Category Archives: Functional Medicine

What is a Habit?

HABITS! Positive or Negative in development. Really, we probably all have some of both! Ever notice that negative habits seem easier to establish and more difficult to break? Whereas, positive habits tend to be a bit more challenging to start and super easy to break! Have you ever thought about WHY? Both require a lifestyle change, and that is usually a little more than any of us have time for, right?!  

I have never really considered habits at all until recently. This year I made a commitment to myself to read one book a month and listen to podcasts that would fill me with positive information. I guess this could be one step in the direction of creating a positive monthly habit. Well, this weekend in preparation for my  trip to Nashville, I went to my Audibles wish list and downloaded a couple books. I had pre-ordered Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Stop Apologizing, so it was already waiting for me. I had several people mention Mel Robbins The 5 Second Rule, so I chose that one knowing that I would finish the other. Now, , as I am finishing Girl, Stop Apologizing the Audible version has a “bonus” clip from her Rise conference which she happened to be talking about The 5 Second Rule which is….you guessed it MY. NEXT. BOOK!

Here is a fun little side note…I highly recommend the Audible version of The Five Second Rule, because Mel herself is reading it! I don’t know about you but I like when the author reads the book better than when narrated by someone else. The author brings personality and makes it seem like they are sitting there having a conversation with you.

Anyway, back to the original inspiration  of this blog. HABITS! She talks about habits and they contain three important  parts. Now, what are these three parts that play a vital role in habits? First is a thought/trigger, second is an action, and third is a reward. Now, these may not be the exact words that she uses, but researching this there are several different spins by several different establishments. Therefore,  use whatever words you want. You get the jist of it. I heard what she said while listening, but like anything else went in one ear and out the other. Until, I had a patient come in to the office and report that she quit smoking!. Cold turkey, quit that very day! Hmmm. So, I am curious and start asking her questions.During our conversation, I start telling her about The 5 Second Rule, and as I am trying to explain it to her I ask her if she has come up with a “substitution” for smoking. All of a sudden I find myself discussing the three parts to a habit, and it suddenly clicks! Lightbulb moment! Now, during this conversation it begins to make so much sense to me WHY people fail at creating new “Positive” habits in place of negative  habits they are trying to break. My revelation led me to think the reason it is so hard is because we don’t take into account all 3 parts.

I have never smoked, so I don’t claim to know what it is like to smoke or be addicted. Just for the purpose of breaking down the three parts of a habit, this is the example we will use. What are the three parts? First, let’s work through the thought/trigger. Often times I think that stress is the trigger, however, in young people it may just be to “fit in”. Once someone has used this negative habit several times the nicotine addiction part kicks in. Second, is the action itself which is smoking the cigarette. Third, is the reward which is the feeling of stress relief that people describe, which makes them feel better. It is this reward of feeling better that makes the person want another cigarette and the vicious cycle begins. Now, back to my patient, because remember I am just putting all this together as I am talking to her and of course she asks me for an example, so what did I do? Have you ever heard the saying “fake it til you make it”? That is what I did. I told her she clearly didn’t want to use food as a replacement because that would cause weight gain. During our discussion,  she had disclosed to me that she was smoking approximately 40 cigarettes a day. So, even if she was eating healthy stuff, that could turn into a whole lot of calories, making food replacement a no go for sure. She also said that she wanted to stay away from anything that would continue with the oral fixation part of it, so gum is not an option either. Smart girl right?! As I am scrambling to find something that would fit the guidelines of a habit,I came up with was this….positive affirmations.! I recommended that she record herself or better yet her kids saying positive affirmations for her to listen to when she felt the urge to have a cigarette. Now, let’s break this down the same way we did with smoking. First, we have the thought/trigger which is actually the same with smoking which is stress in this case. Second, the action in this case is going to be to listen to the positive affirmation. Third, the reward is that she will get to hear her sweet babies tell her how proud they are of her. OMG! Who wouldn’t want to listen to that 40 times a day?!

Since reading this can you come up with another way you could change a habit or create a new one? Since talking to her I got to thinking about other “rewards” she would gain by quitting smoking, she would gain time. SO. MUCH. TIME I have no idea how long it takes to actually smoke a cigarette so I researched it and several sites stated it can take anywhere between 2-10 minutes to smoke a cigarette depending on your smoking style. So, for our purpose here, I am going to use an average of 5 minutes. In this case, at 40 cigarettes a day, 5 minutes per cigarette would total  200 minutes per day. This means she would gain over three hours a day just by NOT smoking, and add years to her life. Not to mention the money she will save! According to Fair Reporters, the average cost of cigarettes in the US is $5.51 per pack which contains 20 cigarettes, so at 2 packs a day she will save approximately $4,000 per year. These can also be rewards to help change the habit but it will not likely make it easier to make the choice not to smoke on a daily basis. We are a society of instant gratification so we need that little hit of reward every time we make a choice to get us closer to our goal.

How can you use this principle to change a current habit or create a new habit in your life? I would love to hear from you!


I read something this morning that Dr. Bernard Jenson said at one time regarding a patients success at a healthy lifestyle that really struck home with me. He said,

“The best doctor can do little for an uncooperative patient. So much depends upon the patient’s determination to get well, upon his or her willingness to make major lasting life changes, that a great deal hangs on the patient’s attitude. It is only now, in recent times that people have begun to learn that they are primarily responsible for taking care of themselves, for eating right, getting enough rest, exercising and so forth. Once a person has grasped this principle, a giant step forward has been taken.

                On the doctor’s side, I believe there is much more to take care of than the patient’s body. Especially among those with chronic conditions, every resource at the patient’s disposal, body, mind and spirit, must be considered and brought to bear on the healing process if the patient is to get well. A positive attitude is a must. Willingness to work with the doctor is a must. And perseverance through what is often a long, routine program of cleansing and rebuilding is a must. Everybody is looking for a good doctor, but I look for good patients. A good patient is one who will do whatever is necessary to leave the disease or ailment behind.

                Perhaps the most useful art a doctor can have is to touch that part of the patient, something deep inside, that engages the will to live and get well at all levels of the person. This, I believe, is one of the greatest keys to the wholistic healing art.”

In part, he is saying is that achieving a healthy, disease free life is a joint effort between the patient and the doctor. As your doctor or health care provider we cannot care more about your health than you do. It is up to the patient to care enough and love themselves enough that they WANT to get well and stay that way. However, it is up to the physician to HELP spark the patient’s fire to want to get well and stay well.

So many times the beginning of a new lifestyle change or diet program or fitness program we (the general public) are fired up and ready to go full throttle. “Let’s do this!!!” is our motto. But when we sit down to see what this new change requires we get overwhelmed and quit before we even begin. Why is that? Trust me when I say we have heard all of the excuses (and yes, that is what they are). “I don’t have enough time”, “I don’t know how to cook”, “I will go to the gym when I lose weight”, “It costs too much to be healthy”, etc. Do we not love ourselves enough to want to be healthy? Do we not care enough about ourselves to be healthy? Do we not care enough for our families to want to be healthy so we don’t have to compromise their lives because of our bad choices? Those are some of the things that we need to focus on at the beginning of every lifestyle change that involves our health.

This journey is a joint effort, but it all begins with YOU!