By Sonia Bhala / Health Columnist
A student’s personality may affect far more than just their social life. Many American psychologists and health experts agree that choices such as diet, commitment to exercise, or following the advice of a doctor are as strong of a reflection on personality type as they are on well-being.
According to research done by the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, the number one most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2014 was to lose weight and the number five was to stay fit and healthy. However, past research reveals that 35% of Americans absolutely never keep their resolutions. Although the statistics may be against you, becoming aware of the habits of your personality type and how it may either aide or distract you will greatly improve the chances of keeping your promise of a healthier self.
Personality is the sum total of the physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics of an individual. In order to become aware of your personality type, you must first become aware of the different indicators that compose it. Several of the most common indicators of personality types are as follow:
Impulsivity: Would you rather have $5 placed in your pocket right now or $10 placed in there one week from today? If you chose the former, chances are you lack the virtues of delayed gratification. Delayed gratification skills are particularly useful in the midst of a strict diet or forcing yourself to go to the gym when you are not in the mood to. If you make impulsive decisions in other parts of your life, chances are that you will be less likely to stick with your fitness goals in order to receive simple pleasures in the present.
Hostility and Anxiety: Redford Williams, head of behavioral medicine at Duke University and author of Anger Kills, once stated that belligerent people are likely to smoke more, eat more, and develop high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure later on in life. Chronic stress triples your chance for developing heart disease later in life. Although the stress hormones released when you are angry are useful for revving up your body in a “flight or fight” situation, if your personality type places your body in a constant state of stress, your health is likely to quickly deteriorate. A similar phenomenon occurs when you are constantly worried. People who are stressed are likely to develop mental health disorders such as depression. Additionally, stress is known to weaken the immune system. Alternatively, being relaxed and easy-going is one of the best things you can do in order to ensure well-being.
Conscientiousness: How do you approach your homework assignments at Raritan Valley Community College? Are you likely to always get them done on time? Do your friends consider you a reliable person? If you answered "yes” to these questions, you are most likely a responsible person. According to Art Markman, professor of psychology at University of Texas, people who exhibit responsibility, conscientiousness, and reliability in their social and work lives tend to apply those same skills when it comes to making healthy decisions.
Moody: If you are prone to mood swings, you are likely to reach for food as a source of comfort during the low points of your emotional rollercoaster. If you are happy one day and sad the next, you may have problems with weight fluctuations and issues with binge eating one day and dangerous fasting the next. It is important for these types of people to stick to a regular diet and exercise routine and remember the benefits of moderation.
Introvert vs. Extrovert: Being a quiet person may be beneficial to your weight loss routine. Dr. Heidi Hanna, performance coach and author of The Sharp Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance, states that “Introverts may have a more thoughtful, less impulsive style (than extroverts) that enables them to consider their choices more rationally.” Outgoing people are more likely to immerse themselves in social situations that involve unhealthful food such as parties and eating out regularly. However, they can overcome this temptation by forming the habit of eating healthful food before going out. They also may have an advantage over introverts in certain social situations such as using their social skills to make friends at the gym, helping them stick to fitness goals.
Perfectionism: Perfectionists are likely to be hard on themselves and prone to overeat once they have slipped up. However, being self-compassionate and forgiving yourself for mistakes will help decrease this stress and improve performance in all aspects of your life, including your health.
Early Birds vs. Night Owls: Studies show that early risers are more likely to be healthy than those that stay up late. This is because your body burns calories more efficiently and quickly when you eat earlier in the morning than when you eat late at night. Also, the late night snacks that night owls tend to reach for are usually unhealthful. To overcome this, they can eat more in the morning than the rest of the day. One very famous quote used in several health and wellness books to describe this is “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
It is important for students to take a personality inventory before committing to their New Year’s resolutions because by understanding their personality type and corresponding strengths and weaknesses, they can better stick to their health regimen. Many of these personality types are not inherent. They are simply formed out of habit. Therefore, with the right motivation and determination, you can overcome your current anxious, night owl, or hostile personality in order to live a more healthy life.