“Bend and stretch, reach for the sky. Stand on tippy toes, oh,oh,so high!”-Miss Jean
A few years ago, author Robert Fulhgum wrote a book called, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The book was a feel good, nostalgic look at things that we were told as preschoolers. In it, he humorously reviewed the rules and regulations used to manage a kindergarten classroom. While the book is not considered to be about personal development, much of what it espouses can go a long way toward helping an adult maintain physical and emotional wellness.
I grew up in the greater Boston area during the 1960s. There was a very popular children’s television show of that time called “Romper Room,” which starred a young teacher who went by the name of Miss Jean. She had a variety of silly things that she did every day that, as a child, you looked forward to. In addition to “romper, stomper, bomper,boo,” and the daily chocolate milk toast, she took time every day to engage in “Bend and Stretch,” where we would stand, bend, and reach in a variety of directions, doing so with a seriousness of purpose and lack of self consciousness. After a brief commercial break, Miss Jean once again had our undivided attention.
Recently, much has been written and studied about the hazards of prolonged sitting on our health and wellness (see “Death By Desk,” posted May 16, 2014.) Evidence indicates that those of us who ride a desk more than hour at a time per day should bend and stretch at least once per hour. It doesn’t have to be a lot, a few stanzas of Bend and Stretch along with the Miss Jean method should be enough to keep us supple and alert. The same amount of time and movement can be a productive way to wake up from a night’s sleep. Nothing more elaborate is required. It is the consistency of performing these movements frequently that provides most of the benefits. And, if you are one of those kids that likes to color outside of the lines, you may even want to make up your own stretching movements.
Bending and stretching also applies to our emotional wellness. Psychological flexibility is considered to be a characteristic of emotional intelligence and resilience. Hanging onto our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and prejudices often leads us to experience psychological discomfort. Our thoughts and emotions tend to be unreliable indicators of what is actually happening. They tend to come on quickly in many situations and we stubbornly hang on to them, basing our reactions on these initial emotional responses. We would be much better off considering other possibilities and realities and “bending and stretching” as needed.
Recent studies of human behavior have shown that psychological flexibility is a vital characteristic of emotional wellness. A 2010 study defined psychological flexibility as, “adapting to fluctuating situational demands, shifting perspective, and balancing competing desires, needs, and life domains.” It viewed psychological flexibility as a series of positive interactions between a person and their environment. In other words, adjusting to what is, as opposed to unrealistic expectations that an individual may have. People who cannot bend and stretch emotionally tend to suffer from anxiety, depression, poor job performance, substance abuse, and an overall lower quality of life.
In Neurolinguistic Programming, a personal development system which was popular during the 1990s, there was an expression that stated, “The person with the greatest number of choices in a given situation is likely to get the best outcome.” This is sound advice that even Miss Jean would agree with. It is a more elaborate way of saying be flexible, adjust, and bend with the reality of your situation. As Mick Jagger says, “You might find, you get what you need.” Understanding the difference between needs and wants is a sign of a healthy person.
You can see that bending and stretching appropriately, physically as well as psychologically, is one of the characteristics of a healthy blend of mind and body. Although kindergarten didn’t teach us everything we needed to know, it’s probably a good idea to remember to bend and stretch as often as possible.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”-Albert Einstein
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