Sunday, December 17, 2006

Making A Difference Improves Our Health

by Donna L. Watkins

This little bluebird is looking at his reflection in the water. I want to say, "Penny for your thoughts?" What do bluebirds think about as they fly, hop and jump around discovering new things each day?

There's been a lot of emphasis on exercise for years. It's amazing the amount of money being spent on gym and fitness center memberships. Walking has always been great exercise.

It's well known that the aerobic benefits of fast walking is good for the heart, but with all the research being done on how our health is affected by our state of mind - by stress and anxiety - it is also important to note that even slow walking has many terrific benefits if done on a nature trail in slow motion. To me it's doing what comes naturally, and like this bluebird, you'll discover new things each day too.

The value of the shadows and light patterns on a wooded path along with the sounds of songbirds serenading the forest and all inhabitants, is priceless compared to a fast hard walk on asphalt along a path that changes little from day to day. There can be a lot of muscles used on a nature walk as you bend over to look at the detail of a wildflower or stoop down to get a close-up look of a mushroom that sprang up over night in the path. You can get plenty of neck movement as you watch a female Tiger Swallowtail butterfly floating through the canopy of the forest in search of the perfect tulip poplar tree to lay its eggs.

The emotional benefits will go a long way to making it a great day and those hormones now being produced by your smiles and good thoughts are going a long way on building your health also. I've never been able to use exercise machines. I guess there's always been something inside me that said it wasn't my way. Pounding asphalt doesn't fit either, but I do enjoy gardening while all the people walk by and take time to say "good morning." It's refreshing to begin the day with greetings from human beings who have at least learned to take some time for themselves in today's busy world that screams for more and more productivity.

I always lived life at such a fast pace before having health issues that have slowed me down a bit. Sleep was a waste of time for a couple of decades of life and if I wasn't getting something done, I didn't consider it a good day. But now, I've learned to take life slower even if I have the energy to do all that I did before. I see life differently and my priorities have changed.

In the book, "The Meaning of Faith," the author, Harry Emerson Fosdick tells of a conversation that John Quincy Adams had, with a friend on a street in Boston, at the age of 80.

"Good morning," said the friend, "and how is John Quincy Adams today?"

The ex-president replied, "John Quincy Adams himself is well, quite well, thank you. But the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundation. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out. The walls are much shattered, and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is quite well, quite well."

This attitude has been called "body transcendence," which means you don't judge yourself only on the state of your body. One online mention of this term is: "Body transcendence vs. body preoccupation. Stresses the ability to focus on comforts, enjoyments, and mental tasks while de-emphasizing body aches, pains, and losses. "

Getting old does not cause one to automatically become less of a person. Even while aging, we maintain many of our abilities and we can continue growing in Christ and in wisdom, as we learn to love more deeply. We should have more patience and tolerance for things our younger bodies and minds could find not comprehend. There is much to contribute to this world regardless of our state of health.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven."

Having to slow down for a health problem doesn't mean it's permanent. Sometimes our bodies just demand some R&R. Don't let a health issue make you believe that life is over and that you are no longer of value because you can't do what you used to do. Life has many seasons. Live and enjoy them as they come and keep yourself in the present. Don't look back over any regrets and don't look forward with fear. Take today and be who you are and make it a better day for somebody else.

You wouldn't believe how much a smile and a few kinds words can do for those you see each day. Taking time to add value to somebody else's life will always add value to your own. Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Take the time to write a short note to somebody - even somebody you don't know. I drive past a place when I go to town that always makes me smile. The landscaping is lovely. I realized one day that it may make a difference to the owners to know that others are receiving joy from their work, so I wrote a note and stuck it in their mailbox.

After that I decided to keep notes in my car. Making a difference in somebody else's life sure makes a difference in mine.

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