Men’s health week: How our values & beliefs impact our health

“Men must never show emotion” and “failure is a sign of weakness”. These types of unhelpful beliefs can get in the way of our relationships and taking action when it comes to our health. It can cause us to take a few more risks with our health that in hindsight may seem unwise!

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As human beings, we all have our own values and beliefs that we have developed throughout the course of our lives.

Our family, friends, and even our workplace environment all contribute to our sense of who we are and how we view the world. Even when we are not often aware of them, our beliefs give us meaning in our life and influence our thinking and the way we respond and behave in our relationships and the world around us.

Being aware of our own values and beliefs and being able to articulate them helps us better navigate our daily lives. It helps us identify times when our values and beliefs are useful and can act as comfort and reassurance when making difficult decisions. Conversely, this awareness can also help us spot when they are outdated, inaccurate or rigid and potentially preventing us from moving forward.

Could holding on to unhelpful beliefs and values come at the expense of our health?

Are we our own worst enemy? Men lag behind women when it comes to health. We die younger, 75% of premature deaths from heart disease are men, men are twice as likely to have liver disease and middle-aged men are twice as likely to develop diabetes than women. Biological differences probably explain some of these differences but it’s impossible to ignore study after study that has shown that men are much more likely than women to engage in behaviours that are bad for their health. The unbelted car driver or passenger is more likely to be male, as is the person who skips routine health screenings and avoids the doctor when something is wrong!

Our beliefs drive our behaviour and have a big role to play in our choices and actions.

Once we believe something with absolute certainty, we will defend it and dismiss any other alternatives that do not sit well with our own beliefs. We need to watch out for this especially when they have an impact on our health! Beliefs about the way men are supposed to behave may stand in the way of healthy behaviours and getting any help or support needed. As a man myself, I’m very aware of the common misconceptions ingrained in me from a very early age that; “Men must never show emotion” and “failure is a sign of weakness”. These types of unhelpful beliefs can get in the way of our relationships and taking action when it comes to our health. It can cause us to take a few more risks with our health that in hindsight may seem unwise!

One type of belief that is very common in men is the belief that “I must provide for my family”. Certainly an admirable belief that on the surface may seem very positive, but like all the things we highlight on our programme, it’s about balance. For someone who works 70 hours a week and holds strong family values, do you think they may suffer any internal conflict and stress as their values collide? Working long hours to fulfil a belief that we need to measure up to common ideals, as opposed to looking after our health or spending time with our family, can come at a cost. Both to your relationships and your health.

It is our values and beliefs that drive and determine whether the things that are going on in our lives are part of our plans or intentions.

A real light bulb moment can happen when we spot a feeling that something is wrong when something doesn’t quite align with our personal beliefs and values.
In these situations, the conflict between our beliefs and the things we are actually doing can affect the quality of our health. Therefore, we should find a way to really understand what it is that we want in life so we can manage that conflict and really explore and focus on living to those values that are truly important to us.

Taking the time to really identify and articulate our values and beliefs is key to health.
Once we understand how they influence our thoughts, emotions and behaviours we can check for their impact on our health. Sometimes it involves digging deep inside ourselves, talking with others or simply looking at the bigger picture of our lives. It can take time and effort, yet the rewards are there.

If you find yourself living to values that are compromising your health. Address them; go to the doctors, take advantage of those routine check-ups, put a seatbelt on, spend more time with your family the list may be endless, its really down to you!

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