Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine. He’s the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, a New York Times best-selling author (many times over), and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine. In all his free time, he hosts a leading health podcast, The Doctor’s Farmacy.
I couldn’t wait to talk to Mark about happiness, habits, and good health.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?
Mark: Moving my body—yoga, tennis, biking—wakes me up, clears my mind, relieves stress.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That true happiness comes from service to others and giving love.
You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?
That the food we eat and the system that produces it is the biggest driver of most of our global crises including chronic disease and its economic burden, environmental damage, and climate change, social injustice, poverty, violence, poor academic performance and even national security. And that fixing the food system will dramatically improve all these global problems.
Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?
I hated weight training but finally made the decision to go to a gym, get a trainer and push myself into uncomfortable territory.
Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?
I am a Rebel/Questioner!
Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)
Too much travel, not eating at home, not sleeping enough, not exercising enough.
Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?
Yes, after getting very sick and almost dying I did two things:
1) Decided to stop doing things to please people, and
2) Dramatically cut back on my work schedule.
Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?
“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama
Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?
Walden by Henry Thoreau. At a very young age it made me believe in infinite possibilities and sparked the desire to live an uncommon life, and to live my life to the “beat of a different drummer.”
In your field, is there a common misconception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?
Medicine is focused on diagnosis of diseases by symptoms, not by root causes. It sees the body as a collection of different organs rather an interconnected system. It focuses on treating disease by blocking or suppressing symptoms rather than creating health. That is the power of functional medicine—it is the science of creating health. As a side effect diseases improve dramatically or disappear.
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