The best brain hacks are those that change your behavior.
You keep on hearing the same story over and over again because it has not sunk in deep enough to get you to change your behavior. In this case I am talking health stories, or health news.
You all know what we are suppose to be doing (at least 90% of what we are suppose to be doing) to have a healthy life. That is not the problem - the problem is you making the healthy choices.
Now first we have to break up the world into those that have many choices, which are largely from developed countries, and those that very unfortunately do not have many choices. Most of the health issues in those that do not have choices is pure economics – and I am hoping that changes in the future. For us lucky enough to have choices we could have dramatic improvements in our overall health if we made the right choices. So health education really boils down to getting us to make the right choices.
(I also break up health problems into those that we have largely solved – e.g. certain lifestyle choices, and those more fundamental difficult biological problems we have had very little success in – such as curing cancer, repairing the brain, etc)
I could post another in my long series of latest studies that points out that all of us should be eating healthy, exercising, etc. I could tell one variation or another of this story everyday for a year, 5 years, 10 years, everyday for the rest of my life. I probably wouldn’t run out of papers to quote, new research to further support what we should be doing.
The bottom line reality appears that somewhere around 30% (can range from 20 -80% depending on the source) of all diseases are due to lifestyle choices – and hence could be avoided (or at least delayed) if we made the right choices. The obvious ones are (a certain percentage of the following) obesity, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. this blog has focused on many of these lifestyle choices so far. My blog is only one infinitesimal small part of the health information we all get exposed to everyday in our lives. However, the question is does anybody change their behavior?
Hence, the problem is not lack of knowledge regarding how to drastically reduce various diseases it is rather about changing people’s behavior. I can give you facts after facts, papers after papers, give all the percentages, how much you will gain, how much your suffering would be reduced, etc, etc. I most cases we all know what ‘we should be doing’, but we don’t do it.
It appears the main theory regarding educating people on making healthy choices is just keep telling variations of the stories (new papers, new angles, new evidence) time after time after time. Then for any one individual be it the 30th, 40th, or 783rd time they have really heard the same thing something catches and they start changing at least one behavior. Maybe they are in a slightly different stage in their life, slightly more open, or something, and the idea catches them - and more importantly they change their behavior.
There are not that many stories out there. I am not referring to health stories now, but good old fashion stories. The ones we first started, way back then, listening to over a warm fire at night, and now we consume in one digital format or another (and praise the old fashioned printed book). You can find on the net about the X number of fundamental stories (be it Joesph Campbell power of myth or others). What authors do is tell these same old stories in new and inventive ways that is appropriate for their culture and era. Stories exist to teach us life lessons. And just like the health education stories we keep on hearing the same stories over and over again until one time they ‘catch’ for us (or don’t) and we change in some small or large way.
Story telling is all about transformation - the transformation of the character you are reading about, and your transformation that occurs from reading these stories. Again, the transformation of the human individual reading the stories are rare - that is why we have to be kept exposed to the same stories throughout our life until we ‘are ready’ for that particular life lesson - until we are ready to transform - to change.
You can see how it sounds very similar to health education, health story telling.
In many cases we know what we should be doing, how to live a good life – both at a health level but also at a moral/cultural level. The only question is what do we choose – especially among us who are so unbelievably lucky that we have a choice (get down on your knees and be thankful for having these choices - I don’t care who you thank, or even if you thank any one in particular, but be very thankful).
For those that have the freedom to choose - which is probably 99% of those that are able to read this blog:
Go out there today and make a good choice - be it in the bigger picture of life, or a health choice. Heck, maybe even be transformed.
(If you are interested in the future of ’story telling’ you might want to check out: do we need a new art form for the 21st century.)