There is an old joke that has always been a favorite of mine.
Q. Why do kindergarten teachers enjoy their work?
A. Because they make the little things count.
Almost everyone I know wants to do something about improving their level of health and wellness. But most people are not doing much about it, and I think I know the reason why. Most everyone thinks they need to do something BIG, something dramatic, to make any difference in their health. Let’s take a minute to explore this idea.
Let’s think about something big. I mean really BIG! How about the biggest mountain on earth! Mount Everest is commonly thought of as the world’s tallest mountain, standing at 29,028 feet. It is dramatic in both view and grandeur, towering above everything else and inspiring many with its majesty. It causes us to look up, and for some awakens the desire to climb it, “simply because it is there.” But consider that every mountain, including Mount Everest, is made of many rocks, pebbles, and grains of sand. The world’s largest mountain has smaller parts that join together to make one of the true wonders of our world.
How about something else big? How about the Pacific Ocean? The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water in the world. It spans the distance from the Americas to Asia and from the Arctic to Antarctic Circles. It encompasses major cultures and is home to a vast array of living creatures. It is truly a wonder! And yet, each wave is part of the whole, each part depending upon the movement of the whole to regulate its expanses and swells. It is home to some of earth’s largest creatures, as well as some of the most microscopic. This mammoth thing that we label “ocean” is in fact formed of many component parts, regions, depths, creatures, bays, inlets, islands, and so on, all of which are needed to truly comprise the whole. This wonder of moving fluid mass is designed from many smaller things.
Even in the technical world, we are familiar with large machines being composed of smaller, complex parts. Automobiles that weigh several tons move effortlessly down the highways of our nation, propelled by tiny controlled explosions that catapult intricately manufactured parts to transfer power from one to the next in ever more efficient designs. Next time you take your car into the shop, notice how one small, malfunctioning part can cause the whole machine to drag to a stop.
Everything seems to be composed of smaller parts. If we want to push the limit, we can even talk about molecules and atoms, but when we do we find that science has even discovered that atoms, once thought to be the smallest particles in nature, are composed of even smaller particles. And so it goes.
Why then, when the natural order of things seems to suggest that all large things are composed of smaller, component parts, do human beings think they are going to get perfect health and well-being in one, giant step? This doesn’t even happen in children’s games. Remember “Mother May I?” You get to take steps of various sizes — sometimes baby steps — as you move forward to the goal. And even with giant steps, no one makes it to the finish in one step. The journey is composed of many, smaller steps.
I would like to suggest that the road to wellness is a road with many small steps. Even adults must take “baby steps” as we progress along our way. So what kind of small changes will make a difference that is worth making? Here are several suggestions that will help you along on your wellness journey.
If you are already in a walking program, good for you. The importance of walking regularly far outweighs the possibility for self-injury that comes from exercising harder. Instead of pushing yourself to go faster and faster, consider simply adding another minute or two to your total time. If you are currently walking 15 minutes, gradually work up to 18; if you can walk 20 minutes, add another 5 or so as it feels comfortable to do so. Never push to the point of pain. Remember – pain is your body’s warning system that gets your attention when something is wrong. By simply going longer, instead of harder, you can minimize the possibility of discomfort and the damage that comes from pushing yourself too hard. Throw away the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” Replace it with, “Go longer, get stronger.” Be smart. Treat yourself well.
Many people are trying to eat better, more wholesome food. Here are a couple of baby step suggestions. First, don’t try to eat “perfectly” all at once. Make small changes. If your goal is to eat more vegetables, try different ways of preparing them. And if vegetables are not your thing, allow yourself to experience a new vegetable once or twice a week, not every day. Consider that this will be an increase in the variety of vegetables you eat, as well as an overall increase in the amount of your vegetable intake.
If you are trying to cut the fat in your diet and you are a milk drinker, consider gradually decreasing the percentage of the milk products you use. If you are currently drinking whole milk, move down to 2%, or if you are currently drinking 1%, start using skimmed. Each small decrease you make in your total fat intake is a great improvement when compared to your total fat intake. I would, however, suggest that you not jump all the way from whole milk to skimmed milk. Allow time for your tastes to adjust. You may not believe it at first, but they will adjust. That lower-fat milk that tasted “so awful” at first will actually begin to taste good after a few weeks (yes, it does take time).
Think about salt. Most of us get plenty of salt without adding any to our food. Try decreasing, or gradually eliminating added salt from your diet. Again, giving yourself a few weeks to adjust, you will find, over time, that you actually enjoy the taste of your food more when you salt it less.
Or consider your spiritual health and well-being. If you feel a calling to the ordained ministry, then by all means follow it. But if that is not your calling, allow yourself to find ministry in each thing you do during your day. “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). Every small thing you do is important.
What about the biggest thing of all – finding our place in the grand scheme of things. We are truly God’s hands in this place. No matter how small your part in the structure and order of the universe, it takes all of our small contributions to reach into every place to bring that plan into its grand fullness. Become part of a greater plan for your wellness. Start with some little things like “lov[ing] the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, HCSB). Do these “little” things and your wellness journey will have a very strong foundation. Make the little things count.
Remember to be good to you!
Copyright © 2013 by Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.
•Dr. Gary Flegal is a Behavioral Medicine and Health Specialist with a doctorate in “Health Education and Human Performance” from Michigan State University. He is an exciting and accomplished presenter and keynote speaker, presenting seminars for groups and companies on location and at conventions. His advanced training in stress management came to him while working in affiliation with the original Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard under the direction of Herbert Benson, M.D. and his staff. In addition to corporate presentations, Dr. Flegal keeps a busy schedule working with individual clients for a variety of stress-related issues, including anger management, quitting smoking, learning to relax and manage stress, and learning self-hypnosis.
Dr. Flegal’s other passion is magic. He has been a professional magician for over 30 years and continues practicing his art at every opportunity. These two passions work together beautifully as he illustrates stress management concepts with fun, visual, and “magical” demonstrations in his stress management workshops and seminars. It also allows him to share stress management with his magic audiences wherever he goes because “Laughter is the Best Medicine!” Gary is a Reiki Master and a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.
Dr. Flegal’s specialties include stress management, anger management, positive behavior change, insomnia, smoking cessation, and exercise physiology. For individual appointments, speaking engagements, or more information, contact Gary at Professional Stress Management Services in Nashville, Tennessee, at (615)812-7280 or through his Web site: www.GaryFlegal.com.
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