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Health: Small Changes Make Big Improvements

(c) 2002 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

Back when I was single and childless, I used to go to an office every day and during good weather months (I lived in the DC area at the time), I'd stop by a place called Sugarloaf Mountain (in Maryland) on my way home from work and hike (walk, really) in the woods there for a couple hours a few times a week. At the time, being single and childless, I didn't really have to consider other people when I decided I wanted to take that walk in the woods, and I could decide to do this literally on my way home if I wanted to.

Then came marriage and kids and I found myself deliriously happy staring into the eyes of my newborn son. It's been almost five years since then and I'm now staring into his baby brother's newborn eyes, feeling that same crushing love. You parents out there know what I mean!

But somewhere along the way, without even realizing it, I forgot about myself. I forgot that I like to walk in the woods or on the beach (running after a toddler to keep him from the undertow doesn't count!). I forgot to take care of myself. Forgot to exercise, eat right, get enough rest and to just plain care about my own well-being. My focus was so much on my child (and now children) that I became invisible to myself. Happy, for sure! But I forgot to care about me.

Now, I didn't just suddenly realize this. Over the past year, I started having a gnawing feeling, like I needed to be doing something that I wasn't doing. There were several areas in my life that just weren't right and I was finally starting to see it. Work-wise, family-wise, health-wise. So I'm slowly making some changes.

I'll focus on the health ones in this article. First, I started taking my vitamins again, and started avoiding certain things, like Coca-Cola (oh how I love that stuff!). I started caring about my own health again. I'm learning that small changes can make big improvements! Then, I started doing at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. Sometimes it's walking, doing a Tae-Bo video, dancing to music with the kids, doing jumping jacks and sit-ups, or whatever. As long as it's at least 30 minutes total each day. Our family has also started paying more attention to what we eat and how we prepare it.

Before, too often I would focus on the kids and work and then house and other stuff, and pretty much forget myself. Turning it around is not selfish (as some people think); it is very unhealthy to ignore one's basic needs. I talk a lot about balancing life but forget sometimes to include my own needs when balancing everything else. Do you do this too? It's funny how parents tend to do everything for everyone before doing anything they need. By ignoring our own needs, we are not the best we can be to anyone else.

As a result of the changes I've made, my mood is better and I'm more energetic and more focused. I approach my work and my kids with more clarity and patience. I get more done in less time, which results in more time for my family. The simple changes in just the health aspect of my life have rippled through to the other aspects of my life, making them better!

Try it yourself. Identify one personal area that can be improved and make the true effort to change and just watch how it benefits every part of your life! Oh, and don't forget to tell me about it!


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