Scottsdale, Arizona - I love being out in my garden. It's peaceful and therapeutic to dig in the dirt and anticipate something beautiful emerging as a result.
A recent, warm day in the sun felt like a gift waiting to be unwrapped. I slathered on my sunscreen, donned my sunglasses, hat and gardening gloves and headed out to the flower beds.
Since I'm usually at work during the weekdays, it was also a chance for neighbors to catch up now that winter no longer keeps us indoors.
As the day went on, I could feel the sun getting more intense, but I was having a hard time convincing myself to break away from my personal little paradise to put on more sunscreen or take a break.
As a nurse and patient educator, I know that sun exposure is a double-edged sword — good for Vitamin D production, dangerous for skin cells. But knowledge isn't always enough to change behavior.
Eating more fruits and vegetables, moving 150 minutes per week, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, reducing stress … these pillars of good health are not new to most of us.
They may be important for the prevention of a recurrence of cancer as well as preventing other significant illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, etc. Yet, it can be so challenging to change our habits to move in the right direction.
It's easy for me to think that the little decisions I make today will not really make that much difference on my future health. I can always start tomorrow, right? But how do I actually make the tomorrow I was thinking about yesterday by making better choices today?
Many people have tried to identify the keys to successful behavior change. It's a complex puzzle and one strategy does not meet the needs of everyone. Dr. Amit Sood, a Mayo Clinic physician and author of "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living," suggests we seem to make better decisions when we're being observed.
I recently experienced that scenario when my adult son became my informal exercise coach. I've known my entire adult life it was important to exercise. The National Cancer Institute has released a study regarding the effects of exercise on 13 different cancers.
However, only when I realized my inconsistent exercise habits also mattered to someone who cares about me and would be checking on my progress, did I actually follow through on a regular basis. So for now, this has worked well for me.
Everyone has a behavior they'd either like to quit or start that may impact their health.