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When it comes to health, make intelligent choices

April 13, 2008
This week I decided to write about choices. Specifically making choices from an intelligent point of view.

This sounds easy, but I hear and personally have experienced, where the easy thing to do is actually not so easy after all.

This week I was reminded of how I handled injuries my whole life.

I loved talking about how I injured my ankle in a basketball tournament, but finished the championship game.

I used it as a badge of honor. The rest of the story is that I walked with a limp for more than two months.

How’s that for an intelligent decision?

I have had patients who come to me and say, “I am willing to do whatever it takes to get well again,” only to find out when I ask them to stop doing what hurts them they resist.

They would rather do what they normally do even though it is the very thing that is getting in the way of healing. So in the end they are not so willing to do what it takes to get well.

When I point out the extremes people are able to see the perspective I am referring to. So let’s say you sprain your ankle so bad you literally cannot put weight on your foot. Would you go out running? What if your ankle was so swollen that you literally couldn’t get a sock on it and it hurt to the point of tears. Would running be a wise choice?

Of course it is easy to see that running is not the wisest choice. Our body is clearly pointing to the wise choice and our mind may be pointing to a not so wise choice.

Now imagine you are the person with lower back pain. You know that lifting something heavy will make your back hurt worse. Is it a wise choice to lift it anyway? Or maybe vacuuming is what causes you agony. Does it make sense to do this activity?

I know some are saying that “I have to vacuum,” or “I need to keep going.” My comment is to continue doing those things only if you want to, the choice is yours, but if you want to feel better then you need to listen to your body, not your brain.

Just recently, I said to a woman who has back pain, “You don’t have to stop, it’s only if you want to feel better that you should stop. So if you want to feel good, stop provoking your back. If you like feeling lousy, keep doing what hurts.

Somewhere along the way most of us were taught to listen to our thoughts instead of our bodies. Interestingly our body is far wiser and more and more I see how easy choices can be when we listen to our bodies.

My favorite example lately is that after a long day of work my body says, “lie down” or sometimes it says, “go for a walk.” If I listen to my brain it says watch TV. The very thing my body needs is what I should follow. That’s easy right? Well unfortunately in my life I have not made that “easy” choice very easily.

Wisdom comes from a peaceful place. When we are all stressed out we make choices that are stressed. Typically these stressed choices don’t work so well and we are forced to deal with the new situations that come from the poor choices. Round and round it goes. For me I prefer to have a peaceful life.

Just last week my son got his finger caught between a rubber ball and a tread on a treadmill. He was picking up so we could leave. The ball had rolled next to the treadmill and he was trying to pick it up. When he did the tread pulled the ball and his hand under it. The skin was ripped from his finger.

I made a stressed decision and I am sure my son noticed how upset I was. I felt so bad for him I had all I could do to not break down in front of him. Fortunately when we got home I found my peace. I was able to calm myself down and as I got calm so did he. I did not try to distract him or make him laugh. I offered no comfort food to make him “feel better.” I simply calmed myself down and he and I looked at it and talked about what happened.

As I found my peace so did he.

Later I allowed myself to feel the emotions that came up, the sympathy I had for my little boy. I allowed myself to feel my own grief. It is very hard to see your children get hurt, and yet reacting from a stressed out perspective only leads to more stress. The situation was over he was safe and until I calmed down, we both felt the stress. When I calmed down and he calmed down we got to see what was happening in the moment, from there we made wise choices to clean it and protect it.

I am happy to say he is doing great … and so am I.

I find myself telling people more and more how important it is to take a few moments to stop and find their peace first. Let’s make decisions when we are calm. When we are calm we make wise choices. When we are stressed we make stressed choices.

Take a look at what is going on right now in your life. Can you find some examples where you are remembering your past and making decisions based on past choices? Have you recently made a decision that was based on a stressful thought?

When it comes to your health making wise choices means living a healthy life. A lot of us were taught to use food to comfort ourselves. A lot of us were told to finish what we started despite how we feel. A lot of were told to hold onto our emotions instead of experiencing them fully the first time, which would then be the only time. Too often we hold in our emotions only to relive events over and over again.

Life is about finding our own way. In order to do this we have to consider the choices we make. To do this we need to stop when we don’t feel well and find our peace. Peace comes from being in the moment. Instead of living in the past remembering all the things that have happened to us and making decisions from there, it is far better to look at where we are right now and make decisions from there.

When you are eating food make sure you are really hungry. When you are sad really feel the sadness and allow it to wash through. There is a notion that if we allow ourselves to grieve we will grieve forever.

In reality when we experience it all the way, there is nothing more to experience. If you find yourself repeating things again and again, it is because it was not really finished. So, finish it!

Getting well is easy. Making the decisions that lead to wellness is also easy. Decisions are only made in this moment. When the time to make a decision comes, make sure you have your peace first. It will lead to a wise choice. Following wise choices leads to wellness.

Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at


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