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Integrative Medicine: What if Your Doctor Prescribed Actions Instead of Medications?

Integrative Medicine: What if Your Doctor Prescribed Actions Instead of Medications?

I spend a lot of my time thinking about ways that you can overcome illness and injury, boost your health and happiness, and live a more vibrant and fulfilling life. One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that behavior change and habit formation is one of the most powerful tools we have … and yet it is being largely ignored by medicine and healthcare.

Let’s talk about that problem and some simple ways to solve it.

Build Habits, Not Factories

I think it’s strange that we know that behavior changes like eating healthy, exercising more, reducing stress, and boosting creativity can improve your health (both in the short–term and long–term) and yet most doctors spend their time treating symptoms rather than teaching these behaviors.

I’ve written previously about how forming healthy habits not only prevents illness, but can also act as a method for treating it. For example, using exercise as a treatment for depression. What if your doctor took this idea to heart and prescribed actions instead of medications?

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Imagine how much time and energy doctors, pharmacists, and healthcare providers spend researching drugs, prescribing medications, and making sure that new drugs don’t conflict with the ones you’re currently taking. Compare that to how much time your doctor spends teaching you how to optimize your environment at home and at work to build healthy habits. (Has any doctor ever done this?)

What if, instead of dishing out pills to treat symptoms, healthcare professionals spent their time teaching patients how to act healthy? I’ve written about ways to do this. For example, changing the color of your plate to make it easier to eat more vegetables or using the phrase “I don’t” to make sure that you resist temptation and actually stick to your health goals for the long–term.

These ideas are just two examples out of hundreds of simple tactics that can be used to make behavior change easier. These ideas come from the fields of behavioral psychology, consumer research, and elsewhere (and I’m doing my best to track down as many as possible).

Teaching Actions Instead of Prescribing Pills

There is a shocking amount of unnecessary treatment going on in healthcare.

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As reported in this New York Times article, orthopedic surgeons took an anonymous survey and admitted that 24% of the tests they ordered were medically unnecessary. That article also shared that the rate of doctor’s visits that lead to more than 5 medications being prescribed has more than tripled in the last 5 years.

Some experts believe that doctors feel pressured to do “something” for patients and so they end up ordering drugs and procedures that won’t hurt them, but that don’t really help either. When I hear about stories like this, I feel like plucking my eyeballs out with a fork. Is this really the best we can do? Instead of wasting time and money on unnecessary procedures, why not spend that time teaching people how to implement lifestyle changes?

Regardless of the motivation behind these actions, the evidence is pretty clear. Our medical system is spending a lot of time and money treating symptoms and masking illnesses, and very little time teaching people how to change their behaviors and build better habits.

Integrative Medicine: It Works, So Use It

All of this is not to say that surgery or prescription drugs or medical treatment doesn’t work. Not only do those methods work, they save many lives. But it’s also true that in many cases, these treatments don’t work any better than behavior change. (Not to mention that behavior change is less expensive and more empowering over the long–term.)

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And this is why I’m calling for more integrative medicine — a combination of the best of scientifically–backed ideas from all fields. For many illnesses, research has already shown that behavior change leads to equivalent or better outcomes than medication.  As with most things in life, the right answer is probably a balance of both sides. For example, imagine prescribing a medication for the first 12 weeks (to provide short–term results) while also teaching the patient how to change their behavior, optimize their environment, and build healthier habits over that time-span (to provide long–term results).

It sounds logical, but right now I’m afraid that our system is spending far too much time and money on medications and treatments, while essentially ignoring the power of behavior change. Combining the two can lead to better outcomes and lower costs — everyone wins.

We have science and research that proves the efficacy of behavior change and we have a growing body of psychological tools that make these changes easier to achieve. And yet, the vast majority of doctors continue to spend their time telling people to take prescriptions instead of teaching people how to take action.

I think it’s time to set a higher standard in health and medicine by integrating scientifically–proven behavior changes rather than defaulting to a prescription because “we’re busy and it’s easier” or ordering another test to appease the patient.

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Behavior change works, so why aren’t doctors teaching it to their patients?

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

Featured photo credit: Thomas van de Vosse via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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