Imagine your GP telling you to stop taking your prescribed medication, make appointments with her less often, eat more candy and grilled cheese and enjoy a glass of wine occasionally. You’d probably think she went nuts or has a villainous plan to destroy humanity in mind. In fact, she would be doing something unusual for most doctors – basing her advice on the newest scientific discoveries.
What we hear from doctors today is traditional, unprogressive and disregards the latest science. We are convinced to spend a ton of time at the doctor’s office, take tests and get examined, take medication for breakfast, lunch and dinner, keep to a ballerina’s diet, exercise to be ready to climb the Mount Everest at any time and worry about not leading a healthy lifestyle properly. Finally, our psychological, financial and physical states end up drained by our worries, so we become unhealthy and unhappy.
Nevertheless, generations of researchers are repeatedly showing the same results – some of the things we’ve been so strictly warned about are actually good for us when in moderation. Your choice to sleep in and stay in bed till noon is highly beneficial if you truly enjoy it, coffee is good for you (it even lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia), chocolate, cheese, not going to the doctor so often, and not doing that plethora of medical procedures that you are ‘supposed’ to do can bring substantial changes into your life.
Research on why all these pleasures are actually good for us is still limited. One possibility is that by enjoying such small little things in daily life we become happier and thus healthier. When you feel happy, you experience stress less, your immune system strengthens, and your body becomes more resistant to various ailments. Happy people live longer but it becomes hard to stay happy with all the worries caused by the necessity to constantly take medications, do procedures, and lead a perfectly healthy lifestyle. Instead of all that, our medicine should be the people we love, the food we enjoy, fun activities and happiness.
Be careful with your pleasures though and remember about the fine line between enjoying your favourite grilled-cheese sandwich from time to time and eating fatty foods every day. I would not recommend diving into all your pleasures completely as that might lead to excessive weight, substance abuse and other potential harm to yourself. In fact, pleasure only stays pleasant when it’s taken in moderation – you would probably not enjoy your grilled-cheese sandwich the fifth day in a row. Another point here is that you shouldn’t take up something everyone enjoys if you don’t to become happier. Say you don’t like bacon – then it wouldn’t be a good idea to start eating it to live longer. Do something you really enjoy.
I would recommend to find your pleasures and look forward to them during the day. If for you taking a walk, going to the gym and eating a salad is enjoyable – go for it! But if what really brings joy to your life is your favourite computer game, an occasional glass of red wine or that grilled-cheese sandwich – that will also work. The most important takeaway here is that you should experience pleasure and genuinely look forward to it.
Remember that life is only that long. It’s great that we can find ways to stay healthy and stretch our time a little bit but what is even more important is that we don’t make it dull and restrictive but bright and truly enjoyable.