A few days ago we talked about investing in your relationships and yesterday, we talked about investing in your work. Today I want to talk about investing in something else that’s just as important: your health.
All this talk of building a strong financial future won’t help much if you’re not around to enjoy it, right? Investing in your health ensures you’ll live a long, healthy life to enjoy all the wealth we’re working so hard to build.
Investments in your health can reduce your long-term medical costs, improve your sleep, build your confidence, and provide a wealth of other benefits. It’s no wonder the classic poet Virgil said
The greatest wealth is health.
Let’s get started.
Move your body!
You’ve heard this one a thousand times. Exercise is an important part of health, and aside from you athletic types, most of us don’t get enough of it. Exercise builds muscle, which better protects your body from injuries. It strengthens your lungs and heart. Exercise helps you resist illnesses and harmful conditions. It increases bloodflow to the brain, helping you think clearly, learn new skills, and generate new ideas.
It even helps you sleep better! Before I started going to the gym regularly, I often needed 9-10 hours of sleep every night to feel rested. Once I started hitting the gym 3-4 days a week, I found myself waking after 7 hours of sleep, feeling rested and ready to go. A simple regimen of regular exercise gave me 2-3 extra hours every day.
If you’ve got long-held prejudices against exercise, try to let them go. I’ve always been drawn to sedentary activities. I hated sports and gym class in school (with the brief exception of weight training), and I didn’t even like doing yard work or other physically demanding chores. It wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I learned to love hiking, and only recently that I’ve learned to enjoy going to the gym.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting a treadmill or doing cardio workouts. My parents get their exercise primarily from dancing — west coast swing, line dancing, and other styles. One of my friends lost 50 pounds playing paintball three days a week. There are dozens of ways you can move your body: yoga, martial arts, parkour, hula hooping, dance, jumping rope, and so many more. Find the one that’s fun for you, and do it regularly!
Prevention is better than a cure
This is another often-overlooked aspect of health. Preventing an injury or illness is cheaper and more effective than trying to treat or heal a condition after it happens.
A periodic checkup with your doctor can reveal the early stages of ailments like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. It can reveal deficiencies in your diet or identify conditions like sleep apnea that may not be affecting your health much at the moment, but can cause problems for you later on if left untreated. If you have a family history of a condition, keep an eye out for early signs of it, and if you’re ever uncertain about something, check with your doctor.
The same applies to dental and eyecare. Regular dental cleanings can reveal cavities, gingivitis and other conditions before they can seriously damage your teeth, and some serious eye issues can be fixed with corrective lenses if they’re caught early enough.
Of course, unnecessary medical tests can be expensive, so you’ll have to use your own judgment, but generally speaking, if you suspect something is wrong, it’s worth getting it checked out. Think of it this way: would you rather pay a few hundred dollars for a test now and find out nothing’s wrong, or skip the test and find out later that you have a serious condition that will threaten your life and cost tens of thousands of dollars to treat?
These days, insurance providers are covering more and more types of preventative care. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers must cover some types of preventative care without charging copay or coinsurance. Covered screenings can include screenings for conditions like diabetes, depression, and HIV; insurance providers must also cover certain vaccinations like flu shot, tetanus shot, and hepatitis A & B shots.
Mind your mind!
Thus far we’ve largely talked about physical health, but your mental and emotional health is just as important. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Other conditions like bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and addiction provide an extra layer of difficulty to almost every aspect of life; they can make you feel isolated and misunderstood and betrayed by your own self.
The good news is that every one of these conditions is treatable. Every one of them can be managed. Treatment doesn’t necessarily mean medication — it can include simple therapy, exercise, self-reflection and affirmation, meditation, and a whole lot more. Mental health services are covered by many insurance providers, and free and low-cost services are available in most areas. If you’re struggling and need help, reach out to a friend, a teacher, or therapist.
Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition, you still need to take care of your mental health. Stress is a contributing factor to six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. We all go through periods where we feel bad about ourselves, where we lose our confidence or beat ourselves up or question the reasons for our existence.
When you find yourself in those situations, take the time to take care of yourself. Learn to recognize the things that you struggle with, and learn to recognize what helps you regain your strength. When you need it, actively care for yourself, so you can get back in control and continue working towards your future.
Tomorrow: Invest In Your Brain
Creativity and imagination are some of the most important tools we have for developing financial success. Like any skill, creativity gets stronger the more we practice it! Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about ways to boost your creativity and how it can help you in your financial journey.
Are you investing in your health?
Do you get enough exercise? Is there an aspect of your health that you’ve been neglecting? Why? Tell us in the comments!
Photo by Stuart Grout.