We are creatures of habit; shaped by it, driven by it. Habits are formed constantly and subconsciously, simply by what you do every day. Let’s say every time you get home from work, you check the time to see how soon you have to get your kids to their hobbies; eventually, you’ll start checking the time when you get home without even thinking about it. Your children might be grown up and moved out of the house, but every day you may still check the clock subconsciously when you get home; habits become so ingrained, they persist even when they’ve lost their utility.

A study showed that in a lab setting, people would eat less stale popcorn than fresh; not surprising at all! Move the context to a movie theater, however, and people would eat as much stale popcorn as fresh; the habit of eating popcorn was too strong, and people ignored how stale popcorn was. This analogy fits perfectly; how often are your habits stale, no longer of use to you? Are you even aware of the stale habits you have, things ingrained in your nervous system that no longer serve you?

Holistic medicine is concerned with your habits, and how to change them to make your life better. Your habits comprise most of what you do on a given day; how you eat, how much exercise, how you think about yourself and others. Stale habits can cause you physical, emotional, mental and spiritual distress, and you may not even be aware of it.

The first step, then, is to become aware of your bad habits. A good method of accomplishing this is to practice mindfulness; when you’re idly active, say, cleaning the dishes or eating food, concentrate on the moment. Feel the dishes in your hands, the warm, soapy water; watch the stains come off of the plate, listen to the sound of stacking them on top of each other. Do this anytime you’re doing something out of habit, and your conscious mind will be drawn to what you’re doing; this will enable you to notice strange, unhelpful thoughts you may be having at any given point in the day.

Once negative patterns have been established, you can begin to work on them. This process again requires mindfulness; when you catch yourself having intrusive, bad-habit forming thoughts, acknowledge that you’ve had the thought, then focus on an alternative mode of thinking. Bad physical habits are often challenging to remedy, but there are a few tricks to help. Out of sight is out of mind, so if you want to eat healthier, put unhealthy food in a place where it will be difficult to see; if you want to exercise more, put your exercise equipment in a place you’re likely to see it. Mental habits are a bit trickier; remember that if you talk negatively about yourself, you’ll start embodying the negative traits you imagine; we form habits, but habits form us. Talk to yourself and about yourself with kindness and empathy, like you’d talk about anyone you love; it will make you better.

Integrative medicine in San Antonio seeks to combine every useful medical principal, from Western medicine to meditation and aromatherapy; if it helps patients become better, integrative medicine will incorporate it. This can truly help patients who are ill because of bad habits; integrative medicine will not only target the symptoms, but try to treat the underlying problems.