Scott D. Miller, MD
Let’s face it, repetitive tasks are boring. However, those who can master mundane undertakings will lead the pack in any endeavor— including staying healthy. Unfortunately, we go to incredible lengths to avoid actions that we know are good for us. Our brains try to protect us from the discomfort of monotonous activities, missed opportunities and emotional or physical stress. In essence, immediate gratification has the upper hand.
The first step in becoming a better “you” is having a good attitude. Chores can often transform into opportunities. Interestingly, much of our daily tedium can yield some immediate gratification. Here are some examples:
• Exercise – A single session at the gym will not make you physically fit, but it can boost your energy level and give you a sense of satisfaction.
• A full night’s sleep – Feeling rested and productive is always a good thing, but the real benefit is a more resilient cardiovascular system.
• Flossing – Not only will flossing give you a fresh taste in your mouth, it also leads to better cardiovascular health (buildup of oral bacteria can cause inflammation of and damage to the lining of our blood vessels).
Other repetitive tasks that lead to long-term gains include reading, meditating, eating healthy foods and managing emails. Not only do we need to exercise our bodies, but we also need to exercise our brains and reduce emotional stress.
So, what separates the high performers from the mere mortals? Here are some tips to give you a start:
• Make it a habit – Incorporate those boring but essential tasks into an existing routine. For example, try keeping some dental floss in the shower.
• Associate tasks with something fun – For example, walk on a treadmill while you catch up on those YouTube videos (rather than while lying on the couch).
• Focus on the reward – The incentive can be as simple as the satisfaction of conquering a challenge. This reward will increase your desire to repeat the behavior.
• Don’t worry about perfection – Consistency always trumps occasional quality.
• Give up on shortcuts – We often spend more effort in finding a shortcut than just completing the task itself.
• Enjoy turning off your brain – Schedule “mindless” tasks as a break from your more thought-intensive obligations.
Hopefully, these tips will help you recognize the impact of regular routines on your future health. In the words of Thomas Edison, “Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Look for my article on “Men’s Health Summer School” in the next issue.
Scott D. Miller, MD, is the Medical Director of Robotic Surgery at WellStar North Fulton Hospital. He is a urologist with WellStar Urology in Roswell and has practiced in Atlanta for over 20 years. WellStar North Fulton Hospital offers the Know Your Heart Screening that can determine your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. Call 770-956-STAR (7827) to learn more or schedule an appointment.