It’s a lot of pressure to live in Colorado.
Everywhere I go, I’m forced to see dog walkers, hikers, bikers, skiers, runners, swimmers, mountain climbers and various other people in athletic gear performing some sort of healthy activity. These are the kinds of people that make a person—namely one who may or may not be more apt to stay at home watching television and eating a variety of junk food—feel bad about themselves if they don’t partake.
Not surprisingly (at least to me), Colorado residents scored the highest on the physical health index, according to the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released this week—a ranking that’s partially a result of the state having the lowest percentage of obese residents in the country. Colorado is also ranked No. 2 overall as the state where residents report the best sense of overall well-being behind only Hawaii.
The poll measured a lot of factors to try to figure out just how healthy and happy Americans are. The survey examines people’s ratings in life evaluation (whether they saw themselves as struggling or thriving), physical health (obesity, number of sick days taken over the month), emotional health (happiness, depression, stress), healthy behaviors (smoking, eating, exercising), work environment (job satisfaction, treatment at work) and basic access (safety in the neighborhood, access to medicine, doctor, health insurance).
It’s interesting to note that year after year, this index essentially shows the same thing: the same states and regions are really healthy, and the same ones just aren’t. Overall, Western and Midwestern states usually earn the highest well-being scores while the South receives the lowest. It’s obvious location really matters when it comes to health and well-being.
People are more likely to eat well and exercise more when the people around them have these healthy habits as well, research has shown. It’s simply peer pressure. Basically, we have an innate desire to fit in—so healthy (or unhealthy) behaviors or attitudes are often contagious.
It’s something I can attest to. I’m not a Colorado native, and it took a while for me to actually begin to admit to people that I don’t ski or snowboard, and that anything involving heights and being outside in freezing, windy weather really doesn’t appeal to me. But when I realized I answered “no” to every question about whether I bike, hike, ski, snowshoe, run, walk really fast, etc.—I felt like an outsider (and a lazy one, at that). Basically, I was peer pressured into beginning some sort of physical exertion and healthy eating—or at least pretending, er, trying, to.
Surrounding yourself with people whose qualities you desire or respect is often a good lesson—no one wants to be around coworker who complains all the time, or have Debbie Downer be your best friend.
On a similar note, though, the poll notes that Hawaiian residents were most likely to experience daily enjoyment and least likely to have daily worry or stress, which contributed to their high emotional health, the survey notes. Hawaii workers also reported having the most positive work environments in the nation.
Sure physical health is important, but I’ve always been a big proponent of mental and emotional health and overall well-being. Maybe all this means is clearly I should look into moving to Hawaii, especially since I’m not too keen on the skiing thing. Plus I could always try surfing.