Healthy living is going too far, what we need is balance

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By Alfie Sealy, Second Year History

It is not quite time to put the pints down yet - a fulfilling social life can be just as important as your physical health.

A dilemma as old as time itself strikes many young people as they tumble out of bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning, 'ready' to face the day. Often in the grips of an intense, all-consuming hangover, a simple thought arises - has the time come to leave the partying behind?

Age-old as this dilemma may be, it is in fact increasingly having a tangible effect on the lifestyles of young people.

According to a recent study conducted by University College London, 36 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds do not consume alcohol at all.

Perhaps partly in response, institutions such as the University of Swansea have taken to offering alcohol-free accommodation to students who do not wish to be surrounded by the raucousness that epitomises many people’s recollection of their first year of university.

a strong case could be made that our entire cultural climate in terms of literature, music and art would be unrecognisable if people in the past had not seen the appeal of getting intoxicated on the odd occasion.

Closer to home, the University of Bristol’s SU now offers alcohol-free freshers’ events. It should be stressed that these are inclusive and necessary steps. Nobody should be peer-pressured into partaking in a lifestyle that they struggle to identify with. The detrimental impact of substance abuse both mentally and physically should also without doubt be documented as widely as possible.

However, legitimate as it may be to argue that too many avenues for socialising revolve around alcohol, it is hard not to feel that something important would be lost if we were all to embark upon the path towards total abstinence.

It may sound silly, but a strong case could be made that our entire cultural climate in terms of literature, music and art would be unrecognisable if people in the past had not seen the appeal of getting intoxicated on the odd occasion. On a slightly less pretentious note, I would argue that a world without the simple beauty of talking nonsense at the pub with your friends or drunkenly befriending a stranger on a night out seems like no world at all.

completely shunning all forms of behaviour that are deemed unhealthy could also, paradoxically, have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing.

Perhaps the public outcry that surrounds the announcement of the closure of every beloved nightclub indicates that a good night out can bring people together in a way that gym classes cannot. Furthermore, completely shunning all forms of behaviour that are deemed unhealthy could also, paradoxically, have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Recent years have given birth to what I would term a ‘cult of wellness’ that has led some to become obsessed with their health to an an extent that is anything but healthy.

The popularity of ‘wellness’ festivals such as Goop (tickets cost between $500-$1500), or the vast array of cookbooks and social media pages advocating the miraculous benefits of ‘clean-eating’ has arguably placed undue pressure on young people to emulate unrealistic ideals in terms of their individual habits and lifestyles.

The path to inner fulfilment does not lie in the bottle, but it surely does not lie in probiotic juices either.

Indeed, psychologists and nutritionists have drawn links between the ‘clean-eating’ trend of recent times and a rise in new types of eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa. In this light, stigmatising the occasional mishaps and lack of discipline that make us human seems like an equally irrational response to the challenges of modern life as unabated hedonism does.

What solution should we come to, then, about our hungover, Sunday morning dilemma?

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It is clear that it is simply a case of striking a balance. Nobody should feel pressured into drinking, but it is equally important to state that a good night out with your friends is not without its benefits; not everything we do has to be healthy to be worthwhile.

Moderation and a health-conscious lifestyle are undoubtedly essential ingredients to leading a fulfilling life, but please do not put your pint glasses down just yet.

Featured image: Epigram/Maia Miller-Lewis

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