Use Your Past to Pave Your Future

The road to Hell is wide and paved with good intentions. I can’t remember when I first heard this old adage, but the other night it rang loudly in my mind. The evening I had envisioned – a wholesome, relaxing homemade dinner with the children and filled with interesting conversations about their day followed by the stimulating intellectual discourse resulting from homework spanning six different grade levels — was doomed from the start. At first undaunted by an unexpected dinner-time soccer practice, my serenity quickly eroded with an upcoming social studies test, forgotten books at school, and the icing on the cake: the 6 p.m. announcement that an assignment requiring copious amounts of yet-to-be-purchased craft materials was due the next day. As I lay my head on the pillow hours later and a few Domino pizzas delivered to quickly feed the troops, my mind finally had time to catch up to my body. I took stock in the evening. What happened?

We’ve all experienced the disappointment when best-laid plans go awry. For those of us for whom this scenario seems to repeat itself in one form or another every day, it is critical that we pause to examine how we approach the maelstrom.

On this particular evening I thought back to my grandparents, recalling and yearning for the simplicity of times past. After all, they had it so easy, didn’t they? Well, no. My grandmother suffered from heart disease. While she did not have to build an Egyptian pyramid out of spaghetti at 10 p.m., the simpler life I imagine she had didn’t save her from chronic disease either.

Knowing I have a genetic risk of cardiovascular disease – and my life seems infinitely more complicated than my grandma’s in the 1950s – I realized in bed that night that I could look to my grandmother’s example and lay down my pavers differently. I can choose a path that will lead to a healthy heart and a happy life, while modeling a family culture handed down from earlier generations.  We cannot eliminate the stressors from our lives but we can navigate our potholes better.

Be real as a parent and simply roll with it. Once in a while a pizza night is in order. Stress is omnipresent, but we choose whether or not to let this get the best of us. Just as we model healthy behaviors in other aspects of our lives, our children look to us to show them the best way to weather the turbulence. Breathe, make the best of a trying situation and show your kids how
to have fun regardless. Remember kids have an easier time making fun than adults do – they will automatically fall behind your lighthearted leadership.

Practice mindfulness. This is not an esoteric ideal – it is the simple practice of being aware of one’s surroundings rather than letting life pass by cloaked in the distractions of daily life. Research indicates that mindfulness may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve psychological well-being, and reduce visits to the hospital. Yet in a 2010 Harvard study of 2,250 volunteers the subjects’ minds wandered an average of 46.9% of their waking time while engaged in a variety of activities. Find a moment for being quiet each day, and train yourself to put down the screen when eating a meal or waiting in a line. Mindfulness can also be learned through relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Be active every day. What will it take? Getting up a little earlier? Running (literally) the kids to school? Putting exercise time on the calendar? Exercise elevates mood, improves stamina, boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of heart disease and depression among many other benefits. A little self-discipline will go a long way to ensure good health and vitality down the
road.

Build a strong and resilient body.  Eat a healthful diet with a variety of organic fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Complement your healthy diet with nutritional supplements. The four I keep by my toothbrush are a whole food multivitamin (which I take in the morning) and a probiotic supplement, vitamin D, and fish oil caplets (which I take at night).

Go to bed! Eight hours every night is still what the doctor orders. We don’t allow our preschoolers to run around all night long, so why do we allow ourselves? Be the example. Go to bed each night when your body starts to feel tired. You will wake more refreshed, look younger and stay healthier.

Meeting the endless but very real daily needs of our families doesn’t require us to rush around in a whirling dervish. Stop. Look. Listen. Your past can show you the new pavers you can lay to create a healthier path for you and your family.

Thanks, Grandma.

1 Comment

  1. Never mind the maelstrom of 8 kids and 6 grade levels of homework — I found myself flustered by a ceramic frying pan wrecking havoc on a large pancake.
    Ugh. Seriously.
    Same remedies apply to small stuff. Thanks.

    Comment by Susan — March 20, 2017 @ 7:20 am

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