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Change is good — and needed — to be well

May 11, 2008
By MATTHEW GOODEMOTE, For The Leader-Herald
I am the youngest of five children.

As a youngster, I happened to be naturally observant.

I would watch how things played out with my siblings and, for some reason unknown to myself, I decided to try and figure out people.

At first it started with noticing what my parents wanted from me, then my teachers and coaches, and eventually my patients.

Now what has happened is that I have begun weeding through what I need in my life in order to be well.

I have been taking a look at the decisions I have made in the past and how I make decisions now.

I am still figuring out people, only this time the person I am figuring out is myself.

I have mentioned before how I find my peace before making decisions.

I believe this to be essential for me.

This morning I realized that at times I have been swimming against the current of life.

When I do, I am faced with more and more difficulties and frustrations because my focus becomes a short-term, narrow perspective.

When I am peaceful, I tend to see a broader perspective and I am very optimistic.

I think there are a lot of us out there who have been struggling to find our way: physically, emotionally and spiritually.

To me, being well means that we take a look at our whole self and find balance.

We must look at the areas where we are struggling and dig deep to find out why we struggle so much.

Superficial reasons only serve to give us superficial results. This applies to all types of struggle-physical, emotional and spiritual.

Let me start with the physical using as an example a familiar topic for me to talk about- back pain. I repeat a few phrases frequently, like “go to the pain, not through the pain” and “do a little bit a lot.”

I have found that people who take the two to three minutes 10 to 15 times a day to stop and do their back exercises get better a lot faster than people who do exercises three times a day or a few times a week.

I also have found that the majority of people who struggle with back pain do so because they try to push through their pain.

For some strange reason, we believe that our value as a person is somehow enhanced by how much physical pain we can take.

I have followed this flawed logic several times in my life.

From a physiological point of view, this makes no sense.

Pain is there to make us pay attention to our bodies.

Certainly there are times when it is safe to continue through pain, but this is a temporary situation. Pain that worsens with a particular activity and stays worse is an indication that we are injuring ourselves.

From a physiological point of view, this makes no sense.

Pain is there to make us pay attention to our bodies.

Certainly there are times when it is safe to continue through pain, but this is a temporary situation.

Pain that worsens with a particular activity and stays worse is an indication that we are injuring ourselves.

This is an example of superficial solutions.

We stick to the patterns we have used for years.

Things we were taught are not necessarily the best solutions.

One of my greatest epiphanies was hearing the quote, “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”

To me, pain represents our life out of balance.

Pushing through the pain does not actually help us re-establish the balance.

Often it puts us even further out of balance.

This is the area where stress builds and our choices become stressful and the process provides more of what we have already been struggling with.

Along with the physical comes the emotional.

I have patients every week who tell me how badly they hurt and how discouraged they are because of how much they hurt, and yet when I suggest solutions, they immediately resist. The decision to resist, which is made from fear and/or frustration, is the very thing that gets in their way and prevents them from moving forward.

They get stuck.

It has just occurred to me as I am writing this that there is a big difference between a quick result and a lasting result.

They are not the same thing. There are people who are looking for a quick result and become upset and frustrated when things are progressing slowly.

They struggle emotionally to see the broader perspective of gradual change over time as being something that they can accept. Lasting change is what I am interested in, not a temporary feel-good fix.

Lasting change is the result of intentionally investigating your life situation.

Back pain is something that can definitely get better.

Even if you are one of those people who have “tried” everything, there is still hope for you.

I have worked with people who have suffered with pain for years and years and yet they still are able to find relief.

The ones who persist with exercise find lasting relief.

The ones who dig deep and find how their lifestyle contributes to their predicament are the ones who persist.

They have found heading down a different path actually feels better.

I often meet people who have gotten into a routine because they were afraid to hurt worse. To them their familiar pain is better than new pain. They would rather suffer with what they know than to take a chance to possibly get well. It has become a part of their identity.

Our life situation is not who we are, it is not our identity. It is only our life situation at this moment, everyone’s life situation changes. No one has a life situation that is always the same. This is critical for us to understand. Lasting change comes when we understand this. Take a minute right now to consider what it is you are looking for in your life. Do you want to feel good for a few moments or would you like to change how you feel for the rest of your life? Lasting change is possible, but only for those who are ready to go through the process.

Lasting change also applies to our emotional status. There have been multiple studies on depression and what really works to get out of depression. You may be surprised to hear that the best short-term results for treating depression come from exercise.

That’s right- exercise has been shown to have a much greater effect on depression than any medicine on the market. In fact, not only is exercise more effective in the short-term, it is also dramatically more effective for lasting results.

The medicines used to treat depression are designed to mimic what our bodies already manufacture. The chemicals our body releases that help us maintain a positive mood are produced through activity and exercise.

The more consistently you exercise, the better you feel physically and emotionally.

Of course, it is a good idea to continue whatever your treatments are right now while you take a look at your life.

Are you looking for lasting relief or just temporary relief?

If you truly want to feel better, understand that it requires your involvement. You have to make the choice to be well. It is worth it and you will be glad you made this decision.

A specific protocol is not realistic for everyone.

We all have our own journey to go on. In my life, I paid attention.

I listened to what worked for others and tried what I thought would work for me. Through trial and error, I realized that what works for me is specific to me. At times I needed help, so I looked for guidance. Interestingly, my trial-and-error way was not nearly as effective as getting help from people who offered to help me.

I have learned to take a step back and look at my situation from a different perspective. By doing this, I have noticed that my strategies have often been the problem. Trying a different way is unsettling, but the rewards are far greater.

I needed several helpers to teach me this strategy and I had to learn the lesson several times. I needed a lot of people to guide me. This is why I am so grateful for the people in my life. You have all helped me find my way. I can never repay the gift, but I do my best by trying to be open to others and help nudge them on their way.

If you are feeling inside right now that desire of wanting change in your life, consider this a nudge.

Take a few minutes every day to just investigate your choices.

Look to see if you are like me, and make poor choices when you are stressed out and wise choices when you are calm. If you want a peaceful life start, making peaceful decisions … in everyday choices, like the food you eat and the activities you spend time doing.

If you want to be well, start today.

You can feel better and do more. In fact with most, if not all, physical conditions you can be well. I am ready to help in any way I can.

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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