Once upon a time, a great forest caught on fire. While all the other animals panicked, a little hummingbird named Dukdukdiya flew quickly upstream. She picked up a single drop of water in her beak and carried it to the flames again and again. Thinking her efforts laughable against the blaze, Bear asked what she was doing. Dukdukdiya replied, “I am doing the best I can.”
– Adapted from Flight of the Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
This parable from the Quechua peoples in South America illuminates a simple point: Do the best we can in our complex—and often bewildering—world. As wellness leaders, we are called upon to be accountable for our own wellbeing and inspire our families, communities and workplaces. We must never underestimate our power. As global water champion Gemma Bulos says, “It takes a single drop of water to start a wave.”
Let these ideas about water inspire you to lead wellness for your family, team and organization and the planet—in November and beyond.
EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES IS ABOUT WATER
How does this precious resource influence our lives and work? Here are three of the many ways:
1. Water is essential to our health and wellness. It is perhaps the most important thing we consume. Our body weight is approximately 60 percent water as adults (up to 75 percent as infants), and while we can go three to four weeks without food, we can only survive three to four days without water. Water is the primary building block of our cells. And it helps regulate our body temperature and carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. It protects our spinal cord, joints and tissues; aids in digestion; and removes body waste.
Since ancient times, we’ve employed hydrotherapies, using water, ice and steam, to improve immunity, manage pain, and treat diseases of all kinds. We enjoy float tanks, bathe in tranquil water, listen to water sounds, and engage in virtual experiences of water to help our nervous system shift into a parasympathetic response, that state of calm we long for in our overstimulated lives.
2. Water is integral to our spirituality. In many faith traditions, we are baptized in water as a form of religious rebirth. We ritualistically wash our bodies or feet to cleanse and prepare ourselves for spiritual practice, such as a visit to a shrine. We gather together at sacred waters for healing, such as the Lourdes grotto in France or the Ganges River in India, and we fast, drink and pray with water, as in the waterfalls of Kyoto, Japan. We toss coins into wishing wells in hopes that water deities support our good fortune. Across cultures, water has been an unflagging symbol of purity, calmness, fertility, the flow of life, forgiveness, renewal, transformation and the interconnectedness of all things—it is indispensable to our evolution and spiritual wellbeing.
3. Water shapes our relationships. Consider it the bloodstream of the biosphere, both connecting and dividing us. Everyone everywhere is bonded to our planet’s natural water cycle, the movement of water above and below the Earth’s surface that keeps our planet alive. (Take one look at this beautiful map of the Earth’s watersheds alone to experience the awe of this precious resource.) From our human beginnings, we’ve harnessed this water cycle to power our homes, hydrate our bodies, irrigate our crops, and process our wastes.
In today’s age (often called the Anthropocene), our man-made activities are shifting the Earth’s natural processes, often with deleterious effects when it comes to water—and to people’s health around the globe. Safe and adequate access to drinking water, a key charge of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, is not available to 2.1 billion people (out of the 7.5 billion on our planet), hitting women and children the hardest. Water scarcity and insecurity most affect our world’s poor, contributing (at the very least) to a lack of water for hygiene as well as water-related disease, plus widening the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” globally. Some suggest that by 2040, every country will experience water stress. Water teaches us: We are all in this together.
START WITH A SINGLE DROP
Every aspect of our being fully alive, engaged and connected relies on water. And, as the little hummingbird named Dukdukdiya reminds us, every action we take ripples out to affect others. So, how can you use water to lead wellbeing at home, at work, and in your community?
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink a cup of water at the start of your day to prevent mental fog. Even six to eight hours without fluid (basically, the amount of time you sleep) can cause mild dehydration that negatively affects your brain function, energy levels, physical performance and moods. Encourage people in your family and coworkers to join you in this wake-up routine.
- Make it easy to drink water at work. Whether your team is scattered around the world or sitting in an office together, share ideas for consuming more water throughout the workday. Try using a water-drinking app; eating more water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers and tomatoes; and taking regular water breaks.
- Experiment with hydrotherapies. To reduce pain and stress, plus experience better energy and sleep, integrate a trip to your nearest hot springs into your workweek or take a mineral bath at home. Try water-based therapies at a spa. Get advice from your medical or wellness practitioner about the hydrotherapy best for you.
- Implement a water strategy to boost employee health. Check out these International Well Building standards to ensure your organization is consistently providing employees with the recommended water quality for hand washing, drinking and sanitary food service as well as fostering healthy work environments.
- Make water a business imperative. Sign the United Nation’s CEO Water Mandate to drive sustainability and security through water stewardship. Consider your role in the circular economy for water. Learn more about the cities you work in using the Sustainable Cities Water Index. Invest in water innovation (for instance, talk with Bill Gates about toilets!) as part of your business portfolio. Utilize this excellent collection of water calculators and other resources to understand your organization’s water-related risks, optimize water management, and develop a plan to steward water in a way that makes sense for your company.
- Galvanize family, friends and colleagues. Invite them to take part in World Water Day wherever they live, work and play to advance clean, accessible water for more people globally.
Share Your Commitment
Post a photo of how you or your organization is “starting with a single drop” during the week of the full moon (November 10–16) with #wellnessmoonshot. We’ll spread your inspiration to others!
Hot Springs Initiative
Supporting UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals Initiative
Build Well to Live Well, 2018 Research Report
Mental Wellness Whitepaper
Wellness at Work Initiative
Hydrotherapy and Sauna at WellnessEvidence.com
Hot Springs & Geothermal Mineral Waters: A Guide for the Wellness Traveler
If you haven’t already downloaded or ordered your Wellness Moonshot Calendar: A Year of Inspiration, click here to inspire wellness in your workplace.