Why We Love Mindset (And Why You Should, Too!)
There’s an old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is what that means when it comes to the way you treat your health.
Reactive vs. proactive treatment
There are two kinds of healthcare treatment: reactive and proactive. We know that treatment is reactive and prevention is proactive. Reactive treatment is encountering an illness or injury then seeing a medical professional and/or taking a prescribed medication. Preventative treatment is proactively caring for your health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The United States spent a combined $3.2 trillion on health care in 2015, up 5.8% from the year before, by all players, including the federal government, individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. Total U.S. health spending reached nearly $10,000 per person.
How much of that was focused on proactive treatment? According to a study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), Americans spent $30.2 billion ($28.3 billion for adults and $1.9 billion for children) on proactive treatment (e.g. out-of-pocket on complementary health approaches). These approaches include a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products such as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic, and yoga.
When it comes to our healthcare, we have a choice.
The importance of mindset in making healthcare choices
A mindset is a set of assumptions, attitudes, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people.
When it comes to healthcare, there are two mindsets: treatment or prevention. We believe treatment is to survive as prevention is to thrive. While we believe both are needed, prevention should prevail.
In conventional medical practices, many doctors say they spend 13-24 minutes with each patient. Shorter visits increase the likelihood the patient will leave with a prescription for medication, rather than a behavioral change – like trying to lose a few pounds or going to the gym. After rushed visits, patients are more likely to leave frustrated and without the tools, they need to take charge of their own health.
The patient is thinking: ‘I’m taking the afternoon off work for this appointment. I’ve waited for three months for it. I’ve got a list of things to discuss.’ The doctor is thinking, ‘I’ve got 15 minutes.’ You may leave with a prescription or two and pondering unanswered questions and next steps.
When embarking on an alternative therapy such as acupuncture, TCM, Ayurveda or health coaching, one can plan to spend an hour or more per visit. The philosophy behind such therapies believes that healing begins with being heard. You’re more likely to have frequent visits and walk away with tools that can change your habits for the better, thus improving your health over time.
In fact, functional medicine (a doctor + coach model) is gaining traction as the future of conventional medicine. This newer approach seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms. The doctor will still treat, diagnose and prescribe, while your coach or care team, as it’s called, provides accountability through shared goal setting and more regular follow up.
Why we need to shift our approach
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.
We have been conditioned to believe that the doctor knows best. However, “The medical school curriculum is crowded, and it’s hard to make room for new priorities,” notes Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and a U.S. News Eat+Run contributor. He continues, “The basic structure of medical education was put in place in 1920, long before the lifestyle-related chronic disease was a major public health focus.”
Living in the treatment mindset will only put a Band-Aid on the solution. This approach is not getting to the root of the symptoms and/or triggers to solve the problem.
From a food perspective, if your trigger is vinegar, what treatment or test will ever uncover that?
From an emotional perspective, if repressed emotions are causing physical pain and you never work through the process of breaking free from that stronghold, what treatment or test will ever be able to help you?
The current medical system focuses on treating you, not preventing your illness. Drug interactions and side effects can trigger weakness, fatigue, falls, constipation, diarrhea, sleeplessness, disorientation, heart arrhythmias, and many other symptoms. They can even cause death. What happens to you when you’re taking 7, 10, or even 12 medications a day? Nobody really knows, including your doctors.
“The average person over 65 now uses seven different medications per day, four prescribed and three over-the-counter,” says Andrew Duxbury, MD, associate professor of geriatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the senior care clinic at UAB’s Kirklin Clinic. “There’s never been a controlled study on a human being involving more than three drugs circulating in the body at the same time. So no one knows, scientifically, exactly what’s going on in your body when you take seven, 10, or a dozen at a time.”
The power of a prevention mindset
When you make a shift to a prevention mindset, here are just a few examples of what it could look like for you:
- You are responsible for your own health – implementing better sleep and gaining more energy.
- You get to the root cause of your symptoms – learning how to mindfully avoid things that may trigger, inflame and aggravate.
- You take a preventative approach which helps you become healthy – in all key areas of life including physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
- Along with your healthcare team you look at your career, your relationship, sleep, stress, anxiety, and depression to understand how all of those are impacting your life.
- You prioritize movement and food choices, which are key to taking care of the one life and one body you’ve been given.
- With the help of your team, you create goals and complete assignments that empower you with tools for lifelong change.
Putting these tasks into practice will allow you to:
- Experience the opportunity to achieve your wellness goals.
- Be well, instead of being sick.
- Be present for your friends and family.
- Become a better version of you.
- Be more productive and focused.