Keep the fridge stocked with organic food: check. Venture out for a daily walk: done. Get eight hours of quality sleep: easy. Take my daily vitamins: oops.
We get it. Life is busy. Between work, family obligations, and all the other activities that make up your day, self-care often is the first to take a backseat. Here’s an important tip: supplements are only effective if you take them. As much as we wish you could get the benefits simply by looking at them, it just doesn’t work that way.
Rest assured: You are not alone in your struggle to remember your daily dose of health. We’ve put together some helpful tips to make it easier to stay on track with your supplement routine.
Medication (and supplement) adherence: a universal problem
The story is similar for many: We meet with a health practitioner on a quest to feel better and improve our health. With medication recommendations in hand, we purchase it, bring it home, and begin taking it. We are ready to feel great and are excited to see results.
A few days, or even weeks, go by, and we are staring at the bottle, thinking, “I should really start taking that again.” Enough time passes, and you wonder if it’s even relevant anymore. The bottle goes into the closet with the dozens of other half-filled containers, only to expire down the road.
Studies show that approximately only half of individuals suffering from a chronic illness take their medication as prescribed. This is not just an American problem either. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 50 percent of patients take their medication properly.
Researchers have also found low adherence in the very few studies on vitamin and supplement compliance. Actual supplement compliance is challenging to measure since many studies rely on self-report, and not everyone is willing to admit their weaknesses.
Why is it so challenging to take my supplements?
We know that vitamins and supplements are good for us, so why is it challenging to take them? While factors may vary from person to person, the number one reason people don’t take their supplements is simply forgetfulness. Possible other reasons include:
- Lack of motivation – Motivation is the number one factor that leads to success. An individual’s desire to achieve wellness significantly impacts their compliance to a health regimen.
- Misunderstanding – Frequently, individuals don’t fully understand the importance of a supplement or its dosing schedule. As a result, they sometimes forgo it altogether.
- Unwanted side effects – Medications and supplements sometimes have undesirable side effects. For example, taking certain vitamins on an empty stomach can contribute to nausea. Many times, people decide to take them later and subsequently forget.
- Current lack of symptoms – Motivation to take vitamins increases when we are not feeling well. However, the moment we begin to feel better, it’s easy to dismiss their value. Unfortunately, as quickly as you felt better, you could also feel unwell again.
- Fear or worry – Many individuals have fear or anxiety over taking supplements and vitamins. Will they interact with other medications or supplements? Will they lead to different problems? Talking with your doctor about your concerns can quickly put your mind at ease.
The 21-day habit myth
Has anyone ever told you that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? So if you take your supplements for 21 days straight, you will never forget them again, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
The 21-day habit folklore originated from the 1960’s book Psycho-Cybernetics, by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltz observed in his medical practice that it took a minimum of 21 days for new habits to truly solidify in our brain. Unfortunately, his assertions were anecdotal only, with no scientific basis. However, as his book sold more copies, society quickly jumped on board.
The truth is, there is no magic number of days that guarantee you will form a habit. Sure, repetition makes things easier over time, but everyone is different. In fact, a 2009 study found that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for adopted behaviors to feel second nature.
There are many ways to help habit-formation. One way includes tying a new habit to an already existing one. For example, if you want to increase your water intake, you might drink a glass of water every morning when you brush your teeth. Other ways to solidify habits include rewarding yourself, finding someone to help you be accountable, and setting an achievable goal.
Is it a big deal if I miss a supplement here or there?
Believe it or not, humans are innately creatures of habit. Our bodies like routine. Perhaps this is why we wake up at 6:30 on a rainy Saturday morning, despite our desire to sleep late.
Taking supplements at approximately the same time every day helps our bodies know what to expect. The functions of the human body are very dependent on a 24-hour cycle, called circadian rhythm.
While much more research is needed, scientists have found that taking medications at certain times throughout the day can improve their efficacy. The practice is called chronotherapy. It’s unknown if the same positive effects could occur with supplements and vitamins, but it’s probable.
Missing an occasional supplement is unlikely to cause significant harm. However, you may lose out on the health benefits of regular use.
We’ve developed the following nine tips to make your supplement routine second nature.
9 ways to stick to your supplement routine
Location, location, location
If your vitamins are sitting inside your bathroom closet, you are less likely to take them. Keeping your supplements in a place where you will see them increases the odds of compliance. A great location is the kitchen. Not only do most people spend lots of time there, but supplements can be a great conversation starter. Your friends will want to hear all about your health. You would be doing them a favor in sharing your journey!
Use technology to your advantage
We are the first to tell you to limit your use of technology. After all, too much screen time is detrimental to your health. However, technology can be beneficial in certain instances, such as this one.
An online calendar is a helpful way to remind yourself to take your vitamins and help you stick to your supplement routine. Most calendars offer a way to personalize and automate your reminders. For example, if you want to take your supplements with breakfast, you can set your calendar to remind you fifteen minutes beforehand.
If an online calendar is not your thing, you could set a phone alarm – or any alarm for that matter! The great thing about a phone alarm is that it’s possible to select multiple alarms in one day. If you take supplements more than once, this could be helpful.
Finally, if technology is your jam, there are a handful of online medication reminder apps that alert you when a vitamin or supplement is due and help you track your compliance.
Pack them with your lunch
Not everyone loves taking vitamins first thing in the morning. One way to ensure that you don’t forget a dose is to pack them with your lunch. You may even want to leave yourself a love note reminding you to take your goodies.
Use a pillbox
Pillboxes are a great way to stay organized and ensure that you don’t miss any supplement doses. Many people prefer to prepare their pillboxes at the beginning of the week. This way, they don’t have to open a bottle again for another seven days. If it worked for Grandpa, it might just work for you!
Buy multiple bottles
Keep a bottle at home, one at work, one in your bag. That way, no matter where you go, you are never without. Having your vitamins around you increases the likelihood of taking them. If you forget a dose at home, you can take one as soon as you remember. Just be sure not to leave vitamins in a hot car or next to electronics.
Use good-ol’ paper
Some of us do better with handwritten reminders. A weekly planner is an excellent place to write supplement reminders. Alternatively, you can make yourself a to-do list. Better yet, sticky notes are a great way to remind yourself to keep up with your supplement routine. Stick them on the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, the car dashboard, or your coffee pot. Making coffee? Did you drink your greens first?
Keep them on your nightstand
Some supplements are best kept on your nightstand. This is especially true for those you take before bedtime or on an empty stomach. Your nightstand could be the perfect location for thyroid supplements, such as Thyrokick, or natural blood thinners like Flow.
Accountability buddies work well in other areas of life, so why not with vitamins and supplements? By identifying someone in your life to work with, you will improve your consistency and deepen your bond.
Send a quick text to your spouse reminding them to take their vitamins to help you stick to your supplement routine. Ask your kids to give you a friendly reminder. Enlist your best friend to call you daily. Those in your life who love you will want to see you succeed in health.
You do so much for others in your life; now it’s time to take care of yourself. After all, you can only help others when you are at your best. Don’t think of taking your supplements as an annoying chore. Instead, change your perspective.
Find gratitude in your ability to choose this path. You have the financial resources to obtain the supplements. You are committed to your end goal of achieving optimal health. Consider taking your vitamins as a form of self-care, and you likely won’t feel the need to set multiple reminders for yourself.
Health is more than supplements and vitamins
While taking supplements will undoubtedly improve your health, the goal is deeper than that. We want you to find your true value again. Establishing and sticking to a supplement routine reinforces in your own mind that you are worth it. And you are!
It’s all well and good to learn tips and tricks to get on a regular supplement routine but what if you don’t know which supplements you should even be taking? Considering your options can be overwhelming and it’s hard to know what supplements and companies to trust. The experts at Natural Heart Doctor would love to help you identify what supplements and testing you might need to move forward on your 100 Year Heart journey.
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD