There is no doubt that medicine makes this goal even more achievable. But if you look closely at the statistics you will notice that whilst people are living longer, they are not living a quality life. In fact if you visit nursing homes you will see that some are living a miserable existence of their dire circumstances.
My father’s recent stroke has been a wake up call for everyone in my extended family. On one particular evening around the dinner table the discussion centred around longevity and what the secrets are. I started recounting everything I had learned over the years about health and nutrition (it has been a personal study of mine since I was 17 years of age). Someone then asked me if I could email a list. So what started, as an email became a mini project. I began to compile a list of lifestyle tips that have the most impact on our wellbeing. I believe these 20 tips will sharpen your mind, keep your body strong, resistant to disease and help you live a long happy life.
Here they are:
1. Have long-term goals. Having something to wake up to every morning is the strongest of motivations for living with vitality. There are a cocktail of healthy chemicals that give life to our creativity, our energy and our zest for living. Having a purpose in life releases these chemicals daily. It is the difference between waking up with an energetic burst or waking up with lethargy and a headache.
2. Socialise more with friends.Research shows that people who have a wide circle of friends and who socialise often are much healthier than people who are isolated and lonely.
3. Stay in a good relationship. Research has shown that people who are in a loving long-term relationship are much happier and healthier than their single counterparts.
4. Travel regularly.Humans are nomadic by nature. When we stay in one location we stagnate. When we roam our five senses are stimulated. We feel most alive when we experience adventure. Travelling does not have to be overseas. In fact it’s healthier to travel locally. Get out and explore your own part of the world. I make a habit of going for weekend trips with my family and friends. We may drive to the mountains, visit apple orchards in autumn or go to the beach in summer. The main thing is to get out of the house.
5. Wake at sunrise and sleep within 3 hours of sunset. Research shows that every hour of sleep before midnight is the equivalent of two hours after midnight. Research also shows that waking at sunrise reduces our blood pressure, which is the single most dangerous factor leading to heart disease and stroke.
6. Follow a diet that’s true to your heritage.Before air travel we did not travel long distances within hours. This meant that our bodies evolved over many years by eating essentially the same food. That’s why I think it is overly simplistic to claim that some diets followed by certain cultures are best for everyone. If you are Japanese then eat Japanese food, if you are Italian, eat Italian food. It is in your DNA.
7. Read often. Reading not only sharpens your mind, but if you read the right material it can enlighten your view of the world and this keeps you inspired. I would also add, doing crossword puzzles and other brainteasers. Check out Lumosity
8. Mix it up – by using your opposite hand and foot. I try and use my left hand whenever I can, especially before I have to do some creative thinking. Using the opposite hand/foot sharpens the mind and keeps both sides of your brain working. If you have a stroke in older age you have greater chance of recovery.
9. Have an afternoon nap. The siesta was made famous in Spain, which had one of the lowest rates of depression in the world. It is a modern tragedy that the cities in Spain that have abolished the siesta now experience the highest rates of Prozac prescriptions. Having a nap may be difficult because most of us work Monday to Friday but even a 20-minute lie down in the park after lunch is sufficient.
10. Watch comedies and hang out with friends who are funny.We are often told to adopt the “don’t worry be happy” mantra. The easiest way to do that is to have more reasons to laugh in life. Laughter releases so many feel-good hormones that replenish our cells.
11. Move your body – naturally. Exercising in a mechanical way on expensive equipment in gyms is not what primes your body for natural strength. Walking, running, swimming, and moving your body in natural movements does. Squatting while doing gardening is natural. Bending to clean your home is natural. Push-ups, chin-ups, squats and sit-ups are also natural movements. In fact I think the best form of exercise you can do is to join a martial arts club. You can be 8 or 80 years of age and still get the benefits. The best form I have come across is Wing Chun.
12. Drink filtered or spring water.One of the best investments you can make is the installation of a reverse-osmosis water filter. It gets rid of the most harmful chemicals in our water supply. In particular, fluoride in water is the cause of many ailments, which lead to premature aging.
13. Never eat when you’re stressed or upset.Go for a long walk or cardio the stress right out of your system. If you are going through a period of emotional stress it is better to eat very small meals. Or better still, drink vegetable juices instead.
14. Keep your bowels clean. Nobody likes to talk about this subject but the fact is that stagnant food in the colon is the cause of much toxicity. And this is easily preventable. There are two easy lifestyle tips to follow: First, consuming lots of fruit and vegetables. Second, schedule “no. 2” toilet breaks as part of your morning and nightly ritual. A lot of people are so busy being busy that they neglect this routine. They don’t realise how much harm they are doing to their body.
15. Brush your gums and tongue.The link between gum disease, heart disease and stroke. Poor periodontal health causes certain oral bacteria to make the arteries sticky and inflamed. Excluding this risk factor is easy. All you have to do is floss and brush your teeth regularly – but at least at night.
16. Do your pelvic floor exercises. Also known as Kegel exercises. This assists in preventing prostate cancer in men and avoids incontinence in older age, which is listed as the single most demoralising thing for old people in nursing homes.
17. Listen carefully to your body.Whilst you may not experience obvious signs of intolerance to food and situations, it may be affecting you in a subtle way that undermines your energy. Often we are too distracted with life to really notice what is going on in our body. Paying attention to what drains us and what lifts us is the single most important thing that we should bring our self-awareness to. It can be the food we eat, the company we keep and our surroundings – like noise or air pollution. Just because the body gets used to something, it doesn’t mean that it’s not affected by it in a negative way.
18. Meditate – most people do not meditate because they think it is a complex eastern philosophy. The truth is sitting quietly in a warm and comfortable spot can be meditation. Listening to the sounds of nature can be meditation (sitting at a beach or natural reserve). So to is having a warm bath or having a nap.
Most people give up on the idea of doing nothing. Too many things go round in their head that they cant sit still. I know this because I used to be one of them. For those people I say, go for a long walk. This is meditation, especially if you know how to control your thinking during this time. The magic happens around the 45-minute mark. Your mind will switch off and your thinking will slow down. I follow the Circle of Positive Thinking (COPT) during my walks and that totally transforms my attitude. (Please email me if you would like the details of COPT)
19. Give yourself to charity.Why do celebrities go to Africa and put their time and energy into helping others? Because when you have all the money in the world you will realise that giving to others is the single most important way we can connect with other people. Do not underestimate the power of good wishes bestowed upon you by the people you are helping.
In my next blog I will share with you one particular secret to long life that is backed by scientific evidence and many years of research. This was recently shared to me by a GP friend of mine. I was surprised by the information and will share it with you after I have a chance to read the material.