Creating Atomic Wellness

The book I recommend most to my patients may surprise you.

It's not a book on back pain, or optimal movement or yoga.

It's Atomic Habits, by James Clear. (The link takes you to a sale on eBay right now for $3 off -- brand new).

If you are surprised by this recommendation because it is not a wellness or health book, well, you would be mistaken.

There is no sustainable health without sustainable habits. Period. There is no substitute for excellent habits either. I've written about habits previously in this blog post, and this one, so you know this is a long term obsession of mine.

The Importance of Systems

One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

"You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems".

James Clear, Atomic Habits

I can aspire to be an excellent physical therapist all I want, but I will not reach that goal without a daily or weekly system (i.e. habits) to get me there. For example, maybe I create the habit of reading published research while I sip my morning coffee. I could also create an automated reminder system that follows up with my patients if I don't see them for three weeks. I could plan out my continuing education programs far in advance.

Bettering the Physical Therapy Experience

If you have had disappointments with physical therapy in the past, one of the reasons could be that you were not supported in creating the *habit* of doing your home exercises.

Maybe there was not a deeper conversation about your lifestyle habits that keep you re-injuring yourself. (Do you spend hours leaning to the right on the couch arm rest, with your feet swept to the left, and your right shoulder and right knee just happen to keep hurting?).

Very often physical therapists do a great job of getting you 90% over your injury, but are challenged to help patients to create long term, post-physical therapy progressions.

Habits will help with that.

When I originally made a reel about my love for this book (see it here), I was working with a patient who had the habit of daily walks.

So we (using a concept from Atomic Habits) piggybacked the new habit of three assigned (quick) physio exercises to do before or after his walk. I also mentioned the idea of a Post-it note reminder near his walking shoes as another layer of cuing until the habit of these exercises became ingrained. (Also a tip from the book).

I could give a million more examples of how I use Atomic Habits to the benefit of my patients, but I want to hear from you:

  • What habits have you changed or would like to change?
  • Have your physical therapists (or personal trainers or similar) worked with you on developing better habits well after your time with them is up?
  • Have you read Atomic Habits, and did it help you with anything specific in your wellness journey?

Let me know in the comments below.

This post was originally published May 9, 2023. 

Categories: Book Recommendations, Habits, Physical Therapy