Choose Health: Tools for a Healthy Lifestyle

Choose Health: Tools for a Healthy Lifestyle

Eric T. Wanner, Jennifer Lynne Bird
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6260-5.ch011
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What if instead of thinking of using devices to positively change health, people thought of using their minds as tools? The unfortunate thing with modern technology can be the dependence on a device to find an answer. People need to be more aware of how they can benefit from a health perspective by making a few positive changes in their lives, by using self-awareness as their device. By paying attention to their bodies and physical reactions to circumstances that cause tension, people can learn to deal with stress. Stress is a very common cause of a downward spiral to quality of life and overall health. Exercise, nutrition, and writing journals are proven ways to decrease stress levels. This chapter elaborates on techniques such as journal writing, exercise, nutrition, and spirituality that readers can use to reduce stress and choose to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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Making Healthy Choices

Writing enables people to process what they are thinking and feeling, as well as identifying patterns of behavior that may need to be changed. However, writing about being healthy does not make it reality. Exercise should be used as a tool in everyone’s life much more often since the United States is continuously getting more obese each day. Exercise actually decreases obesity, decreases the chance of a heart attack, decreases the chance for diabetes, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and decreases depression. Research discussed in this chapter shows that exercise increases blood flow to the brain allowing one to think clearer. Proper nutrition can decrease stress levels, decrease risk of a heart attack, decrease risk of cancer, aid in weight loss, decrease blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, and decrease depression. Spirituality can provide a sense of community as well as motivation to slow down and reflect. Choosing a healthy lifestyle is a way to help manage stress.

Each person’s life represents a series of decisions. How many of those decisions are health related? Will today’s menu consist of healthy meals or fast food? Is there time for any physical activity or is exercise relegated to walking through the workplace parking lot? Should emotions be held inside or released through writing, prayer, and conversation? When it comes to health, each individual has a choice in his or her behaviors. Behaviors, whether they include the amount of exercise, food choices, or writing about feelings, all influence health. If the choices do not lead to health and happiness, it’s never too late to make new choices.

This chapter utilizes a myriad of resources from the fields of writing and medicine to illustrate the benefits of choosing health. Clinicians still concur with certain medical concepts defined in existing literature. Take, for example, the discussion presented by Juhan (1998) on the topic of stress that states, “it is clear then that neither the extreme of altogether avoiding stress nor the extreme of altogether ignoring it are really very helpful to the individual who wants to live a long and productive life. The real point is to learn how to handle stress, how to sustain our efforts without burning out, how to keep the nose to the grindstone without grinding it off” (p. 302). However, in order to incorporate the consistently changing medical field while simultaneously dovetailing academic theory with practical advice for the readers of this chapter, websites respected by numerous medical professionals that reflect current practices intertwine with texts from the fields of writing and medicine to present an eclectic approach of using methods that promote healthy behaviors.

Juhan (1998) elaborates on this theme of behavior choices enhancing health by sharing the example of a ballet dancer preparing for a recital because “the dancer, if she is to be a successful professional, has no choice but to confront each symptom and discover the way to work through it, not by ignoring nor avoiding its causes, but rather by learning to form a working relationship with the stresses of her activity. She trains herself to produce strength at every point where a weakness develops” (p. 302). We as the authors of this chapter encourage our readers to identify sources of stress and consider implementing the strategies discussed. After all, theories about healthy living must become a lifestyle in order to achieve elite and effective results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Exercise: By taking the time to exercise, people receive numerous benefits which improve health. Experts at the Mayo Clinic and the American College of Sports Medicine list specific exercise guidelines discussed in this chapter of the intensity and frequency of exercise for people to follow to achieve the best results.

Medical Professionals: Medical professionals, such as primary care doctors, specialists, physical therapists, and emotional therapists, provide support and consultation to patients about health issues. Medical doctors Hilary Tindle and Lissa Rankin discuss in their research that patients experience improved health when they have a positive outlook and a willingness to share their stories with their doctors.

Journal Writing: The process of a person responding to prompts and writing about his or her thoughts and feelings. While journal writing is typically associated with writing classrooms, writing teachers including Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, and Donald Murray advocate that journal writing can be done by anyone, anywhere. Journal writing can be adapted to create pain journals, where patients record the level of pain felt and the actions which caused the pain. Pain journals can subsequently be shared with medical professionals to enhance the healing process. Students in an English classroom, patients in a physical therapy clinic, and readers of this chapter in their living rooms can pick up a pen, paper, and just write.

Nutrition: When making healthy eating choices, people receive numerous benefits which improve health. Resources such as the food pyramid discussed in this chapter list the recommended types and amount of foods to eat. Experts at the Mayo Clinic and the American College of Sports Medicine discuss how lifestyle influences the amount of calories a person should consume.

Spirituality: Regardless of religion, spirituality and a belief in a higher power can lead to increased health. In his research, medical doctor Eben Alexander discusses how the science of medicine coexists with spiritual beliefs to enable patients to have faith and hope for healing.

Urgent vs. Important: Emotional therapist Mary Pipher and teacher Don Graves both discuss the type of choices people make of how they spend their time and the resulting increased or decreased energy experienced.

Behavior Changes: Behavior changes occur when people put forth a conscious effort to make lifestyle changes to improve health. Medical doctor Hilary Tindle researched patient outlook in medicine; it is true that some people make negative choices to deal with stress, such as the numbing strategies Brene Brown researched, while other people make positive choices to deal with stress, such as following the exercise and nutrition recommendations suggested by experts at the American College of Sports Medicine. Ultimately the choice of which behavior changes to implement in order to cope with stress belongs to each individual.

Story Sharing: By sharing a story with a supportive audience, either in conversation or in writing, it frees the storyteller of unneeded physical and emotional stress caused by holding the story inside and worrying about it. In her research about vulnerability, Brene Brown argues it helps people to share stories instead of numbing pain with unhealthy choices.

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