Your Health Strategy
Empowerment begins with you. The road through life is a winding path, filled with ups, downs, curves and twists. Multiple challenges and potholes will threaten your way. Having a road map to navigate the most direct route is essential.
The road through life is unmistakeably dependent upon your health. The strength and vigor of the mind, body and spirit are essential components that demand attention. Similar to regular oil changes and car maintenance, self-care is a priority that allows you to run optimally to face the obstacles ahead. Do not wait for your body to make a “noise” or start “leaking” before you take it in; take care of your health now. In the long-term, you cannot trade yourself in or buy a new one.
The Health Navigator is the road map designed to help you reach your health destination. It exposes the many potholes and obstacles you may encounter throughout your journey. The tools of the navigator will teach you to conquer the challenges of health on your road through life. Assessing your health status is the first step on your path to success.
What are your health goals?
Has anyone ever asked you what your health goals are? If they did, what would you say?
I would like:
- more energy
- improved sleep
- live pain free
- exercise more
- eat healthier
- better digestion
- live longer
- female wellness
- allergy free
- be disease free
- increased clarity of thought
- no pharmaceuticals
Goals are a powerful and critical tool in your health journey. They keep you on course, provide direction and facilitate focus. Setting goals provides each of us with a personal challenge and enforces health-conscience behaviours.
The human brain is not only designed to function in a goal oriented pattern it actually thirsts for the power of objectives. An estimated 10% of the brain’s full capacity is consciously employed on a regular basis. The remaining 90% is subconscious, although goals have the ability to harness this latent potential. Chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, perform daily tasks within the brain. Dopamine is released when goals are set, acting as a motivator and rewarding us when we achieve the desired outcome. The neurotransmitter helps control pleasure centers in the brain, encouraging a repeat of rewarding behaviours (habits). Having a healthy goal (a successful habit) is a great objective to become addicted to.
The potential of the brain to aid in maintaining goals is a crucial asset. The billion bits of information the brain constantly receives every second is selectively filtered. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the area of the brain responsible for this process. It decides what to accept or reject. When goals are set the RAS becomes activated to notice opportunities that will help in achieving your endeavor.
Taking care of you is not a luxury−it is a necessity. Writing down concrete goals makes you responsible and accountable to develop successful habits. There is a detrimental cost to not taking action. You are not expendable and devotion to quality of life should be high on your priority list. Your physical, mental and spiritual state is begging for a commitment…it is time to set your starting point.
What are you currently doing & how is that working for you?
Are you happy with your health? Are you getting results? Evaluating your current situation is an essential part of setting goals. Ask yourself what it is you really want to achieve. Disease treatment? Symptomatic relief? Disease prevention? Health optimization?
The importance of the outcome is one of the key factors facilitating your commitment to your goals. A study by Gail Matthews from the Dominican University revealed some interesting conclusions about the benefits of setting goals. Matthews assigned volunteers from a broad range of ages and backgrounds to five different groups. Each group was asked to determine goals for a four-week time period; some were to just think about them; some were to write their goals down and others were asked to write progress reports to a friend as they completed their goals. The group that was asked to write down their goals had 50% more success in completing them than those who were only asked to think about their goals. The group that was asked to be accountable to a friend for completing their goals saw the highest level of success by fulfilling 76% of their stated goals. These conclusions suggest that writing out goals and being accountable to keep them are a great way to achieve the things we want to do. For goals to be effective, summary feedback that reveals progress is a key component to your strategy.
Time will always be critical in your long-term success. Staying on track, finding availability and remaining motivated with your busy schedule are constant challenges. Learning to prioritize is important. The brain will routinely filter out goal-irrelevant activities so set specific goals to enhance your performance. Discovering the appropriate strategy is critical to achieving complex objectives.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo
What is your Health Strategy?
Has anyone ever asked you if you had a health strategy? Some of us have detailed strategies in place for how we plan to achieve success in our careers, security in our financial position or comfort in our retirement years. But how many of us have really thought about the need to create a personal health strategy that will allow us to enjoy all of these other achievements?
For most of us, our health strategy is a reactive one. We do not think about our health until something goes wrong. We can happily go for months or even years without seeing a health professional until an ache or pain warns us that something is not quite right. At that point, we schedule an appointment with our general practitioner (medical doctor). He/she does some blood work or possibly takes an x-ray or ultrasound of the problem area. After reviewing the results and doing other investigations, the practitioner makes a diagnosis and sends us on our way, possibly with some medication to treat the issue. We leave with the hope that it will be months or years before we need to see the doctor again.
But is this really a successful health strategy? Our bodies (and their proper functioning physically, mentally, and emotionally) are essential for everything that we do. We all have friends or relatives who have experienced life-altering challenges. They have been forever changed by the limitations placed on their body or mind by the illness. Do we place enough importance on the maintenance of our health? Are we willing to go the extra mile to do all that we can to ensure our health makes it to retirement with us?
Well-being should be a priority along with material growth. For the past three decades, the small Asian country of Bhutan has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through gross national happiness and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens rather than by GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This approach is attracting a lot of interest.
It is Nature Medicine’s desire to see a similar shift in thinking about health occur in our part of the world. Health can be a very controversial topic for a country or government. Take the United States, for example. It is likely that elections have been lost or won over the subject of health care. Little or no emphasis is placed on having a long-term health strategy by our mainstream medical system. And where the emphasis is put can make a world of difference…
Are we suggesting that the current Canadian or American health care system should be discarded? Of course not. But we do need to recognize their limitations. When only the symptoms of a problem are addressed, a Band-Aid solution is provided and the root cause will never be cured. In North America, prescription drug trends have increased exponentially over the past 20 years. According to Statistics Canada in 2005, pharmacists dispensed on average 35 prescriptions per person aged 60 to 79 and 74 prescriptions per person aged 80 or older, with an overall average of 14 prescriptions per Canadian citizen. In 2011, American doctors wrote 4.02 billion prescriptions, roughly equating to about 13 prescriptions for every man, woman and child. Society today places a lot of value on quick fixes and instant results – and we expect the same in the area of health. Unfortunately that kind of worldview does not lend itself to long-term strategies and results.
We need to be willing to invest in a health strategy that will target the root causes of our health concerns and commit to making the changes necessary to achieve our health goals. Similar health strategies have existed throughout the world. For instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine has continued to emphasize long-term health for over 5000 years. Homeopathy has existed for the past 200 years and has stressed the importance of disease prevention and treating the underlying factors. In North America, the first homeopathic hospital was opened in 1832. By the early 1900s, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies in the United States. Mortality (death) rates in homeopathic hospitals were often 50% to 88% less than those in medical hospitals. This well-established profession is commonly practiced especially in India. These two methods of medicine are examples that a health care system designed to conquer the root cause and prevent disease can exist. Moreover, it further demonstrates that this type of health strategy, which at one time was established in North America, has the potential for resurgence in our current medical system.
Nature Medicine’s staff approaches health from this angle. Our hope is that more and more people will come to recognize the need for greater continuity in our health care system. Instead of tearing down the existing health care structure, it is our aim to see it improved as we build on the many things it already has to offer. Our desire is to see our patients taking steps to achieve optimal health in every area of their life. This includes the necessity of goal setting and an effective health strategy.
Assessing your current approach to health is essential to overcoming the obstacles to success. Establishing what you would like to achieve, setting high goals, embracing a proven strategy and developing methods of accountability are indispensable to your commitment and persistence. Being blessed with good health has now begun on your winding path through life. The lessons of the Health Navigator await.
–“Dream it. Plan it. Do it”–
Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, Vol 57(9), Sep 2002, 705-717. http://faculty.washington.edu/janegf/goalsetting.html
Locke, Edwin A.; Shaw, Karyll N.; Saari, Lise M.; Latham, Gary P. Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980.Psychological Bulletin, Vol 90(1), Jul 1981, 125-152. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a086584.pdf