Wellness in the COVID era

Before long, wellness will be measured by more than the macabre checklist of curve-flattening behavior

Before long, wellness will be measured by more than the macabre checklist of curve-flattening behavior that’s defined life under Covid-19. Soon our well-being will demand more – the presence of a positive, not just the absence of a negative.

It’s a golden opportunity to restart life down a healthier path. But how? Before the coronavirus, 2020 actually had been a good year for wellness in medical journals. As we regain mobility, these studies are worth recalling. Wellness is closer than you might think.

According to leading lights, our long-term welfare is tied in no small part to having friends, exercising regularly and drinking coffee. Laughter, lunges and lattes – could it really be that simple? I think so.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal cited a Harvard study focusing on the importance of male friendship. According to the research, the single best predictor of a man’s health and happiness at 80 is not his stores of wealth or professional acclaim. It’s his friendships at age 50.

Closing in as I am on the half-century mark, this caught my eye. For although I’m not a Rockefeller, I’ve always felt like one of the richest guys in town. Harvard showed me why: I am blessed with many friends. We stay in touch daily, and see each other frequently. Sure, it’s more Zoom than real presence lately, but we make the time. Lonely I am not.

Not to be outdone, Yale and Oxford published their own research in The Lancet. They show how exercise may be more important than economic status to long-term mental health. Nor is all exercise created equal.

Group activities appear to have a more salubrious effect on wellness than solitary training. Money, it seems, cannot buy happiness, but according to Yale and Oxford, a running club can kick in a nice down-payment.

Lucky me. Those friends I mentioned make up my exercise group. We try to meet early every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, before our families have stirred for an hour or so of fitness – no gym required – and fellowship. While our routine has been disrupted by the coronavirus, we have developed workarounds and reengaged with renewed gratitude.

Perhaps the best news came from The New York Times, which reported drinking 3 to 5 daily cups of coffee actually may be good for you. Coffee imbibed in moderation is associated with an overall lower risk of mortality.

More good fortune. My first cup is a pre-dawn stimulant, which means I literally run on coffee. After workout and particularly on Saturdays, my buddies and I drink it down together over breakfast, in quantities that move Arabica futures. Soon we’ll get to do that again.

So you see why I’m so happy despite this dreadful coronavirus. It will pass, and these three important Fs going forward -Friendship, Fitness and French Press – are things I already value dearly. I just didn’t realize they might end up saving my life.

Remember that as you reemerge from quarantine. Reconnect with an old friend, or make a new one. Together, do whatever exercise your bodies allow. And when it’s all over, enjoy a good cup of joe. You’ll be glad you did.

Mike Kerrigan, a Charlotte attorney, writes regularly for the Opinion pages.