With the High Holidays behind us and a “clean slate” before us, goal-setting is in order. I’d like to share a few resources to assist you in setting goals for healthier living. “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson and “Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. are two books that provide the how and the why for making good health a priority.
Although slightly unconventional, I’d like to start with the “how” and share a few “Slight Edge” principles.
A core tenet of “The Slight Edge” is that simple daily disciplines, little productive actions, repeated consistently over time, add up to the differences between failure and success. What is truly enlightening is how Olson contends that these little differences that should be easy to do and will make a difference in the long run, are also easy not to do.
Take flossing your teeth, as an example. If you don’t do it, nobody but your dental hygienist will really know. If you consistently execute this five-minute daily ritual, over time you will insure healthy gums, protecting you from bone loss which leads to tooth loss and a host of complications.
Consider two teenagers sitting down to a meal together. One orders a salad with a lean protein and goes easy on the dressing. The other has a burger with fries. They may not seem very different from each other, but if these habits are repeated over decades, the consequences of these choices become a reality. If those French fries gave you a heart attack on the spot, nobody would eat them.
The reality is that most people (I am not going to exclude myself from this group) don’t really want to believe that there is a cumulative effect for their actions. And the corollary to this denial is the expectation that there should be visible benefits from a relatively new adoption of a healthy habit.
What is the good news? Choose little healthy habits, like a 30-minute walk, and add a new healthy habit weekly or monthly. The key is consistency. There is evidence that a 10-minute walk seven days in a row is more beneficial than one 70-minute walk once a week. Consistency trumps all-out effort because it leads to forming good habits.
What is the bad news? You can’t talk yourself out of your new habit. Skipping a day or two, or an entire week, does make a difference. In other words, the slight edge is relentless and cuts both ways: simple daily disciplines or simple errors in judgment, repeated consistently over time, make you or break you.
“Younger Next Year” is chock full of data and science and is somewhat overwhelming. But if you can get through the science, a concept that’s emphasized but may be underestimated by readers is that personal relationships are beneficial to keep us feeling young.
Romantic relationships are great, but not the only way to achieve this goal. Being involved in your community and causes that provide a sense of purpose is beneficial to overall good health.
Most interesting is that as different as these two books are, their intersection is very telling. All the authors agree that as we age, we have two options: to grow or to decay. Notice that maintaining your current health is not really an option. In other words, if you don’t work toward good health you should not be surprised if your current state declines.
The news is ominous, but serves to create a sense of urgency. So with our spiritual reset as of last week, let’s work toward creating consistent healthy habits to become the very best version of ourselves in 5777.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, LLC. Visit cypresshomecare.com.