Every day we make decisions that have effects on our health

Making a decision

Every day you make decisions that have immediate and long-term effects on your health. You decide what to eat, whether to drink or smoke, when to exercise, and how to cope with a sudden crisis.

Beyond these daily matters, you decide when to see a doctor, what kind of doctor, and with what sense of urgency. You decide what to tell your doctor and whether to follow the advice given, whether to keep up your immunizations, whether to have a prescription filled and comply with the medication instructions, and whether to seek further help or a second opinion. The entire process of maintaining or restoring health depends on your decisions.

The small decisions of everyday life—what to eat, where to go, when to study—are straightforward choices. Larger decisions—which major to choose, what to do about a dead-end relationship, how to handle an awkward work situation—are more challenging. However, if you think of decision making as a process, you can break down even the most difficult choices into manageable steps:

Planning ahead: Life changes can happen quickly and without warning. To avoid making important decisions in haste or under stress, it’s best to plan ahead.

Set priorities: Rather than getting bogged down in details, step back and look at the picture. What matters most of you? What would you like to accomplish in the next week, month, and year? Look at the decision you’re about to make in the context of your values and goals.

Inform yourself: The more you know—about a person, a position, a place, a project—the better you’ll be able to evaluate it. Gathering information may involve formal research, such as an on-line or library search for relevant data or informal conversations with teachers, counselors, family members, or friends.

Consider all your options: Most complex decisions don’t involve simple either-or alternatives. List as many options as you can think of, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Tune in to your gut feelings: After you've gotten the facts and analyzed them, listen to your intuition. While it’s not infallible, your “sixth sense” can provide valuable feedback. If something just doesn't feel right, try to figure out why. Are there any fears you haven’t dealt with? Do you have doubts about taking a certain path?

Consider a “worst case” scenario: When you've pretty much come to a final decision, imagine what will happen if everything goes wrong—the workload becomes overwhelming, your partner betrays your trust, your expectations turn out to be unrealistic. If you can live with the worst consequences of a decision, you’re probably making the right choice.

Living a healthy lifestyle, becoming informed, and planning ahead are steps you can take in making a healthy life decision.
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