Hello SOTGC community,
Yes, I admit it – there was a time that I used to smoke. Nobody put a cigarette into my mouth and forced me to smoke it. No one verbally suggested or insisted that I smoke either. It just so happened that I started hanging out with a new group of people in high school (the “popular” crowd), and some of them smoked. So, we all know how the story goes…I too, eventually started to smoke as well.
Call it monkey-see, monkey-do, or a case of trying to fit in, either way, it happened. According to research, if you have direct connection with a smoker, you are 61% more likely to smoke, which of course makes complete sense. I eventually stopped spending time with smokers, smartened up, and gave it up (years later though), but thankfully before I had succumbed to a deep addiction.
While we tend to think of peer pressure as something that affects the younger generations, it is important to realize that there are many ways that peer pressure can affect us in our adulthood as well. The good news is that we have the opportunity to use the idea of peer pressure to our advantage, and hopefully for the better.
In general, we tend to model those that we spend time with, becoming more and more like them. Our social groups, and society as whole, have a profound effect on our behaviors. More specifically, our friends and our family members play a large role in shaping our lives.
My mother made sure to make healthy meals most evenings for our family, which featured many vegetables, and fruit for dessert. As a result, my brother and I both continued to eat a healthy diet into our adulthood (thanks mom!). That, in combination with exercise, helped us to stay in good shape. Thankfully our habits were similar; your chances of becoming obese actually increase by 40% if a sibling becomes obese.
Our spouses also have a great deal of influence on our lives as well. In my own marriage, I have been able to motivate my husband to eat healthier, and he has inspired me to exercise when I feel like slacking off. In addition, I have witnessed the cup-half-full attitude that my husband maintains, and his ability to very quickly let go of things that are stressful or bothersome. Being exposed to this kind of mental ease and fortitude has certainly rubbed off on me, and helped me adopt more of an easy-breezy attitude myself.
And then there are our friends. Studies show that if your best friend is very active, you are three times more likely to be very active yourself. And if a friend becomes obese, your odds of following suit go up by 57 percent.
Do you want to be more physically active? Find a friend that exercises regularly, and exercise together. Would you like to start eating healthier, but have friends that choose the less healthy restaurants for lunch? Maybe it’s time that you choose the place next time, or instead, go out with a co-worker that you know frequents the salad take-out place.
In general, my suggestion is that you examine the people that you spend the most time with, more specifically their behaviors, and ask yourself if they closely resemble the way you wish to be…physically, emotionally, and mentally.
If the answer is no, you have three options – spend less time with those people (which is often unrealistic…you are not going to ditch a friend because they are overweight or don’t exercise), expand your social group to include more healthy role models, or, stand out and become the champion of positive peer pressure with the hopes of creating healthy change!