The 12 Habits of Highly Health People® program was created after developers observed shared lifestyle behaviors in patients who seemed to have high levels of satisfaction in their lives. After thorough study, 12 habits that have significant impact on an individual’s health and quality of life were identified. Eager to improve the health and wellness of others, the program’s developers implemented it as a wellness initiative and after experiencing success and receiving positive reviews from participants, developers expanded the program, making it available to businesses and groups.

The Search

As a head and neck cancer surgeon, I was always interested in not only preventing cancer, but also finding out why some people seemed to thrive in their personal lives. Through conversations with my patients and their families, and extensive study of causative and beneficial lifestyle behaviors, I realized that the lessons learned from my patients were equally beneficial to non-cancer patients and employees where I practice. In fact, many of my surviving cancer patients seemed to be living life better than others I knew without cancer. I spoke in length with them to find out why.

I began to recognize certain lifestyle behaviors were common to these highly healthy people and started a search to see if the factors could be identified and utilized by others. At that time, I was also serving as the Medical Director at the Mayo Clinic Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center.


To further discover the key lifestyle behaviors that impacted health and well-being, I conducted research on factors impacting longevity, happiness, disease prevention, and multiple other areas. The research team also conducted intensive interviews with patients, family members, and visitors to identify what was truly important to them in their overall wellness. These efforts all led to the identification of the ‘12 Habits of Highly Healthy People.’

Habit Study

Once the 12 habits were identified, we looked at the behavioral science literature to find how frequently a new habit should be introduced and how long it would take someone to practice and adopt a habit. The result was approximately one habit per month. As each habit required varying amount of attention or activity, the introduction of one per month fit nicely with the design of a practical and useful program. The program also engaged people over a year and was beneficial again and again.

Simplicity and Power

Finally, it was decided to introduce and promote the program as an email-based offering. This program could further reach and help the active and inactive participants.

The last, but most important factor, was deciding how to present this in a pleasing, easy-to-follow, and understandable manner. The result was a one page monthly newsletter with goals, educational content, expert commentary, practical advice to implement the habit with subsequent reminders, and special messages. The program was born in 2012 and is highly visible with graphic reminders. It is time for you, your employees, and members to also benefit from this program.

12 for Health President, Kerry Olsen, MD

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