It sounds counterintuitive, but if the vast majority of your income is tied up in taking care of basic necessities, then you can't afford to treat yourself to a sugary Starbucks drink every morning, beer every night, snacks during the day, and a steak and potatoes dinner from your local greasy spoon. Most people with a discretionary income don't spend that money on kale and a gym membership; they spend it on unhealthy crap that makes them happy. Of course, being too poor won't help either, because eating gently used McDonald's after the power's been shut off is soul-crushing. You need to find a sweet spot where you can afford all your bills and buy enough food to prepare simple meals, but be unable to enjoy little else beyond a library card and the odd movie. It's the "living, but not really alive" window.
Losing your job can also improve your health, as people who suddenly have time on their hands will get more sleep and no longer need three cans of Pepsi mixed with two cans of Mountain Dew to make it through the afternoon budget meeting. It's easier to stop bad habits when you literally can't afford them. The only problem is that you can't stay unemployed forever, and once your income improves, your unhealthy habits have a tendency of creeping right back in.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that on a societal level, a recession can create long-term change. Researchers studying the 2008 recession in Iceland found that even after the good times returned and vices like fast food consumption went back to their old levels, national alcohol consumption continued to decline. This is believed to have been caused by a mix of both economic changes, like adjustments in pricing and currency value, and subtle changes in cultural values. Recessions are like a Hallmark movie, in that they teach us to enjoy and appreciate non-alcohol-related activities.
WikipediaThough this was in Iceland, where a trip to the doctor costs less than a new car, so that may be skewing the numbers a bit.
Of course, an economic recession can also cause incredible amounts of stress, especially if you can no longer afford, say, lifesaving medication. But at least you won't be smoking and drinking that stress away!
Mark is on Twitter and has a book.
And if you're still stressed out and anxious all the time, maybe try a couple of stress balls.
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