I once heard a colleague say, “If you plan to do what you have always done, you will continue to be what you have been.” This quote is an important life lesson about how our habits dictate our wellbeing.
As we age, it is tougher to maintain the level of fitness or physical wellbeing we once did as a youth. Robust weightlifting or high-impact sports now easily can cause us pain. In the same vein, years of bad posture or poor sleeping may manifest into a strain on the spine. I can actually attest to this. Activities, postures and movements I once got away with now result in injury, illness, and sadly, as some of you know, surgery. This is mainly because I neglected to care for my body when I was younger and continued to put myself in a position that pushed my body’s limitations to the point of no return.
If I could only travel back in time to tell myself to stop certain habits that contributed to my current physical pains and limitations, could I prevent all of the bad? Would my past self, so to speak, listen? More importantly, if my past self listened, would he have the drive and commitment to overturn these bad habits?
It is much easier to blame external factors for our bad habits and believe we would do differently if life’s circumstances allowed us an opportunity for a re-do. But I learned that taking ownership, although very difficult, is the first step to improving one’s life by way of changing one’s habits. Family and friends, mentors, and even bosses told me countless times to change my ways. I heard these concerns, but I didn’t learn from them until much later in life. Some of us would rather crawl into a hole than choose to dedicate ourselves to the period of intense focus and effort required when trying to overturn bad habits.
Today, the answers I give to patients about changing their bad habits vary, but one tenet remains the same: We all need to be mindful of our changing bodies. In order to best prepare for that change, it is important to anticipate the effects of aging and to adopt good, healthy habits as soon as possible.
So here's a call to action for a 2021 New Years' Resolution:
Be kind to yourself and embrace all that is changing about your body, your environment, and your life stresses. Remember there is no better time to make a change than the present moment.
We can and we will get better together!
Dr. Justin C. Lin