In 1954, Kitty Kallen, who lived to be 94, recorded her big hit song, “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Of course she was singing about remembering birthdays, bringing flowers and a hand on a shoulder. But when we think of good health, little things mean a lot too.

Hello, to you (by now, I hope) well-hydrated readers! From the outset, I said my broad goal was to encourage you to stop doing certain things that are harming you, and inspire you to start doing various things that are greatly beneficial. Most of these things, good and bad, are actually small things, important things, easy to do but not so easy to remember. This is why getting into the habit of a morning routine is so vital.

Overall, good outcomes are based on what we are doing and what we are failing to do, most often both. For example, am I working far too many hours and also failing to get sufficient sleep? Am I increasing stress by hurrying constantly? Does this cause me to fail to breathe properly, which reduces delivery of oxygen to my cells? This is especially important as we reach our golden years.

Each tiny decision becomes important because of the domino effect and cumulative effect of all the health-related choices we make on a day-to-day and even moment-to-moment basis. Many small things that seem unimportant at the time can result in dramatic changes over the course of our lives and, by extension, our entire families. None of us will live forever, but our choices have a powerful effect on our vitality and quality of life in the present and future. The rule of cause and effect is fundamental and never goes away.

Personally, I have a litmus test question which I always try to ask myself. “Is this getting me closer to, or farther away from, my goals?” It’s a pretty simple question and the trick is to be truthful and act conscientiously, despite normal feelings, wants and desires for immediate gratification.

Being personally responsible for one’s health isn’t that popular these days when too many people are looking for a pill, potion, or some other quick fix to repair something that they themselves damaged due to a lack of knowledge or inattention. It’s clearly better to have an active, conscious plan not to abuse your body in the first place — or choose now, if you haven’t already, to stop the destruction. Don’t ride the elevator all the way down to the flooded basement. Stay as high up as you can and head for the floors above.

Alrighty then ... here is this week’s good health tip which is really a CALL TO ACTION:

When you make this a habit, it will have very positive long-term effects as you age. A bonus is that it combines stretching and breathing so that you are getting multiple benefits from just a five-minute investment in your wellness.

Each morning, right after you’ve used the restroom and had your “first thing” water, sit on your bed with your legs straight out in front of you and explore your current range of motion as you breathe deeply. Inhale and reach; first up, then out, then over ... stretch in all directions to the point of resistance as you focus on filling your lungs quickly and completely, then holding that breath while you count to seven, as you reach and extend your range of motion. Then, exhale slowly and completely. Repeat. As you do this, you will feel your muscles stretching and releasing. As soon as you get tired of stretching an area, move on to another area and direction. Simply explore to the limit of your current flexibility while breathing deeply. The important thing is to drink your water and then give yourself this five-minute gift of breathing and stretching as you start each day.

Make it a great day. Be kind to one another, and to yourselves.

Marilyn McConnell is a wellness expert who, over three decades in Toronto and Chicago, has helped people with personal presentation, weight loss, longevity, organization, downsizing and related lifestyle design. She now lives in Arcadia, much closer to her immediate family. 312-659-2424

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