Is Health a Choice? | Healthy Maine Living and You

It’s official, Maine is now the 9th Healthiest State in the US, according to this year’s annual America’s Health Rankings report.

But what makes a state a “healthy” state anyway?

After reading this article you might be surprised at the answer. Come to find out it not only has a lot to do with a state’s level of health care- it also has a lot to do with our personal choices and with the type of people we surround ourselves with.

Maine Living and Working

We are a Maine water treatment company…at least that is the professional “hat” we choose to wear for our business. It’s a hat we do wear, happily. But I think probably a better (albeit a bit odd) title for us would be; Healthy Maine Living consultants.

As a water treatment company, so much of our time each day is spent dealing with the “un-healthy”  aspects (Arsenic, Radon, Uranium etc.) of our environment, and making them safer for our clients. It’s really easy to forget just how healthy a state we actually live in.

Maine Ninth Healthiest State in the US | Portland Press Herald

Yesterday, an article appeared in the Portland Press Herald talking about Maine’s position in the Health Rankings Report as well as some of the “health challenges” we experience as a state.

“Maine’s health challenges include high rates of chain smoking and cancer deaths and a moderate obesity rate, the annual study found.”

To quote the report directly, the study lists each state’s strengths and challenges. The report lists Challenges for Maine as follows:

  • High prevalence of smoking
  • High rate of cancer deaths
  • Moderate prevalence of obesity

At first glance, it doesn’t sound like the report paints a picture that portrays us as a model for healthy Maine living. Until you look a little closer.

Can you Choose your Health?

While meandering through the America’s Health Ranking site, I decided to scan through their about section. The very first sentence at the top of the page provides their definition of health as:

“Health is a result of our behaviors, our individual genetic predisposition to disease, the environment and the community in which we live, the clinical care we receive and the policies and practices of our health care and prevention systems.”

Something immediately caught my attention.  3 of the first 4 factors listed in the AHR recipe for a healthy life are directly attributed to the choices we as individuals make and the way in which we live our lives.

Why do we live in Maine?

Does our own health and longevity have more to do with our personal behaviors and the community in which we live, than it does the level of health care we receive?

If this is true, a couple of key questions come to my mind. Why do Mainers rank so well in this respect? Why do we choose to live here?

As I sit here at my local Starbucks, kicking the latter question around in my head, 3 words come to mind:

Because we can!

Coffee Shops | Good for your Health?

I love human nature…it fascinates me. Odd as it might sound I consider myself a student of life and of people.

It’s fun to think about why we are the people we are, why we think the way we think and why we do the things we do. I’m guessing you won’t find many simple answers to these questions. I know I haven’t. But it really opens your eyes when you stop to at least consider those questions for a minute.

For instance, let’s start by asking the author a question; “Why do I choose to sit here in this Starbucks today and write this blog post, as opposed to working back in the comforts of my own home office?”

Can’t say it’s for the coffee- my wife and I have a large bag of Starbucks dark roast sitting in our kitchen cabinet – don’t need to come down here to have a great cup of java (it certainly would be more economical at home).

My high back, cushy office chair would definitely be a lot more comfortable than the low back wooden chair my keester currently rents space from, in this moment.

Also, it would be a lot quieter with far fewer distractions in my cozy little office space. Leads one to believe I would be more productive, right?

So apparently it’s not for the comfort, convenience or lack of distractions that make me visit Starbucks & other local coffee shops to do some work.

Then why do I?

Maine Living and our Community

I choose to experience Maine living at its fullest, to the best of my abilities every single day.

I give it my best effort to keep that choice in mind at the beginning of each day. Admittedly, some days life does get hectic and it’s not always easy to keep this choice in mind. Believe me I know.

I choose to be here at this Starbucks today so that I could be among my neighbors- the same people who enjoy surrounding themselves with others who also enjoy a sense of community. I am grateful for that sense of togetherness and community here in Maine.

I choose to be here for the experience. Plain and simple. It just feels right.

I think most Maine people would tell you that they choose to live in this wonderful state not because of career opportunities, low costs of living and plentiful supplies of affordable and beautiful homes. If these were the real reasons Mainers lived here, I’m guessing our current State population would be a lot smaller than it is.

I suspect most people in Maine choose to live here because of “the environment and the community in which we live.”

Are we Healthier because we live in Maine?

I’m not really sure I can give you an educated answer to that question. The report tells us we are. I would sure like to believe we are, and I do suspect that it is the case.

One thing I learned quite some time ago is just how much our attitudes, choices and thoughts can really effect our health.

It’s well documented that stress can and will make us sick. Most people seem to grasp this fact easily. When our environment or our state of mind is in turmoil, our body is usually the first to let us know.

Happy = Healthy…..Unhappy = ?

How to be even Healthier

So, if happiness and a sense of belonging play into our health as much as we’re led to believe, maybe we need to rethink the way we approach the people we encounter and the events that happen to us each and every day.

  • What if true health and happiness is just sitting there waiting to pounce on us, as a wonderful byproduct of the the people we bump into at our local coffee house or sandwich shop?
  • Maybe it’s hiding in plain daylight right in the middle of a productive work meeting where our contributions and willingness to listen bring something to the table and something to the lives of those we work with.
  • Maybe we’ll find it while enjoying the company of our loved ones, savoring a nice meal together at the end of a long day or during one of the many holiday gatherings we’re sure to attend.

Maybe the real “apple a day” we should be getting is simply to keep in mind how lucky we are to live in a place like Maine and to be around the people we call our friends & neighbors.

What if it were that easy? I’m willing to give it a bite!

I recommend giving it a try sometime as well. Make sure to let me know what you think.

(oh, and BTW, don’t forget to wash that apple down with plenty of clean & healthy water too!!)