Make Work Great Again

Michelle Graham

We spend a great deal of our time at work. According to a recent Gallup Poll the average American spends almost 47 hours a week at work and salaried employees even more. Is your work environment a happy place or a dreaded place? Is your work like heaven or do you find yourself in hell most days? Perhaps you cannot change where you work but you can change your attitude, your mindset and your outlook. What each one of us brings to the table every day matters, in fact it matters a great deal. The question is how do we make the most of our time at work, how can we lift staff up instead of tear them down? 

    Whether your role where you work is big or small, the employer or the employee there are a few very simple things we can all do to make our work environment amazing and wonderful. 

    It goes without saying that praise and recognition are extremely important. Everyone wants to know that they matter, they are valued, and they are appreciated. A warm friendly greeting, a simple “thank you”, “we appreciate you” all have a monumental impact. Employees who are given praise and recognition are most likely to be loyal, long-term and reliable staff. Never underestimate the value of simply being kind to your employees and, in turn, employees being kind to their employer. The circle of impact has great rewards. In short, we reap what we sow; when you give away goodness it all comes back, and the reverse is also true. The moral of the story is be kind, be compassionate and be considerate always! 

    Come to work ready to always do your best. No matter the task, bring your best efforts to the table. Be your best self, dress your best and have your best attitude. A great attitude is contagious, a smile is contagious and positive outlook is contagious. Be the person everyone wants to be around. In our work environment we all have this great ability to impact those around us. Embrace the qualities that set you apart from others in the BEST way possible. 

    Build trust among your team. Prove that you are someone that the team can count on. That means be on time, follow through on tasks, be accountable, say what you mean, mean what you say, be honest, be hardworking, go the extra mile and most important be organized and responsible! Everyone wants to be trusted, trust your insight, trust that your staff team has your back, trust that they will make good decisions. Allow your staff to grow, learn and sometimes make mistakes, Don’t Micro-Manage. 

    Thread wellness and healthy living into your workplace. Show the team that you truly care about their health and well-being. Implement work-site wellness, have mini worksite wellness challenges to improve healthy living, do health focused lunch and learns, do monthly potluck gatherings that focus on healthy choices. Make your workplace a healthy place. Have healthy snacks and healthy drinks in your vending machines. Be the motivator, the role model, the cheerleader for good health. Perhaps having a wellness team can have great rewards for not only your company’s bottom line, but the team as well. 

    Be engaged, pay attention and interact with staff. Say hello, smile, make staff feel important each day. The little things, I am convinced, mean the most in the work place. Go out of your way to do something nice, a coffee, a small snack or a special note really matters. Be “That” person that lifts others up. It is through these small acts that our working environment and attitude change. Just a little shift in mindset can change the course of someone’s entire day. 

    I am absolutely convinced that attitude is a small thing that can make a BIG difference.  

    What can you do to make your workplace more enjoyable, happier? Praise your staff make them feel important. Do your level best each day, always putting your best foot forward. Trust each other, trust the team. Build trust through good leadership and a supportive work environment. Incorporate health into the workplace, your bottom line and staff will be grateful. Engage with staff, lift them up, smile and make them feel supported. At the end of the day a happy workplace can have profound impact. This season be “That” person everyone wants to be around. Be KIND always. Happy Fall. I hope this season of change motivates you to spread joy at your workplace and beyond! 

Kindness and respect: Are they lost forever?

Michelle Graham

Our world is changing at an alarming rate. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and the amount of negativity I see all around is absolutely alarming. The littlest things make us mad we lose our cool way too easy. We are looking for instant gratification in all things, at the restaurant, when we drive and even searching the world-wide web. The amount of yelling and screaming on television is sad. The news is almost always negative and condescending. Since when did we become so cold and callous and so self-absorbed? If we have a difference of opinion we cannot even have a conversation or discussion. We just yell and scream and throw a fit until we get our own way. I think there is a way to make things better and it will not happen over-night or in a month or a year but it can happen.

    Respect, if you want it than give people the respect they deserve. Start at home respect your parents, respect your teachers, respect the waitress and respect the teller at the bank. Say please and thank you. Kindness travels for miles, go out of your way to be kind to others. I send my girls off to school with a little saying each day it is simple “Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.” Practice small acts of kindness throughout your day, hold the door, buy a coffee for a friend you can even share your lunch and your time with others. None of us are perfect but I know for certain it is always the small things that we do for others that makes the biggest difference.

    Share your talent. We all have something to give. It is these times that teach us and our children the value of life. Teach your children the importance of volunteering. Do something with no intention of a reward. Give back to your community. It will make the place that you live BETTER. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere in our small town. How can you share your gifts, your time and your talent with others? Donate to organizations that make a difference in someone’s life. The donation does not have to be money, perhaps it is food for a food bank or a church. Help a neighbor with a project, perhaps offer to babysit for free. Offering a helping hand not a hand out has great value and rewards for both parties involved. It goes back to kindness, sprinkle it like confetti and it will certainly spread like wild fire.

    Perhaps this way of thinking is too singular too simple. If you think that one person or one act of kindness cannot change others think again. Think of the single mother who just needs a smile or an encouraging hello. Can you be the person to give her that? Or the busy person who has just dropped everything they have on the ground. Can you help them pick it up? Offer to help with no expectation of being rewarded. We can all do these small things. Let someone ahead of you in line just because. Be kind and do the right thing every chance you get. The rewards are endless. Be this example to others. Instead of picking a fight find a way to be the peace keeper. Instead of engaging in negative talk speak kindly about others and to others. It can be amazing the ripple effect this can have, but it has to start with you, the one and only you.

    I think of summer as this beautiful season of growth and transformation. Think of all the ways that you can impact others and ways to find personal growth for yourself. Kindness truly can start with you and the positive influence you can have on others can be transcending. Lead in life by example, find every way that you can to sprinkle love and friendship. It is with these acts that all the negativity in life can be lifted and then we can find our life renewed.

Stop Thinking Start Doing

Michelle Graham

Are you someone who thinks about making changes in your life?  Wow, the possibility to change is endless.  What is your 2017 plan for a positive, meaningful year? Is your goal to take college classes, learn how to quilt, get healthy or just become a better, more focused, more driven person. Whatever the dream, the goal, the doing, the planning has to start from within. You have heard the quote or a derivative of it “If you can dream it you can become it.”  Well now is your big chance to be and do all that you can be in 2017. No matter the goal big or small what path will you forge to get there?

                I personally like plans!  I like writing them out, I like keeping lists and then crossing things off my list. Anyone who knows me or who has taken our YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program has heard me say 100 or more times “when you have a plan you have everything.” This holds true not just with getting healthy or making improvements in eating, but with many situations or goals in life. Big LOFTY plans are not necessary; it is the little plans, the attention to small details that make the difference.

                Start at the beginning, be specific and describe your goal accordingly.  If you don’t know where you have been, how can you know where you are going? Think about your goal, perhaps document what you like about it and what brought you to this place of change.  Reflection is the key to progress and making your goal an evolving blueprint is the key. Determine what the goal is, define it and then set some short and long-term goals to coincide with the proposed goal. Now what is your plan to achieve that goal?  Are you going to take some chances to get there and will you go out on a limb to really make it happen? Get uncomfortable and begin to push yourself in a way that perhaps takes you out of your comfort level. This is where true inner growth, awareness and innate change can happen.  Be open to the amazing possibilities that can come and most important be open to changing your behavior.

                Not everything always goes according to our master plan. You will need to be patient, be open to a bump in the road. The bump can lead you to places you never imagined.  Learn from the bump and then adapt and adjust the blueprint.  It is these times, these moments, that can really move the needle in the direction we long to go. 

                Most important, adapt and re-evaluate the route chosen. Don’t get stuck, continue to progress forward and stay focused on the prize, the end result.  Keep those goals challenging, specific, positive and flexible. Continue to challenge yourself through this journey of discovery. Try something new; take a class just for the pure sake of learning. Keep your goal short, to the point and specific. This is how you will get to where you are going. Your blueprint needs to be precise and to the point.  Instead of focusing on making a change in 10 different things focus on just one or two items. Next, we spend far too much time putting ourselves down, living in a world of “could haves” and “would haves.”  Instead radiate positivity, spend some time celebrating all the great amazing changes that you have made so far.  Write them all down and then celebrate, I mean really find joy in your progress and the changes that you have made so far. Being positive and kind to your self is vital; you never know how your attitude can impact someone else. Last, be flexible, be open and learn to be free from the things that hold you back from being where you really want to go. 

                The enjoyment isn’t always in the destination; it is most often the journey itself that brings joy and contentment. What will your 2017 journey look like? Will you decide to get out of your comfort level and check off some things on your bucket list? Don’t wait for an opportunity to seize the beautiful, quiet moments and make your mark and leave your stamp today. 

A few tips to stay in the holiday spirit this season

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Alas, the holiday season is upon us, the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? If you listen to television ads isn’t that what they claim? For some it’s a time of great stress and worry and it’s not the most wonderful time of year. But have no fear as a little connection to your mind, body and spirit may just help you survive the chaos of the season. It’s is a time to spread joy to others and bring joy and inner peace to yourself, as well.


Start the season off by being kind to yourself. Plan to have fun and a lot of it. Get together with friends and actually make time to celebrate the season and maybe even find time for a holiday drink, playing board games or just getting together for a wonderful holiday lunch and visit. A little holiday visit with good friends can truly make the holiday season that much more special.

Exercise and watch your waist line. Not only will exercise help keep the holiday pounds off, but it can actually help decrease stress. Eating well can also take you into January with no weight gain. Remember the average person gains 5 to 7 pounds through holiday season. Be mindful through the season and your body will be so grateful.

Start purchasing holiday gifts early. Better yet, make some of your gifts. You can find many great ideas on Pinterest. We all know the best gifts are homemade and come from the heart.

Take a time out. Practice peace of mind. Perhaps morning meditation or yoga can set your path for a peaceful day. Better yet, take some time to be lazy and read a good book or just find a moment of quiet.

Get organized in work and play. Don’t wait until the last minute to make a deadline or to check off all your holiday “to-do lists” done. Planning is a significant key to success; don’t wait until tomorrow to get things done today.

Bring joy to others. Visit an old friend or relative. Really visit, be present and put your phone or tablet away. Sometimes we are so connected to everyone else that we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Talk, visit and simply live in the moment.

Volunteer your time and talents. Where can you spread joy this holiday season? Wrap presents at the mall, shop for a shut-in or spend some time helping out at Watertown Urban Mission or other community organizations that need help. Volunteering is wonderful and truly makes you and others feel amazing.

Make a donation small or large to a worthy organization. Every little bit helps. Never underestimate the value of your monetary gift. Surprise the person behind you at the drive-through and pay for their order. Don’t walk by a Salvation Army Kettle without a little donation. My favorite is to give a gift card to a friend or co-worker without signing your name.

Be patient with others. Our lives are busy and rushed and we are not always as patient as we should be. Patience truly is a virtue. Stop rushing and enjoy these beautiful holiday moments. Relax and you will get through the line in a store or get to your destination. Smile along the way as it makes everyone feel better.

Practice the simple act of kindness in this crazy, ruthless world in all that you do. Everyone wants to react; take time to pause and just be kind. Just laugh when life throws you a curve ball. We truly need to laugh at life a little longer a little harder. Don’t be so serious. Relax and enjoy every single holiday moment and besides practicing kindness never hurt anyone. Don’t let the holiday season stress you out. Practice kindness in all things for yourself and others. Your mind, body and spirit will certainly thank you.

I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and the healthiest of years ahead in 2017. Seize the opportunity to start anew and make it your best year yet.

Summer 2016: Wellness

Tread lightly for summer fun

Take steps to ensure children are safe around water

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Summer lends itself to fun in the sun and all things wonderful and warm. Boating, swimming and relaxing by the beach or a pool are special highlights that make lasting summer memories. The warm season in Northern New York is short so we pack a lot into a narrow window of time. [Read more…]

Winter 2016 Feature Story: Health and Wellness

Stepping up for family

Roy Matteson, and his wife, Carol, work out together at the Watertown Family YMCA Downtown Branch. The couple was inspired to get fit because of their 14 active grandchildren. Opposite page, Carol Matteson uses an ab machine while working out at the YMCA. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Roy Matteson, and his wife, Carol, work out together at the Watertown Family YMCA Downtown Branch. The couple was inspired to get fit because of their 14 active grandchildren.  Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Living.

With 14 grandchildren, retirees trade couch for fitness

By Karee Magee, NNY Living

With 14 grandchildren underfoot ranging from 1 to 15 years old, good health took on a new meaning for Carol and Roy Matteson this past fall. [Read more…]

What’s hot, what’s not in 2014

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

American College of Sports Medicine releases Top 10 list [Read more…]

Healthy change takes a village: Together, rural communities can combat alarming obesity rate

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

I recently became part of a coalition of individuals trying to make a difference in the health of children in our communities. The first meeting was an eye-opening experience. We reviewed the rate of overweight and obese children in our area, statistics that continue to be alarming.

The coalition brainstorms areas of weakness and tries to devise plans to get into these communities and bring support and resources to improve the health of their children and families. Nationally, on average, one in three children are either overweight or obese. In some of our rural communities, the rate is actually close to one in two. I find these statistics heart-breaking, but I believe we can help on a local level.

It’s true that getting our communities healthy takes a village. When we pull all of our resources together, incredible things really can happen. No one has all the answers. That is why collaborating and using all of our resources can truly put you and your children on the path to better health. [Read more…]

Exercise key for cancer patients: Improved mood, reduced fatigue, lower risk among benefits

Michelle Graham

More individuals than ever are seeking healthy lifestyle programs. Cancer patients and survivors are a very interesting and complex population seeking to maintain good health. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with many individuals who were either fighting cancer or fighting to stay cancer free.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, frightening and downright depressing. Fear of the unknown during a cancer diagnosis looms heavily. But there can be hope during this time of crisis. Exercise can be key in the treatment of cancer on many levels. A person’s social, physical and mental well-being can each be treated and embraced through a good exercise program during and after a cancer diagnosis.

The fact that exercise and proper eating can prevent certain cancers is well documented. According to Dr. Kerry Courneya, a cancer researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, recent studies show that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of recurrence of some cancers. This is great news for those diagnosed and affirms that it is never too late to get started on a good, well-rounded program tailored to your needs. [Read more…]

A happy heart is key to a healthy life

Start with simple changes in diet and add regular exercise

Michelle Graham

If you take care of your heart, your heart will take care of you. With heart disease the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, it’s more important than ever to care for yourself and your heart. When you use the right tools, implementing good practices to improve heart health is really not so difficult. It’s all in the execution of a well-thought-out plan of attack.
[Read more…]