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PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

What stops us from living this childhood learning in our daily lives?

 

We’ve all grown up hearing the phrase “Prevention is better than cure” – right from our school days when we needed to gulp down that glass of milk, to eating an ‘apple a day’ to when we grow up, and try to get our health tests and check-ups done frequently.

 

Yet, today –

  • India ranks second globally with 155 million obese citizens(and this number is increasing at 40% per year)
  • India has the largest working population withType 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, even kids are entering this bandwagon
  • Depression is the next ‘epidemic’– What’s more alarming is that the greatest economic impact associated with depression comes from the workplace, Dr. Sara Evans-Lacko, Professor for Mental Health Research at the LSE, looked at ‘costs’ of workplace depression across 8 diverse countries – she found significant economic impact, and an average of loss of ONE PERCENT GDP for all countries (and overall $220 million dollars for 8 countries)

 

In a mini survey I did with friends/working professionals (across age groups, industries, and organizations), I found that everyone believes in, and really ‘wants’ to pursue preventive health measures of some kind, however, they say, there is “just no time”, or “you don’t understand, I have a family, a boss etc.” Often, I find myself in such a situation too – I know this is important, but I tend to de-prioritize.

 

Through these moments, days, weeks, months, and finally years of de-prioritizing, are we risking our health, happiness, productivity and more?

 

This got me thinking about our human psychology.

We know an ‘action’ may not have the most favourable consequences in the long-term, yet, in the ‘now’ or in the ‘moment’, we decide to do it… This FIXATION on short-term, may be costing individuals, our country, and the world a lot!

 

Perhaps, the first step is knowing, what drives this fixation on the ‘present’ and the ‘short-term’. Below are three possible reasons:

 

  1. Hyperbolic discounting (simple words: the PRESENT BIAS)

 

Given two similar rewards, humans show a preference for one that arrives sooner rather than later. This leads to what behavioral economists George Ainslie and Nick Haslam call “the pervasive devaluing of the future”.

 

The most important consequence of hyperbolic discounting is that it creates temporary preferences for small rewards that occur sooner over larger, later ones. Individuals using hyperbolic discounting reveal a strong tendency to make choices that are inconsistent over time – they make choices today that their future self would prefer not to have made, despite knowing the same information.

 

You may have heard yourself/people say – “I should’ve got my tests done earlier”, or “Oh, how I wish I had picked healthy eating options on those late nights and working weekends”

 

The consequences of continuous hyperbolic discounting, when practiced by thousands of people, across the nation, and world, can be alarming… right from lifestyle diseases, to stress, to a huge hit on productivity!

 

 

  1. HEDONIC vs. Eudaimonic (does our preference for Hedonic vs. Eudaimonic happiness also drive hyperbolic discounting?)

 

Perhaps, the reason Hyperbolic discounting is so prevalent in today’s world is because we tend to prioritize HEDONIC HAPPINESS (through the external pleasures of life) vs. Eudaimonic Happiness (which comes from a sense of purpose, meaning and connection)

Hedonic is the pleasures of life. The money, achievement, awards, and party. All the things that give you that high. It’s a release of chemicals in the brain that make us feel good. Yet, they don’t last for very long. That’s why if you had a burst of happiness from let’s say, a piece of chocolate cake, or a raise, or a promotion, or something, soon thereafter, it’s worn off and you want more… the more of ‘hedonic’ happiness you look for, the more, the brain may be fixated towards picking ‘short-term’ over ‘long-term’

On the other hand, eudaimonic happiness “comes from a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning, and a sense of connection to others.” A sense of something greater than yourself. “It’s what you feel if you’re contributing to something that’s helping others in some way.”

Often, in today’s fast-paced world, especially at work, achievement, self-esteem, power and fame are goals more important than health, well-being, and helping others. While this doesn’t need to be binary (i.e. either hedonic or eudaimonic, it definitely needs to be balanced).

 

Ask yourself,

 

  • Are there ways in which I am letting go of the larger purpose for something in the short term?
  • How can I overcome this? What strengths will enable me, and what obstacles do I see?

 

  1. Our Ecosystem

 

Whether we like it or not, our environment matters, company matters. In recent years, the concept…

 

A workspace that emphasizes ‘results at ANY cost’ may unintentionally discourage individuals from prioritizing long-term well-being.

 

In recent years, there has been a lot of research on the concept of ‘homophily’ – which is ‘love of the same’, also described as ‘birds of a feather block together’. As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards the ‘similar’. And the reverse is true as well – once we’re part of a ‘type’ of environment with a certain ‘type’ of people, we begin to adopt similar behaviours. Therefore, whether it is prioritizing the short-term (hyperbolic discounting), or actually making a breakthrough and being disciplined, both may depend on the environment and people we choose to be with.

 

We may not always have a choice – especially at the workplace. However, we have a choice to associate with like-minded people, pursuing similar goals (aka eudaimonic happiness) outside of the workplace. No wonder, one of the biggest trends in fitness currently is ‘social fitness’ or working out in a group. The American Heart Association encourages group fitness within the local community or with friends and family, stating that having peers keep you responsible for tracking your goals can motivate you further (‘Don’t Work Out Alone…’, 2014).

 

STAY TUNED for the next article to know ‘how’ we can overcome this fixation on the short-term J

 

  • Nikita

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