“Atomic Habits” & Lifestyle Medicine by Dr. Reshma Stanislaus

James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” offers invaluable insights that can be easily incorporated into the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine. Let’s explore how the four laws of habit formation, i.e.; Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward or in simpler terms, making something OBVIOUS, ATTRACTIVE, EASY, and SATISFYING, can be applied to lifestyle medicine:

  1. Nutrition:
    The first pillar, nutrition, is often where small habit changes can yield significant results. We can start by for example, by introducing a portion of fruit and vegetables into each meal, instead of having a whole list of food items to be avoided. This approach aligns with the idea of making changes that are so small they are almost imperceptible, thus EASY enough to do, ensuring consistency and long-term adherence.
  2. Physical Activity:
    “Atomic Habits” teaches us the power of consistency. It’s more beneficial to commit to a moderate, daily exercise routine rather than an intense regimen that’s hard to maintain. Setting a regular time and place for exercise by joining a class or a group of like-minded individuals can make the activity more ATTRACTIVE and an automatic part of our routine.
  3. Managing Stress:
    Stress management is crucial for well-being. Clear suggests habit stacking – pairing a new habit with an existing one. We could stack a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing exercises onto an existing daily habit, after brushing our teeth in the morning. This strategy makes new habits stick more effectively.
  4. Restful Sleep:
    Quality sleep is often a product of our pre-sleep routines. Creating a habit of unwinding before bed; be it through reading, light stretching, or a technology-free hour can significantly enhance sleep quality. This aligns with Clear’s principle of designing your environment to make good habits more effortless and the OBVIOUS choice.
  5. Positive Social Connections:
    Habits of engagement: Building and maintaining positive social connections can be facilitated by habitual interactions. This might mean scheduling regular calls with loved ones or joining a community group. By making these interactions habitual, we ensure the consistency needed to nurture these relationships that make them SATISFYING.
  6. Avoiding Substance Abuse:
    This pillar resonates with Clear’s idea of replacing a bad habit with a good one, not just eliminating the former. If the habit is to have a drink to relax, it could be replaced with a healthier alternative by changing the other elements of habit formation (making it less obvious, easy, attractive, or satisfying to have that drink).
    Incorporating the principles from “Atomic Habits” into lifestyle medicine not only enhances the effectiveness of these interventions but also ensures compliance. As we strive for better health outcomes, understanding and leveraging the power of habits is essential. Ultimately, these changes have to be sustainable to have a positive impact.
Picture of Dr. Reshma Stanislaus

Dr. Reshma Stanislaus

A board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician and experienced General Practitioner.

1 thought on ““Atomic Habits” & Lifestyle Medicine by Dr. Reshma Stanislaus”

  1. Shakuntala Stanislaus

    Well written about the tiny steps to be taken towards a healthy lifestyle goal. Small changes made consistently will definitely help to achieve the expected results,especially regarding the non communicable diseases. Hope to see more articles regarding the life style medicine.

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