How Your Boss Can Ruin Your Health

Wellbeing can be profoundly affected by some very surprising elements of life.

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I know people who are regular exercisers, healthy eaters, and active in their communities. Sometimes I think these are people who were just born with those inclinations. Are there certain personality types more prone to having wellbeing in multiple areas?

There is certainly some predisposition to wellbeing, based on the research I've looked at. There are people who have a lot more natural disciple. But for most of us, it takes a lot more in terms of social expectations, where, say, we tell people we're going to run a 5k. In my office in D.C., we've hired a lot of young people. Just something as basic as going and getting a paper cup of coffee—people give me dirty looks when I do that now. I know there's a social expectation that I should be using a mug that I wash and reuse each time instead of throwing away a paper cup. That's exactly what happened with smoking. Smokers were essentially just pushed to the outer edges of social networks one at a time. And you could watch the same social patterns with litter 25 years ago or seatbelt use. You can see how those big social changes happened in the context of groups and organizations and communities and neighborhoods.

I've been watching the television show Mad Men lately. Characters on that show go on picnics and leave their litter in the park—they drink while they're driving.

I was saying that to my wife. We watched a few seasons of that recently and it seems like a time capsule to me. I told someone that show makes me a little more optimistic because you can see how much progress society can make in a short period of time.