There are many of us that fell in love with the 1964 film 'Mary Poppins', a Disney experiment that combined animation and live-action to deliver a magical and musical masterpiece. And even though we may be all grown up now and possibly have children (or grandchildren) of our own, we all felt that undeniable glimmer of excitement when we heard that the story will continue with the 2018 sequel film, 'Mary Poppins Returns' (1).
When looking back at the wise words shared by this wonderful woman, we can see that they still resonate with us as adults. Some of you may even be surprised at how relevant her timeless teachings are today! One of Mary Poppins' most famous lines (and catchiest songs we might add) is by far "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way!"
Not A Literal Spoonful Of Sugar
Now, for those who may be taking this advice literally, please hear us out; despite the theatrics, Mary Poppins is not encouraging the actual consumption of sugar. This is especially true every time you take prescribed medication or your daily vitamin and mineral supplements (2).
In fact, you may already be exceeding your daily recommended amount of sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following maximum amount of added sugar per individual (3):
- 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women per day. This would equate to 5% of a 2,000-calorie diet.
- 38 grams (9 teaspoons) for men per day.
- Between 12 and 25 grams (3-6 teaspoons) for children, depending on their age and caloric needs, per day.
These recommendations align with the World Health Organization's proposed daily intake of sugar per person.
Don't take Mary Poppins' advice literally with those spoonfuls of sugar; you may already be exceeding your daily recommended maximum amount of added sugar. This equates to 6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men, and between 3 and 6 teaspoons for children.
Natural vs. Added Sugars
Things get a little complicated when you consider that there are two types of sugar out there; natural and added sugars.
Natural sugars occur in foods such as fruits and vegetables (known as fructose) as well as in milk and cheese (known as lactose). On the other hand, added sugar or refined sugar is the result of processing sugar cane or sugar beets, resulting in what is known as sucrose.
Added or refined sugar is often hidden in foods, such as:
- Soft drinks, sodas, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages
- Diet and low-fat foods
- Flavored food like yogurt and milk
- Ready-made soups and sauces
- Ready to eat and convenience foods
- Breakfast cereals
- Candy bars
There are many proactive ways to reduce your daily sugar intake which include reading the labels of your food items before you buy it; avoiding sugary beverages; and trying to make snacks, sauces, soups, and smoothies at home (4).
Not all sugars are created equally and most are hidden in plain sight. Added sugar, also known as refined sugar, is found in many foods and processed products on the market such as sodas, sauces, and cereals. If you want to ensure you are not exceeding your recommended spoonfuls of sugar per day, try to enjoy homemade alternatives or scrutinize the sucrose synonyms on food labels.
Sugar And Your Health
Sugar is a carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose, which it then uses for energy to function. However, the body metabolizes natural sugars differently to that of refined sugars.
Refined sugar is rapidly digested which, in turn, causes the body's levels of insulin and blood sugar to dramatically elevate. Because these sugars are broken down so quickly, the body doesn't feel 'full' after eating despite the number of calories consumed. In comparison to natural sugars, such as fructose, which is full of fiber that expands in the gut; you are left feeling full and are less likely to over consume calories.
If there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, it will likely be stored as glycogen or fat. In saying so, too much sugar has been linked to weight gain (5). There is a range of other health issues that are or may be associated with too much refined sugar, including:
- Heart disease
- Skin and cellular aging
- Fatty liver
Although there is still a lot of scientific research being done to support (or oppose) the link between sugar and these health issues, there is one thing that we know to be true: Sugar is addictive. Along with the many online and academic resources that support this claim (6), we can also draw on personal experiences such as helping ourselves to that second slice of cake or treating yourself to an extra spoonful of sugar in our morning coffee.
As refined sugars often lack fiber, they can encourage an over-indulgence of calories that may lead to too much sugar in the bloodstream. Excess glucose may be stored as fat and lead to weight gain. Other health issues associated with sugar intake range from diabetes and heart disease to cancer and depression.
What Mary Poppins Meant
So now that we have established that the magnificent Mary Poppins wasn't being literal when she sang that famous song, what exactly did she mean by 'a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down'?
In the figurative interpretation of the words, a positive attitude can make even the most mundane and morose activities bearable and, perhaps, even enjoyable. It's the sugar to the medicine.
A positive attitude is key to joyful happiness and progress. It is a state of mind that allows you to embrace hope and enthusiasm in life; appreciating the light that is present in the darkness and acknowledging the yin from the yang.
The spoonful of sugar that Mary Poppins sang about is a positive attitude. By adopting a positive attitude to the unwanted or unexpected experiences, like taking medicine, you will still be able to find some delight in the experience.
How Your Attitude Affects You
Your attitude can have a profound impact on how you interact with the world around you. You've likely come across articles suggesting how to be a better you or self-help books wanting to motivate you to improve. Each of these publications will definitely state that your attitude plays a pivotal role in your success - both physically and mentally.
Your attitude can be a tool for positive change in your life. Adopting a positive attitude each morning can drive you toward reaching your goals. On the other hand, a negative attitude can hinder your ability to get tasks done. In fact, recent research suggests that a positive attitude has a direct correlation to success (7).
Therefore, it would be wise to adopt healthy habits to boost your positive attitude. We will outline a few below:
- Set positive affirmations: begin each day by repeating an affirmation a few times. This will set you in the right frame of mind for the day moving forward. Repeat your affirmations when things become stressful or overwhelming to help calm yourself down.
- Practice meditation: meditation offers a number of physical and mental health benefits. It is an extremely effective stress-reliever. Performing a 5-minute meditation each day will guide you towards a more positive outlook on life.
- Express gratitude: negativity can be a selfish act. By practicing selfless acts each day you can begin to feel more positive. A spoonful of sugar in terms of attempting to be sweeter each day can leave you feeling happy that you have touched the lives of someone else.
Studies suggest that positivity has a direct correlation to success. Therefore, having a positive attitude can mean the difference between achieving your goals and not. By implementing a few positive practices each day, you can begin to live more fruitfully.
The Plus Side To Being Positive
As we have already mentioned, a positive attitude can lead to a successful life. But, how exactly? What are the benefits of expressing positivity? Let's take a look at some below:
- Living positively could increase your lifespan. This is because negativity can manifest into health issues. These health issues could lead to complications which impact your life.
- To maintain a positive attitude means minimizing the impact of stress. Therefore, positivity can lower distress, especially during tough times.
- Positivity has been linked to lower rates of depression. This is because negativity is a primary contributor to anxiety and stress which lead to depression.
- Improvement in attitude and positivity can manifest into better physical health. This is due to the fact that a positive mind is more energetic, thus, it is more encouraging to exercise and be active.
- Sustaining a positive attitude can minimize your risk of cardiovascular disease. Negativity which results in anxiety can cause the heart rate to elevate. This can lead to heart issues and subsequent distress.
These are only a few of the beneficial impacts that a positive attitude can have on your mental and physical health. Taking time to be more positive can mean the difference between feelings of distress and feelings of contentment.
There are numerous benefits that come with having a more positive attitude. These include better heart health, less anxiety, longer lifespan, and more energy to name a few. Thus, it would be extremely beneficial to implement positive habits into your life.
Wise Words From Mary Poppins
The words from this famous song aren't the only wise ones that resonate with the power of a positive attitude. For example:
"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun." This saying is a perfect take on a 'glass half full' attitude, encouraging children and adults alike to seek out the element of fun in every task and turn it into a game. We are only as old as we make ourselves feel and by adopting this child-like enjoyment into the painstaking tasks of household chores or taxes could make the world of difference.
"Enough is as good as a feast." Another great way to adopt a positive mindset and appreciate everything you have is to know when you have had enough. Whether you apply that to your portion sizes to avoid overeating or to the material possessions you have by adopting a minimalist lifestyle, knowing how much is enough is a life skill we all need to develop if we want to be happy.
More wise words from Mary Poppins that ring true to the power of positive thinking include seeking out the element of fun in ordinary tasks, whereby embracing joy in unexpected places, and knowing when you have enough as excess material possessions don't always lead to abundance.
Some More Advice From Mary Poppins
These are many other timeless teachings provided by Mary Poppins, a few of which include:
"First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything."
You don't have to feel the pressure of needing to explain yourself or your actions to anybody. As long as you do not harm anyone, anything, or yourself in the process.
"Open different doors, you may find a you there that you never knew was yours.
Anything can happen"; "There's a whole world at your feet"; and "Go chase your dreams, you won't regret it. Anything can happen if you let it"
There is an infinite number of possibilities that can influence your life. Embrace the potential of change and explore what the world can offer you (and what you can offer the world).
"I'll stay till the wind changes"
Part of growing up is knowing when to stay and when to go. If a person, place, or situation doesn't require you to be there (or is doing more harm than helping you), let go and move on. There are many other people and places that need you and will appreciate what you have to offer as well as help you and your happiness evolve.