What are you more likely to be afraid of:
A shark or a candy bar?
Driving in your car or flying on a plane?
Falling out of your bed or being hit by lightning?
The flu or avian flu?
It’s interesting how we humans assess risk. It turns out, we’re pretty bad at it. Our risk of choking on a candy bar is 3,000 times greater than being attacked by a shark. Our risk of being killed in a car accident is over 44,000 times greater than dying from an airplane crash. No one in America has died from avian flu, but 36,000 people died from the “regular” influenza virus just last year. You have a greater chance of dying from falling out of your bed than from a snakebite, shark attack, airplane crash, stampede, skydiving, dog bite, bee sting, and lightning strike…combined. And then doubled.
It’s interesting how our evolutionary development intersects with the rapid changes in human society over the last 50 years. We simply haven’t caught up, physically or mentally. A fascinating article I caught the other day explains our faulty risk assessment in greater detail, but what concerns me most is how this judgment quirk of the human brain has an impact upon our health.
A few noteworthy points:
The brain fears what is new or unusual, rather than what is likely.
The brain also has a cumulative way of reasoning. So, if you’ve (just hypothetically) gotten away with an unsafe behavior in the past – say, driving under the influence, or speeding recklessly, or eating junk food in high school without gaining much weight – your brain rationalizes that you can continue taking the risks, even though the odds are stacked considerably against you (again, a hypothetical “you”).
The brain has a bad risk memory, and a bad consequence memory, too. Though junk food might cause you to have a spare tire now, the memory is that you “have always been able” to eat junk food. We consistently underrate our risk and overrate our success. We consistently underrate consequences. That’s just part of human biology. It served us well when we had to worry about being attacked by a mammoth or filling up on all the seeds and berries one could possibly ingest in the likely event that food might not come around for a while. But, these days, with the food and drug supply being what it is, coupled with consistently sedentary behavior, hours in front of computer screens, and long commutes, it’s no wonder we are witnessing widespread health problems.
This isn’t an issue we can solve in a day. It’s simply something to be mindful of as we go about our daily business, making all manner of choices. The real things to fear – heart disease, lung cancer from smoking, fatal diseases caused by obesity – are literally hundreds of thousands of times more likely than any (admittedly scary) prospect of death by large animal or flying transport. My take on all this? Make smarter choices in how you move, what you eat, and how you handle stress, and you’ll outlive all the people worrying about avian flu and spinach. You’ll feel better, too.
Here’s the excellent and highly-enjoyable – and not even scary – article on our risk assessment ability. You’ll want to check it out. Clickativity
The Roman philosopher and emperor, Marcus Aurelius, taught a helpful little idea that Markus Sisson (sorry) wants to pass along to all of you.
While Latin is fun and all, here is the paraphrase:
People exist for each other. Then either improve them, or put up with them.
Either change, or let go. Doing the same thing won’t get you anywhere but where you are!
Enjoy your Monday!
This one should be easy for all of you: before the holidays really hit full speed this weekend, do yourself a healthy favor. No junk food this week. Nada, zip, zero, [all right, insert “nothing” synonym of choice here]. We know you’re all healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Salads don’t stand a chance around you. Wait, why is this one even a challenge? Mark?
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Great health isn’t just about food or supplements, though everybody does tend to focus on those things. Great health is also about fitness, enjoyment of life, emotional satisfaction, and mental strength, too. Welcome to the Monday Moment: just a little gem from Mark that we’re passing on to you – because feeling good is healthy!
Monday Moment: One of Mark’s essential rules for life is forgiveness. Learn to forgive people – and not for them, either. It’s for you! That’s why forgiveness is so great: it frees up head space so you can feel good about yourself and your life. We don’t forgive others when they goof or hurt us so that they can go on living happily ever after – forgiveness is so you can live happily ever after. Don’t invest in thinking about how your boss, your neighbor or a pal has hurt you. It does take energy to learn a new habit (like letting go) but try it a few times and it will become old hat. It’s easier to feel good than it is to feel bad, so as the old Asian proverb goes, if you’re holding a hot coal, drop it!
Here’s Mark’s weekly health challenge, Apples:
This week, let’s go green. Eat something green – whether leafy or crunchy – at every meal, including breakfast. You’ll feel leaner by the end of the week (but not meaner).
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