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Candle counting and resolutions

Nurturing

CRISIS  Less men are buying motorbikes and flashy cars when they hit their midlife crisis, while more are turning vegan and signing up for competitive events.

Health

Andrew O'Brien

Men have changed over the years. Evolution has been a key driver in many of the physical changes, but cultural changes have contributed as well. Things like improvements in sanitation, better diets and medical advances. I read recently of one of the biggest changes of recent times, and was a little surprised.
Apparently a ‘study’ by Bupa Health Clinics in the UK found that even our mid-life crises have changed. I say ‘study’ because this seems to have been a survey carried out on behalf of Bupa and sent out as a press release rather than proper scientific research. However, the results got the headline writers excited.
According to their findings, when Brits approach a milestone birthday (read 30, 40 or 50) they take stock of their life and health, which is probably fair enough. It seems 47 percent of respondents make positive lifestyle changes at such times, with women more likely to make changes when they turn 30 and men at 40.
Seemingly one-fifth of women turning 30 see a milestone birthday as an opportunity to reassess all areas of life and think about what’s really important, while two-thirds adopt a new healthy eating plan and about half join the gym. Also not all that surprising.
Men on the other hand, have changed. Whereas once the male mid-life crisis involved buying a daft car, apparently 24 percent of British men are becoming vegan, while 30 percent are signing up for competitive events. Dear me. My own ‘milestone’ is rapidly approaching, and I can confirm that if the weather cooperates I will have an unreconstructed Australian man barbecue! If I had the money, I would buy a motorbike as well.
Aside from lamenting the changes, these reports got me thinking. Are we just looking at a variation on the New Year’s Resolution? How many people over the years have decided on December 31 that this will be the year they join the gym, improve their diet and run a marathon, only to fall off the wagon by the middle of February? Apparently 80 percent of resolutions fail by February, with most people quitting on the second Friday in January according to data analysis by Strava, the social network for athletes.
I applaud anyone who makes a positive change in their life, in fact I actively encourage everyone to make a positive change in their life. I recently read William Glasser’s 1976 book ‘Positive Addictions’, in which he writes of the physical and mental health benefits that can come from developing a positive habit and becoming addicted to that practice.
Interestingly, Glasser believes that the two activities most likely to result in a positive addiction are running and meditation, of which one definitely rates a mention in Bupa’s study. What I query is the sense of making a start on a land mark day. Why the first of January, why wait until you’re 40 if you’re unhealthy or unhappy at 39?
I met a man once who told me he had smoked up to 200 cigarettes a day. Yes, two hundred! He showed me scars on his hands that came from burning himself on the cigarette already in his mouth as he tried to put a fresh one in. When I asked how he quit, he told me that he walked into the shop each morning on his way to work and the lady behind the counter had his smokes waiting for him. One day he absent-mindedly forgot how much he had to pay and was horrified when she told him. In his own words he realised how selfish he was spending that much money every day when his wife hadn’t been on a holiday for years, so he turned around and walked out, never lighting another cigarette. He couldn’t tell me the date, but was sure it wasn’t on his 40th or 50th birthday.
My point is simple. By all means make a positive change to your life, please do, you won’t regret it and it will make you inherently stronger. Become a vegan, run a marathon or take up meditation if you like, and do it sooner rather than later. But do it because you want to, not because you can count your candles in multiples of ten.

Correction
In last week’s Mayo News, Andrew O’Brien’s picture byline was inadvertently placed with an article that was written by fitness instructor and life coach Paul O’Brien (‘Are you a house built on sand’, available on www.mayonews.ie). The Mayo News apologises to both contributors, and to readers for any confusion caused by this misattribution.

Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.