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Bit By Bit – Small Changes Make Big Differences

Posted Jan 27 2010 9:43pm

A woman I work with – let’s call her Carolyn, because that’s her name – recently underwent back surgery. She says since the surgery she’s been in some pain, not just in her back but pretty much throughout her body. At first she thought it was just the usual recovery process, but as the pain persisted she did what many people do today, she went online and found out what was going on.

Carolyn found that part of the problem was that her body was stressed from years of living with a bad back, and from the surgery to repair it. Fortunately she didn’t just find out what the problem was, she also found out the solution. Stretching. Her muscles were taut and tight, her tendons and ligaments rigid. So that evening she did some very gentle stretching, nothing wild, and that night she slept like a log, and woke up the next morning feeling relaxed and refreshed and revived.

What Carolyn did wasn’t a miracle. It didn’t involve any medications or an elaborate therapy program. All she did was stretch. She’s been doing it every day since then, a bit at a time, in the morning, in the evening, even in the office during the day. And she says it’s given her a spring in her step and a new sense of energy.

Carolyn’s experience is a reminder that small changes can have a big impact. Even something as simple as gentle stretching helped her sleep better, feel better, think better. Not a bad return on such a small investment.

It’s not just confined to exercise or activity either. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if Americans reduced their consumption of salt, even just a little – and by a little I mean just half a teaspoon a day -  they could reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke or heart attacks as much as if they stopped smoking or cut their cholesterol level.

Half a teaspoon a day. That’s tiny. And you get to live longer. Who could say no to that.

It’s important to remember these details as we reach the end of January and a lot of people’s New Year’s Resolutions are either already history or are wobbling precariously. Maybe you started out trying too much, or taking on too many challenges. So this is a good time to refine your resolution. Don’t dump it, just modify it. By now you have a good idea of what is reasonable, what is practical, what is achievable.

Scaling back your overly ambitious plan is not failure it’s smart. What you are doing is setting yourself up for long-term success by creating a realistic plan, one that fits your lifestyle and keeps you heading towards your goal.

Remember, you didn’t get overweight overnight, nor are you going to get slim and trim by the end of the month or even the year. It takes time. But it can be done. As long as you do it bit by bit.

Carolyn’s back problems didn’t happen with one single incident, and they didn’t disappear with her surgery. But what she has found is that by taking things into her own hands and adding something as simple as stretching into her daily routine she has set herself on the path to recovery, to a more active, more engaged, healthier life.

And that’s something we could all live with.

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