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November 30, 2018

Learn To Weave

How to add healthy hapits for a happier life

Photo: Jasmine Wiley, MD

November 27, 2018


How to Add Healthy Habits for a Happier Life

SHAWANO, Wis. – Our lives are a series of habits strung together like beads. When our habits are good, they benefit us, the people we love and our co-workers. After all, someone who gets 10,000 steps a day is generally healthier, more energetic and in a better mood than a person who has a habit of binge-watching television.

When we have bad habits, these behaviors can quash our positive outlook and sense of possibility because they ultimately make us feel guilty, unwell or undeserving of good things. If you’ve ever gotten into an unhealthy pattern, you know that feeling of remorse and setback.

As a physician, I am interested in helping my patients build systems that support their health and well-being. It’s much better to fall back on a system that rewards us with an authentically positive result versus one that causes a brief “high”, followed by remorse.

Here are four tips I share with my patients to help them get on the road to healthier habits:

Learn to weave. Look for ways to weave healthy behaviors into your existing daily routines. If you need more fresh fruit or vegetables in your diet and can’t seem to make them a habit, put your keys next to the fruit bowl and grab a piece every time you run an errand or pick up a child. While you are waiting in the car, eat your fruit. (Be safe and do this when the car is parked, please.) If you find yourself at your kids’ soccer games and don’t have your steps in, walk up and down the sidelines instead of sitting still!

Define your own rewards. Habits are the result of constant feedback. Sometimes we need to start with the end in mind. I know a woman who did not like running, no matter how hard she tried. Everyone told her to learn to run a 5K but she simply wasn’t motivated by this goal. One day, she ran two miles at a fast pace to get it over with and realized the endorphins from this short workout really fueled her productivity at work and home. Now she runs three times a week because she found her motivation—it just wasn’t what others told her it should be.

Recognize your cues. Cues are the kick-off to every habit. Do you walk in the door from work and pour a glass of wine? Do you get overwhelmed by emails at work and pick up your phone to be soothed by social media? If you want to fall to a healthier system, try to rewire your cues. Walk in the front door after work instead of the garage door and see how this changes your automatic behavior. If e-mails overwhelm you, try a new method for sorting them before responding, or check them from a different workstation where you can stand or look out a window, without your phone at your side. When we interrupt the cue phase of habits, we can rewire our cravings and ultimately, our responses.

Try to bounce, not pounce. We are quick to berate ourselves when we have a bad day in the midst of making change. This happens to everyone. We are all vulnerable to skipping our workout, choosing the wrong kind of midafternoon snack or losing our patience when we promised ourselves we would respond, not react, to daily frustrations. When you have a bad day, don’t pounce on your self-esteem and abandon the progress you’ve already made. Tomorrow is a fresh start and opportunity to bounce back on track.

All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem, to either obtain something good or relieve pain or frustration. We can discover ways to redesign our environments and change our patterns of thinking to be more successful. All the habits that make up our daily lives present limitless opportunities to weave in life-giving change.

Jasmine Wiley, MD, is a family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.

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