In our work teaching patients good nutrition, the importance of regular exercise, and mindful response to stressors, we’ve come to respect that ‘understanding’, while a necessary first step, usually doesn’t change the way we behave. When it comes down to it we all know we’re supposed to eat our vegetables, exercise, and rest. Why don’t we?
That’s a complicated question, and we each have our answers. One way to visualize a shared answer—something we all have in common—is habit. As we’ve made our way through childhood and into adulthood we’ve developed a matrix of habits that move us through our days. And that’s good, because we don’t have the time or energy to think about every single thing we do—how exhausting!
Sadly, many of the habits which have become our ‘default settings’ for eating, moving, and resting do not support our health and well-being. In fact, as lifestyle medicine research tells us, many of our habits are contributing to near-epidemic health problems including early death. The improvement of that picture lies in changing lifestyle habits.
Our health coaching creates dynamic partnerships with patients to investigate their default settings and set about to change them. Core competencies of active listening and open-ended inquiry help patients connect deeply with their vision for health, often sparking the motivation needed to change ingrained ways of doing things which do not support their well-being. From there we prioritize areas to work in, with focus on developing meaningful goals and action steps that are accountable. We identify the patient’s strengths for meeting this challenge—where have they succeeded in this before—and vulnerabilities, anticipating obstacles and preparing strategies for meeting them. In this way we ‘connect the dots’ on the therapeutic elements of our patients’ individual programs, and over time create well-being and new habits to sustain it.