What if you could make the healthy choice without worrying about cost, practicality, or time? One of my favorite college assignments was to do just that, think about a world where we (individuals and society) prioritized being healthy. Over the last decade I’ve continued to intrigued by this question and would love to share a few of the examples that were discussed in our class and invite you to join the conversation.
A quick disclaimer I am not a doctor, nutritionist, sleep specialist, or any other type of medical professional. The examples provided within this document are provided as the means of extending a thought exercise of what a world could look like in different context. If you are interested in any of the following please continue the conversation in the comments, but before implementing please consider discussing with a medical professional.
Choice is choice but is it a choice?
One of the first areas that most people think about when they consider health is food. There tends to be basic nutritional education such as “Eat this but not that.” Or there is talks of the newest diet trends and changes. I won’t pretend to be an expert but would caution about labeling any food as “good” or “bad”. Which is where one of the interesting examples of a “healthy” world could look like creating equivalent choice. What this would practically look like is in a grocery store having more single serving items such as one slice of pizza with an equal serving size as a salad or burger. Again this assignment wasn’t about pricing, logistics, the politics involved, or the environmental impact of adding more single use packaging, but rather what are examples that would promote health.
The idea behind this type of choice based system is to allow people to eat the foods they enjoy while also destigmatizing “bad” foods and creating appropriate portion sizes. There are becoming more systems that are somewhat based around this idea of allowing foods that you’d like to eat into a diet, but for most people this is still a relatively unconsidered area of health within the food market.
Sleep as a job perk?
Most people are recommended to sleep 7 or more hours a day. Yet there are still a vast majority that don’t consider the efficiency of an activity that they spend one third of their life doing. One of the potential healthy alternatives for this would be to have regular sleep studies as part of a normal health checkup covered by insurance or a job. Additional applications of this could consider a yearly stipend for things to improve sleep such as a new mattress, sleep accessories such as education, blackout curtains, sleep monitoring equipment, medication (if prescribed by a doctor), better sheets, etc. The thought behind this would be that similar to regular dentist or health screenings, sleep studies would provide companies with hopefully more well rested individuals. Additionally this would also hopefully apply to children as sleep can be a predictor of academic success.
Exercise You Actually Enjoy?
One of the interesting topics of discussion is that while there are obvious exceptions the general trend is that most people don’t exercise enough. While as a thought experiment it is easy to say that people would just naturally choose to do more exercise, from a more practical standpoint what would that look like. One potential option would be to give people “health credits” which they could spend on a variety of different health based activities such as yoga, sports, bike riding, kayaking, etc. Spending all of your credits would qualify you for some type of a tax credit, insurance rebate, etc. There were also discussions of adding extra incentives such as limiting unhealthy activities but this isn’t about stigmatizing certain activities. An additional consideration was looking at how to create more inclusion into a daily commute such as creating partially physical powered Flintstone style cars or adding standing work desks, treadmill desks, etc.
Basically the idea is paying you to do the healthy things you want to do. Some companies have actually promote some things like this but making this the norm rather than the exception would be interesting.
Consistent Regular Mental Health Checkups
One final area of consideration for a healthy world would be creating a more standardized mental health care system. For example, one suggestion is creating an environment so every single person be could meet with some form of mental health practitioner at least once a month. Regular mental health checkups could hopefully help reduce some of the high stress situations people find themselves in and also be an early warning sign of larger potential issues. Additionally the hope is that by creating this as the norm there would be a destigmatizing of mental health issues and receiving treatment.
An additional consideration besides potentially having less stress, avoiding potential issues, is the practical consideration of building mental tools and strengthened mindsets that would allow for greater potential performance.
While being healthy means and looks different for different people, hopefully some of these examples made you think about health in a few new ways. Whether it is improving nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health or other topics I hope this article inspired you to think of what a healthy world could look like for you. If you were inspired, I’d encourage you to share an idea you are considering in the comments.