When we want to prevent health risks, we have to motivate our social circle as much as ourselves. Even when we assume to be healthy, prevention of health risks pays off. However, such prevention does not come by itself.
Prevention is a lifestyle intervention tool. For most of us, our lifestyle is the consequence of a long and repetitive social process. That’s why it’s very hard to try to change our lifestyle on our own.
As much as ourselves, we will have to motivate the social circles in which we participate. In this article, I explain why and offer some suggestions on how we can motivate our social circles to help us.
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Table of contents
The more support we can get to change our lifestyle from those in our social network, the more healthy we will become.
In general, there are three health risks: a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and having a poor metabolism. Each of these three risks poses a serious problem. In combination, these problems will make us sick.
Physicians like it when we’re sick. Physicians are trained, like mechanics, to repair what’s wrong. And they’re often pretty good at it. However, their medical reflexes tell them to prescribe medication or to knife the wrong parts away.
They don’t prescribe our lifestyle, let alone hold our hand all day while we make an effort to change the way we live. Physicians are not part of our everyday social network. After they’re done with us, we’re out there on our own.
Change of lifestyle
However, we’re not quite on our own out there. Our family, friends and colleagues are there. But are they there to support us? Are they willing and prepared to respect and support our choice to change our lifestyle?
Will they also give up their sedentary lifestyle? Eat less? Eat better? Stop smoking? Stop drinking alcohol? Stop eating salt, sugar or non-essential fats? Stop watching TV all night? Or sit all evening behind their laptop or with their mobile in their hands? Could we ask them to change their lifestyle as well?
Most people don’t need much explaining to understand how difficult it is to gain social support, especially for such drastic changes as a change of lifestyle. We’re cast in a social and physical environment that will always try to determine whether our wishes to change will succeed.
Prevention is a lifestyle intervention tool
In general, there are three ways to handle the challenge of convincing our social circle to support us to succeed in changing our lifestyle:
- by fear mongering;
- by pointing out the pleasure of sharing the challenge;
- or by presenting the change as our personal desire in which they play a major role.
Be aware that any of the three ways can be equally effective. The problem is that we can only use one approach at a time per individual because most people have a prefered inclination to one of the three. Moreover, it’s not always clear what sensitizes individuals. And we’ve also to take into account that in social circles people exchange views and experiences.
We might try to persuade our social circles that social health risks, such as a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and having a poor metabolism, cause heart and vascular diseases and diabetes.
As such, these are not nice diseases, but their complications are even more fearsome: blindness, kidney failure, heart failure, open wounds, and non-healing infections.
Such diseases and their complications often come with depression and insomnia. Moreover, the pills the physicians prescribe to counter these diseases and complications, always cause side effects.
Take for instance bisphosphonates, which are supposed to cure or mitigate osteoporosis. The prescription comes with a small book to explain the side effects.
Personally, I do not prefer fear-mongering. However, many people seem to be motivated by arguments that point right at their fears.
Many people like to share challenges. With family members, with friends, and even with colleagues. Take for example the following lifestyle change.
We agree with our family members or some of our closest friends to sit at least 2 hours less every day for a week. At the end of each day, we share our experiences.
To give the challenge some spice, it’s perhaps best that all participants first write down how many hours of the day they estimate they sit during an average week: at breakfast, in the car, in public transport, at lunch, at dinner, in front of the TV or the laptop at home.
The next week they measure with their clocks how many hours they really sit down. In the third week, they try to sit 2 hours less each day (this article explains why it’s better not to sit too long and offers some suggestions on what we can do standing during these 2 hours). Yes, we’re allowed to watch TV standing up straight. We might even be able to do some simple exercises while watching TV.
The desire to tackle health risks
The third option to call for social support for our lifestyle change is to present this change as our most favourite desire. Don’t explain the background, it’s our most important and deepest personal wish. Clarify the change as an improvement, as something, which we expect us to do a lot of good.
Ask family, friends, and colleagues directly for their support. Of course, they will ask what kind of support we might favour. We don’t need to go into all the details of what caused our desire for a lifestyle change, how we plan to organize the change, and what goals we exactly aspire to achieve.
We just try to share our belief, that we need the safety of our social environment, and that we need to share this concern with them, and the hope that the challenge will pay off. For which we will be forever grateful to them. For some people to believe in us is more important than the facts.
How difficult it is to aspire to the challenge of a lifestyle change, can be explained with one very simple example. To eat out is an intricate and very important and agreeable part of social life. With the virus, this has become somewhat difficult.
This hasn’t stopped clever people from turning such disadvantages in their favour. Many restaurants and caterers started home-delivery services. We might think that during the pandemic they picked up the lesson that it’s very important for people to improve their immune system and that, as a consequence, they likewise should make their menus more healthy.
However, they keep on pouring their usual enormous amounts of sodium salt, granulated sugar, and non-essential fats into our food. These ingredients are a direct and very serious threat to any immune system, even the ones of healthy people.
How do we explain to our family and friends that we love it when they invite us for dinner, however, that we no longer care to share unhealthy food? Or that we no longer wish to drink alcohol.
To escape social pressures is probably one of the most unpleasant and likewise difficult challenges there is. Yet, to be able to change our lifestyle, we have no choice but to try.
How do you mobilize your social network for support? Please let us know in the comment box below.