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How People Choose What to Do with Their Health?

 It’s Monday morning — you’re back to being engrossed in emails and phone calls. Unaware, you barely remember, just 60 hours prior — you could barely sit upright. 

People have different standards about their health. While some are appreciative, others may not be, despite the condition they are in. But what is it about our bodies that we tend to perceive it as insignificant? 

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“We have limited attentional resources,” suggests Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at UC Davis. “Hence our brains does not waste its times focusing on parts of our bodies that are working well.” As our minds have evolved with the objective to survive, it could dominantly identify threats and problems — rather than what is working well.

A preexisting negativity bias directs our attention to what’s wrong than what’s right. For this reason — on days when your body feels right, the brain’s reasoning would make you want to stress about a project that’s due, or your conflict with a friend.

“People who won a lottery are no happier than those who didn’t,” explains Brickman in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Such a concept could explain our instinct to take health for granted— from another perspective. It depicts the notion that after any positive or negative life events, we go back to a baseline subjective well-being. The word behind is— adaptation. Perhaps this is the reason why romantic couple, over time, lose excitement and appreciation for one another. 

Does that mean that adaptation must be perceived as a tragedy? Perhaps not. “This is how we’re supposed to operate, especially when it comes to our health,” says Amie Gordon, an assistant psychology professor at the university of Michigan. “If we were to sense clothes on our bodies all day long, we’d constantly be distracted.” She emphasises on such an instance to demonstrate the idea that — if our bodies are causing us problems, then we wouldn’t be grateful to walk around. We’d rather be directing our mental energy on other things.

What people choose to do with their health information, also says a lot about their behaviour. As a 2021 report by the University College London summarizes — People decide to avoid or take their health information seriously, depending on how they think it will make them feel. Or how useful it is. 

In the recent decade, a vast level of information is available, from social issues to health and economy. Then how do people decide on what they want to know? Even if they seek out an information, why is it that some people do (e.g. with the COVID-19 case or financial inequality) and others don't? 

“People prioritize one of the three motives,”says Tali Sharot, a UCL professor. “Usefulness, feelings or frequency of thoughts.” While at-the-moment, health information is only being read and shared, assuming that it is enough to guide decisions. It turns out that it’s not. Information must be framed and delivered without overlooking people’s feelings. 

For this reason, policy makers are able to highlight on the usefulness of the messages that they spread out, eliciting positive feelings among people. For instance, packaging labels, at present, not only depict core ingredients of a food item, but also the health benefits that people could seek after consuming it. 

There is still hope that by stimulating positive feelings, people would be encouraged in complying with their health needs. They would be ensured that there’s something more to be gained, on an individual level — before going through Monday emails and phone calls.

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