Shifting from a Culture of Fear to a Culture of Health

Shifting from a Culture of Fear to a Culture of Health

We see or read about it every day: the new trends, the healthiest foods, the exercise regimes, the vitamins, and other various aspects to empower individuals in making better choices and engaging in better behavior to advance their health. With so many options available, why aren’t more people taking significant steps toward improving their health?

While I am in favor of the surge in dialogue and increased emphasis on prevention to cut healthcare costs and help individuals lead longer, more productive lives, a critical missing piece for me is how we overcome our own culture of fear to attain better health, especially when it comes to medical check-ins and procedures.

Even with recent increases and improvements in insurance or employer-led program incentives, many people find it difficult to take advantage of prevention programs. I have dear friends and family who still don’t initiate simple health and wellness checks, from yearly physicals and blood tests to disease-specific screenings. What’s more is that some of these very people have devastating family histories of illness, but choose not to be proactive. This isn’t because of a lack of awareness or concern; I truly believe it is because they are afraid of knowing the results. After all, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” right?

For many others, myself included, who have had similar exposure, it is easy to become obsessive about prevention and do the complete opposite, engaging in preventative measures perhaps even years in advance of when a disease might typically start showing its first signs. As a woman who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, not a day passes when I don’t think about getting the disease. Instead of dreading this possibility, though, thinking about my risk factors motivates me to regularly undergo MRIs and mammograms. By taking an active role in prevention, I am able to experience a better sense of empowerment.

What drives both responses, though, is the same: FEAR. Fear of either finding out something you don’t want to know or being treated differently, or fear of dying or being sick like someone you might have known. Either way, many of us are making our health decisions on the driving indicator of fear.

I strongly disagree that this should be an accepted norm in the field of health; fear should not be the basis for making critical health-related decisions. But how do we overcome this? By communicating with each other, by supporting each other and, arguably, by doing a better job of letting go of the things we can’t control. It’s about adopting a mindset that you are engaging in prevention opportunities—not because you don’t want to get sick, but because you are taking positive ownership of being alive.

I encourage you to open up and ask yourself honestly if you are making decisions based on knowledge or based on fear. If the latter is true, it might be worthwhile to take measures to remove these emotional barriers, as they take significant energy to maintain, often negatively affect our quality of life and mindset and, in the end, will likely do more to harm our health than help it.

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