With a thousand “to-do’s” circling my mind at any given moment, I have taken to writing myself reminders for everything, lest I forget to meet a work deadline, run an overdue errand, or even call an old friend. But when it takes a Post-it note to remind us of the basics, like eating a full lunch or going to bed at a reasonable hour, I notice a red flag – we need to start prioritizing self-care.

This seems like a simple message, but the implications for our health are significant:

Between 2000 and 2030, the number of Americans living with chronic disease is predicted to increase by 37%, adding up to 46 million people.

27% of children under 19 years old have at least one chronic condition, and 6% suffer from more than one.

While there is no guaranteed way to avoid chronic or autoimmune conditions, all of us may have the potential to counteract this rising incidence via our own healthy habits. Research increasingly points to the therapeutic effects of nutrition, exercise, and stress management; all are important aspects of self-care.

Scientific findings have shown that what we do and eat can affect our gene expression. New understanding of the microbiome shows a connection between our gut and immune system – with the right personalized diet, some of us can manipulate our microbiome to possibly prevent immune-related conditions.

Knowing something about our genetic heritage (autoimmune disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc.), we can focus on the self-care activities that will benefit us most, including meditation, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and control of weight gain.

Old habits are hard to break, but there is a reason why we need to continue challenging ourselves towards improved self-care habits – it does not have to be this hard for the next generation.

We can help make self-care more innate for future generations by imparting healthy habits earlier. For example, I am sharing my yoga practice with my son and my meditation practice with my granddaughter. I segment my workday by stepping away from my computer screen for a walk around the block, or taking a meditation break, and I encourage the rest of my team to do the same.

Creating a culture that values self-care starts with each of us. 

If we each take a small step to better care for ourselves, whether it be improving our posture or engaging in a more active lifestyle, our combined efforts can inspire similar action in others. We can create a culture in which self-care is a tool for disease prevention, personal empowerment, and lifelong resilience.

Down the line, good self-care habits may be one thing future generations can automatically cross off of their to-do lists!

Learn more about creating a legacy of self-care by watching DrBonnie360’s TEDx talk here.