The Most Important Factor in Wellbeing has Nothing to Do with Diet or Exercise

There’s a lot of bad news out there when it comes to health, mostly of the “here’s another one of your favourite things in the world that is going to kill you” variety. So good news must be grasped as a drowning man grasps a friendly dolphin – and here is some good news of the very goodest variety.

Turns out, diet and exercise are not the most important factors in determining wellness.

Yes! All right! Bring me another burger while I lean this recliner a little further back, it’s party time!

OK, well, maybe not that. It’s not that diet and exercise don’t matter, it’s that there’s some strong evidence that there’s something that matters even more, according to a new book by psychiatrist Kelli Harding. And that something is: kindness.

Yep, science is backing this one up: your health can be vastly improved by the presence of loving people in your life who treat you kindly. And, as it happens, by you being kind and loving yourself: the benefits of hugs flow both ways.

In a nutshell, people who have a lot of kindness in their lives are healthier – live longer, and with better quality of life – than those whose personal interactions are marked by coldness and anger. So the lesson here is: you still should go for a walk now and then and not eat too many pizzas, but it’s far more important to treat people well, and make sure you surround yourself with others who do the same.

Which is, in every way, a nice message to get.