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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 January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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