Thursday, January 2, 2014

Five Little Monkeys

First: Happy New Year, readers! I can't believe how quickly the time flies. Reward yourself by doing something amazing this year!

Somewhere, my son recently learned the classic children's song, "Five Little Monkeys". He was singing it rambunctiously a few nights ago as he threw himself around on my bed:

Five little monkeys jumping on a bed One fell off and bumped his head Mama called the doctor and the doctor said "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

As we all know, Mama was unsuccessful in keeping the monkeys from jumping on the bed, they kept falling off and hitting their heads.

As my son worked his way through all those monkeys, it struck me (pun intended) that I really liked the doctor portrayed in this song. I imagined that when Mama called the doctor, he might also have said, "Here's a prescription for Norco!" or "Bring him in for an MRI!" Aside from the fact that those wouldn't rhyme, those wouldn't address the root of the problem. So often in the practice of medicine these days, doctors (including myself) end up (for a variety of reasons) focusing on patching up symptoms instead of getting to the bottom of them.

In my mind's eye, I picture an elderly silverback gorilla wearing a white lab coat and a stethescope around his neck. He answers the old rotary phone on his antique desk, closing his eyes for a brief moment as he listens patiently to Mama's latest story of monkey shenanigans. Should she take him to the emergency department? Can she get a prescription called in for him? He takes a slow, deep breath in and calmly explains that her dear monkey will be just fine, just fine, but that one of these days, there might truly be a serious injury. What really needs to happen, more than anything, is to set firm boundaries about jumping on the bed.

We all need to learn to keep our monkeys off of our beds. Roughly 7 of every 10 deaths in the United States is due to a chronic medical illness, and abundant research points to lifestyle interventions- making positive, healthy decisions to improve our wellbeing- are the best treatments. Eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking, not drinking alcohol excessively, getting a good night's rest- that is what we need to do in order to feel better. It has been said many times, that if all the benefits of exercise could be obtained by taking a pill, everyone would be on it. The monkeys may need to stop jumping on the bed, but we need to start.

This new year, don't make a burdensome weight loss resolution. Instead, make a commitment to yourself to be healthy. That's it. Find an activity you enjoy, that gets your heart pumping, and do it, for at least 20 minutes. Enjoy the endorphins flooding your veins. Instead of chowing down on a greasy meal that leaves you feeling bloated, reach for a healthy snack, something fresh with a crunch to it. Put down the cigarette- as hard as that can be. Find a friend who also wants to quit, so you can do it together. Talk to your doctor about how to get healthy- you might surprise yourself about how many of the medications you're on, that you can stop taking once you put these principles in place. Sound like fun? Give it a go! And whatever you do, take some time to learn from kids. They have a lot to teach us ;)