutes Mental Health?
Mental health is described as an ability to engage in productive activities, to fulfill relationships with others, adapt to change and cope with adversity – for starters. So, go count on two hands the number of folks you work with who pass that test!
Next, think about the quality of relationships of people you know – their ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity – and ask yourself: Is it one in five who meet the test of mentally ill, or four in five? If you didn’t pick the latter, apply another test: Do those you know have the ability to change and adapt, to employ reason, enjoy exuberance in many forms, attend to sufficient exercise and good diet and value their liberties?
Looking after one’s own well being seems like a rational, mentally healthy thing to do, don’t you think?
Healthy people can adapt and change, they are not over-fat and are not afflicted with deadly habits (e.g., smoke, abuse alcohol, or remain in destructive/unhappy relationships), nor do they worry most of the time, day in and day out.
On a personal level, can you check that’s me after all or most of the following:
* Find ways to enjoy your work?
* Manage to fill most days with some form of play?
* Employ sufficient reason to recognize political and other charlatans, avoid bad actors, frauds and mountebanks and steer clear of useless products and services?
* Effectively communicate with honesty and candor?
* Reject cults, gurus, flimflam belief systems while spotting a mile away rigid, archaic and senseless dogmas and creeds based entirely on superstitions?
* Delight in the expression of your gifts and talents?
These are representative examples of good mental health, for starters. So, once again: Are we talking about one in five with or without mental disorders?
We can all profit from continuing education throughout life that helps us adapt to life as it is and function with high levels of reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty.
I suspect you agree that government estimates of mental health problems are not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Now you know why I thought the Attorneys General estimates of mental health were off. As a result, I erroneously concluded people did not embrace wellness-oriented lifestyles because they were, how shall I put this in a delicate, compassionate way? Let’s let it go as pre-postal mad as hatters, one fry short of a Happy Meal or just plain nucking futs.
One More Reason for My Former Thinking
I assumed for a long time that anyone in his or her right mind would realize that to adapt and cope, flourish and prosper in this life, you had to attend to your body and mind in artful, science-based ways known to be effective. I believed in daily exercise of a vigorous nature, dining wisely, being responsible for one’s own health and fate to the extent possible and seeking ways to make life challenging and satisfying,
So, that’s it – that was my old self.
My (Relatively) New Take on Why Most Have Not, Can Not and Will Not Embrace REAL Wellness
Most have little chance to discover that a wellness option exists, let alone opportunities to practice and sustain such a complex personal mission that requires support from families, friends, cultures and environments. I Aussie polymath Grant Donovan has written books and dozens of articles about why most just can not do it (i.e., live well and be happy).
The relatively few who manage healthy lifestyles have done so not so much because of their disciplined ways, heroic efforts, brilliant decisions, favorable educations and good and continuing random good fortune, though any and all of these factors have helped a lot. But the main reason is that they have had better circumstances along life’s way, supportive cultures, environments, heredity and much more.
Regrettably, this summary explanation does not address the complexities of free will versus determinism. That’s for another day, perhaps. Basically, determinism holds that all behavior is caused by preceding factors and is thus predictable. The free will view maintains that we have choices in how we act because we are free to choose our attitudes and behaviors.
The icantdoit model referenced above leans heavily on determinism, not free will.
However, that doesn’t mean I like it. My advice, despite this acknowledgement, is to do what you can to change and adapt. Don’t abandon the quest for improved mental and physical wellbeing. Don’t settle for the mediocre desire to be not crazy! Set your sights higher, and in a more positive way. Seek states of well-being that transcend the norms you’ve known to date. To simply NOT be crazy, however difficult for at least four out of five, overlooks your potentials and your good fortune to be living in a mostly free society where lots of choice is still possible. Don’t go along gently with all the preponderance of experts who insist on the reality of determinism. While it’s important to avoid becoming too mental, assume you can do better than that.