Many people fail to realize how significantly their health affects their finances — that is, until they get sick. The economic cost of making unwise lifestyle choices extend beyond the astronomical price tag for healthcare in the United States. When you don’t feel your best, you can’t perform productively. As a result, your income dissipates right when you need the extra cash the most. Making wise investments in your health will ultimately benefit your family’s budget. Here are some adjustments you should consider for long-term mental, physical, and financial well-being:
1. Perform a Searching and Fearless Health Inventory
For those familiar with 12-step programs, the fourth stage consists of a searching and fearless moral inventory. To optimize your mental and physical well-being, you need to perform a similar task with your lifestyle choices. Only when you identify areas for improvement can you start down that path. Questions to asking yourself include the following:
- Do I use tobacco products? If you do, you should stop. A quick Google search reveals a stockpile of governmental-based and other resources you can get for free. If you tried before and failed, don’t despair. Many people make multiple attempts before succeeding. Be gentle with yourself — it’s a process.
- How is my diet? Do you cave to the siren song of drive-thrus too often? If the current pandemic made you cut back on such trips, try to avoid returning to your prior diet as reopening continues. You should soon have healthier choices available when convenience demands it, but home cooking is generally better for your health.
- How much do I move? You might have heard that sitting is the new smoking, which might have made you throw up your hands if you work a desk job. Don’t despair. You can fit in exercise in short bursts instead of a lengthy gym session. You can easily make movement fun instead of exhausting.
- How do I manage stress? Stress exacerbates the symptoms of nearly any condition, and prolonged anxiety can have severe long-term health effects. Too much time under pressure can hurt your cardiovascular system as well as sink your spirit, so find positive ways to unwind.
2. Understand Your Insurance Options and Benefits
Unfortunately, while the U.S. continues not to guarantee health care coverage as a right, you need to secure insurance or risk bankruptcy. A single hospital stay can cost tens of thousands of dollars, way more than what most people have in their emergency funds. If you don’t currently have coverage, discuss options with your employer, if possible. If you’re one of the many gig-economy workers, take advantage of the enrollment period to purchase a plan on the exchange. If you have a spouse or children, they probably rely at least partially on your income. If something happens to you, will you leave them to suffer? The right life insurance policy gives you peace of mind that your family won’t have to scramble to survive if the worst happens. While whole life policies last until you die, term plans are more affordable and can provide coverage until your kids graduate from college, for example.
3. Eat More Plants and Less Processed Food
While you don’t have to embrace a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle to get healthier, research indicates a plant-based diet significantly benefits nearly every aspect of your health. Different hues represent various phytonutrient profiles in plants. These natural chemicals, as well as the array of vitamins and minerals veggies and fruits contain, can do anything from improving your heart function to keeping your skin glowing. The term “processed foods” refers to anything consumable that you alter from its natural form — if you pulverize an apple into a sauce, you processed it. The danger comes from ultra-processed foods that contain a ton of additives, like sugar, salt and preservatives. Scientists also classify many types of lunch meat as carcinogenic, and excessive consumption increases your risk of colorectal cancer substantially. Strive to get at least 80% of your caloric intake from natural whole foods you prepare yourself. It’s okay to “cheat” 20% of the time to keep from feeling deprived.
4. Get Your Body Moving Regularly
While researchers continue to investigate whether a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous as smoking a pack of Camels daily, they do know regular physical activity benefits health. It prevents chronic disease, helps you control pain and even improves your mood. You don’t need to join a gym — nearly anyone can do the following exercises for free:
- Take a walk: If you have a pair of tennis shoes — or tough Buddhist-monk soles — you’re in business.
- Dance: Does a rough day at the office have you feeling blue? Put on your favorite jams and dance around your living room.
- Do calisthenics: They may be old-fashioned, but it doesn’t cost a dime to do some sit-ups, pushups or squats.
5. Care for Your Mind and Soul
Researchers implicate stress in nearly every disorder known to humans. Chronic stress can hurt your cardiovascular system and multiple other organs and physiological processes. Find healthy outlets for relief. Yoga and meditation work wonders for many. However, you can also find a sense of calm by losing yourself in a soothing hobby. Plant a backyard or patio garden or take up that woodworking project you abandoned months ago. Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s a wise investment in becoming the best version of yourself.
Make These Five Investments in Your Health This Year
Your health and finances share an intricate relationship. Tragically, many people don’t realize how much the former affects the latter until they get sick. Take control of your future this year by making wise lifestyle choices that improve your physical and mental well-being.