How to Improve Your Health Today

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Chimp Paradox" by Steve Peters. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Looking for tips about how to improve your health? What can you do to become healthier? 

In The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters advises that health issues can be caused by your inner Chimp. Your inner Chimp represents the emotional and impulsive part of your brain, which can sometimes get carried away. If you want to find out how to improve your health, the following article has some helpful advice.

Read on to find out how to improve your health.

How to Improve Your Health: Malfunction or Dysfunction?

Do you want to find out how to improve your health? In order to be healthy, you need to focus on both your physical and mental health. In each area, you may have malfunctions or dysfunctions you need to address.

Malfunctions

Malfunctions are when your “machine” (your body or brain) is broken: when you’re ill and need a doctor for help. These can be physical problems, such as when you break a bone, or they can be mental problems, such as when your brain chemistry becomes imbalanced and you need medication to address a mental illness. Alcoholism and drug addiction are also malfunctions that you may need professional help to manage. When looking at how to improve your health, this type of issue might be harder to fix. 

Dysfunctions

Dysfunctions are when your machine is functional but you’re mismanaging it and creating health problems as a result. You can be dysfunctional in either your physical or mental health.

Physical Dysfunction

When looking at how to improve your health, your physical health is important. Your physical well-being involves your nutrition, weight, and fitness. It’s easy to mismanage these areas because in each of them, your Chimp and your Human want different things. Your Chimp wants an easy life with little effort and lots of enjoyment, and is reluctant to put off immediate pleasure for the promise of future pleasure—so when, for example, you sign up for a fitness class but don’t bother attending the sessions, it’s because your Chimp has taken over and decided to stay in your comfortable bed rather than get up and go to the gym. 

In contrast, your Human wants long-term happiness and is willing to forego short-term happiness to get it. Your Human wants to be fit and eat sensibly, and is able to resist the temptation of instant gratification that prevents those goals. So, for example, when you sign up for that fitness class and attend each session even though they’re scheduled early in the morning, it’s because your Human has taken over and decided that your long-term happiness is more important than the short-term comfort of a late morning. 

The best way to empower your Human to drive your health decisions is to be proactive rather than reactive. Proactive people formulate a plan that allows them to respond to setbacks and distractions. Reactive people instead respond to problems as they arrive—which often leads them to take the path of least resistance and give up. For example, if you want to eat healthier, you’ll be more successful if you proactively stock the refrigerator with carrot sticks to anticipate your midday hunger. You’ll be less successful if you reactively try to hunt for a snack when that midday hunger hits. 

Mental Dysfunction

As we’ve discussed already, your brain needs certain things like intellectual stimulation, socialization, laughter, and a purpose in order to feel happy. In addition to these psychological elements, your brain needs:

  • Relaxation: This means short periods during the day when you pause and take a breather (often during a project, to give your brain a quick break).
  • Rest: This means longer periods where you completely unwind (often in the evening, after the day’s work is done).
  • Sleep: Without adequate sleep, your body starts sending blood to the Chimp areas of your brain and your Human has trouble staying in control. This means that you’re more likely to get angry, upset, or anxious in the face of stress, and are less able to regulate your reactions to other people.

The above advice will help you learn how to improve your health.

How to Improve Your Health Today

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Steve Peters's "The Chimp Paradox" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Chimp Paradox summary:

  • Why we struggle to control our urges, succumb to temptation, and sabotage our own success
  • How to manage your inner chimp to become happier, more balanced, and successful
  • Why your psychological world is like a solar system with 7 planets

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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