Self-Reliance in the Age of Obamacare

What can you do to lower skyrocketing healthcare costs?

Posted Oct 14, 2013

According to a report published in October 2013, health care financed by federal, state, and local governments is projected to account for 49% of total national health expenditures and reach a total of $2.4 trillion by 2022. The federal government will account for more than 63% of this total, or about $1.5 trillion. This number reflects expanded Medicaid eligibility, premium and cost-sharing subsidies through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (exchanges), and exponential growth in Medicare enrollment as more and more baby boomers continue to enter the program.

The same study predicts that health care costs will rise at an annual rate of 5.8% over the next decade. This is 1% faster than the expected growth in the gross domestic product (GDP). The healthcare costs as a share of GDP are projected to rise to almost 20% percent by 2022 from a 2011 level of 18%. There is a good chance that rising healthcare costs could sink the American economy. I think in many ways the most patriotic thing each American citizen can do for our country is to begin taking care of your well-being through healthier daily lifestyle choices.

Transcendentalism in the 21st Century

Self-Reliance was the culmination of a lifetime of work that summed up the Transcendentalist philosophies. Around 1830, people like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson began a religious and philosophical movement in Massachusetts called Transcendentalism. Their movement began as a protest against the general state of politics and society. In particular they were retaliating against the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among the core beliefs of the transcendentalists' was the inherent virtue of human beings and nature.

Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—had the ability to corrupt the purity of the individual. They had faith that human beings are most likely to achieve their maximum potential when they are truly "self-reliant" and independent. Their belief was that it takes authentic individuals who are living wholeheartedly to form a strong sense of community. Throughout the Self-Reliance essay Emerson refers back to his famous catchphrase: "Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string".

The foundation of Self-Reliance is that each individual is inherently “genius” but must strive to build his or her self-worth by not conforming to the world but remaining a part of it. To follow Emerson's self-reliance credo, one must learn to understand what is most true within your heart, and learn to think and act independent of popular opinion and social pressure. I believe that one simple way to fortify being a trailblazer and not a lemming is to make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Regular exercise gives you resiliencebrainpower and the self-confidence to be a free thinker.

The Self-Reliance essay begins with the Latin phrase “Ne te quaesiveris extra” which means ‘do not seek outside yourself, look within.' Emerson’s philosophy is based on a belief that humans are wired to have a herd mentality and will inherently conform to fit into the mainstream and social norms.

What does it mean to conform in a modern digital age? I believe that the forces of information technology and excessive screen time have made us a more sedentary society, and in many ways this has made us more complacent. As we eat more and more processed and genetically engineered foods — without the need to actually move our bodies or do manual labor for survival — our minds become weaker and our brains literally shrink. Luckily, each of us has the individual power to rally against the forces of modern life in small ways every day.

Staying Healthy Is Key to Self-Reliance

Achieving self-reliance is always going to be a tightrope walk. We need family, friends and community more than anything else. But we also need to stay independent and not fall into a learned helplessness mindset of depending on the ‘system’ to take care of us. Staying healthy is key to self-reliance. Also, taking care of yourself through healthier daily habits increases feelings of self-worth. 

Clearly, many illnesses or accidents are unavoidable and are destined to blindside us at some period during each of our lives. But, most of the illnesses that are causing healthcare costs to skyrocket are based on daily lifestyle choices. My mission with The Athlete’s Way is to communicate the most current medical and psychological research on how to maintain a sound mind in a sound body. My aim is to give you practical advice on ways to translate cutting edge scientific data into simple healthier daily habits.

Conclusion: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

There is one important caveat about self-reliance. Although each individual must strive to be self-reliant, we must simultaneously fortify social connectivity and close knit bonds. Having healthy, intimate, loving relationships is probably the most important ingredient for our well-being, which in turn allows each of us to remain self-reliant.

As Emerson said, “There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony.”

As individuals and a nation we are only as strong as our weakest link. We need to come together and support each other. All ships rise in a rising tide. You can change the tides by setting an example of self-reliance, loving-kindness, and optimism that will rub off on your friends, your family, your neighbors and so on, and so on. Make it happen by making healthier lifestyle choices a part of your daily routine. Start today!

For 5 simple tips on how-to become more self-reliant please check out my previous Psychology Today blog: “The Importance of Self-Reliance