By J. Ron Eaker, M.D.

Several years ago, Richard Gere made an awful movie called Dr. T & the Women in which he played a gynecologist (badly) who understood what women were thinking by audibly hearing their thoughts. The movie, as well as the premise was a disaster but I bring this up because I am doing something similar now by claiming that I know what people are thinking about their health (No, I’m not hearing voices).

My premise is that after 30 years of listening, partnering, and treating, I have determined that many people have four things they desire as it relates to their health: clarity, confidence, control and community. These caveats are not shared by all but there is enough commonalities in the discussions to draw some conclusions.

The first is that folks want CLARITY.  We live in an age that is saturated with superfluous information. Yes, the information age has catapulted society to heights in technology, social sciences, media and even health that were previously unobtainable, yet there exists a backlash that threatens to undermine the individual’s ability to maximize their own health. By this I mean, there is actually too much useless and incorrect information available and people often suffer from an overload syndrome, where they become stagnant because the choices are too confusing and voluminous. Behavioral studies indicate that there is a threshold whereupon excessive options actually create a template for poor decisions or no decisions at all. This is a delicate balance because I am a firm believer that knowledge drives action. I am hesitant to ever endorse less information so striking a balance is key, especially as it relates to health.

Maybe a point of clarification is needed here…a key caveat of this need for clarity is the demand for accurate information. Getting information to make health decisions is not the problem, getting good information that is sound, unbiased and tested is the problem and getting more difficult.

Next, people want CONFIDENCE regarding their health. By this I mean, they want resources that are competent, experienced and compassionate that are giving them advice. This applies to their personal doctor, blogs, health websites, magazines and books. This is somewhat related to clarity in that it involves learning what is true and what is not true but it takes it further into the realm of relationship building. In general, women (yes, I know this does not apply across the board) are relational in many ways and this applies to how they gather and process information. For a woman to have confidence in what she is learning, there has to be a relationship with the source of that information.

A critical component to achieving health and wellness health is CONTROL. Almost every day, a patient will say something to the effect of, “I’m falling apart,” or “I feel helpless.” A sense of control is essential for decision making and coping, especially as it relates to hormonal issues. I have found that the quickest route to regaining a sense of control is through knowledge. The more you accurately know about something, the less you feel restrained and manipulated. Those who constitutionally have a predisposition to view the world from an external locus of control (they feel things happen to them as opposed to their ability to direct events) have the most to gain by garnishing information about their health. If a patient, through knowledge and attitude believes she can control her health destiny, she  gains power and comfort. To feel in control, you must educate yourself about choices and actions, execute those actions and be confident you can impact the situation for the better. Being in control is a perception and an attitude that can be both learned and developed but must be practiced and constantly reinforced.

Finally, many folks desire COMMUNITY to maximize their health. This has nothing to do with being introverted or extroverted but community is the group of people that provide support, information, guidance and presence. It can be just one other person or an entire village but the science is clear that people who have a support network or multiple social contacts are generally healthier. There is debate as to whether this is an association or a  causation but the fact remains that some form of community surrounding you can bequeath health dividends. Women tend to be more communicative about their health needs and challenges so having a community of support is not only more therapeutic but more necessary. In fact, everything from your immune system to your life expectancy can be influenced by your community.

Developing the four C’s: clarity, confidence, control and community can take your health to new heights. Each one provides insights that can lead to healthy lifestyle choices and long term wellness habits. Seek out ways to achieve these states and your life and the lives of those around you will be healthier and ultimately happier.

This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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