Monday, March 21, 2011

How Did We Get Here, and How Do I Get Where I Want To Go?

That’s the question of the hour. Wherever you are, how did you get there? And if you’re not where you want to be, how do you get where you want to be?

Of course, if you’ve been following me, you know I am speaking of where we are in our health. Specifically, wherever you are on the “wellness spectrum”, you got there (usually) because of the choices you’ve made over the years. If you’re high on the wellness spectrum chart, it usually because of a series of positive decisions you’ve made over the last 10, 20, 30+ years. They have a cumulative effect on us. Remember in previous articles I’ve written I speak of the fact that there is no “zero sum effect” with regards to the wellness decisions we make daily. Every single choice we make moves us one way or the other on the spectrum, there’s no escaping it. If we choose to take time to de-stress via exercise, massage, relaxation techniques etc, that moves us toward the wellness end. If we choose to eat a diet that is primarily made of processed food, soft drinks etc., then that moves us toward the illness end of the spectrum. If we’re spending our free time on the couch watching reality TV and not moving much, that moves us toward illness. When we choose to take time to get good rest nightly, we end up closer to the wellness end. I hope that puts into perspective how important it is to pay attention to our daily habits and decisions related to wellness.

So, to answer the questions listed at the top, let’s take the first one: How did we get here? It’s really very simple. The answer is …one step at a time. Ok, so that didn’t come with much fanfare. I understand. But it really is that simple. If you’re really unhealthy, you probably didn’t just wake up that way last Thursday. Our current health status is the sum of all of the choices we’ve made in our lifetime. Often times inch by inch we start changing our lifestyle. It happens almost imperceptibly. We don’t think about the fact that we’ve started drinking a few more soft drinks than we used to, maybe it’s only one more per week to start with. Then a few months later we add in another, and the trend continues until suddenly we wake up and realize we’re consuming way more than we thought we’d ever allow ourselves to. So we’ve taken a small bad habit and slowly incorporated it into our lives in a manner that we really don’t even see until we have a full blown bad habit affecting our health.

The opposite occurs too. Sometimes we imperceptibly drop a good habit inch by inch. Maybe at one point you were an avid exerciser. Maybe something happened to your schedule so that it became more difficult to keep exercising, so you drop one day a week. After a while you’re so used to the new schedule that you think it would be ok to drop a day again. A year later you’re hardly exercising at all, and you wonder why your blood pressure, your waistline, and your blood sugar are all heading higher. Now you’re in a lifestyle you don’t even recognize.

So the bad news is we are the sum of our own decisions when it comes to our health. But that is also the good news since obviously then, we can begin to turn this ship of ours around if it’s not where we want to be, and head in the right direction. So to answer the second question in the title of this article, you’re only one step away from making yourself healthier right now. Right now, wherever you are on the wellness spectrum, you can drop one bad habit or add in a new good habit and immediately begin moving yourself more toward the wellness end. I recommend focusing on starting a new habit rather than subtracting a bad one. That’s one reason we do Wellness Wednesdays in our office. One day a month we get people to sample a new product or taste a new “concoction” we put together that they can create or buy that would help them become healthier. By adding in enough new habits, they can begin to crowd out the bad ones. If everyone would focus on a new habit every month, or even every other month, we’d all be headed down the road to wellness together, inch by inch, one step at a time.

Until next time…Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

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