When I was in my 20s, 30s, and maybe even 40s the idea of adjusting my lifestyle so that I could enjoy good health in my 50s, 60s, and beyond didn’t cross my mind. Other than ‘don’t smoke’ and ‘don’t do drugs’, further suggestions were foreign to me. Eat more vegetables? Nope, I was the guy whose post marathon recovery meal was two chili dogs and a beer. I’m pretty sure I was using my weekly training regimen as a way to mentally minimize the possible adverse effects of a poor diet, stressful job, and lack of sleep from rising in those predawn hours two or three mornings a week to catch an early flight.
Now in my later and (I hope) wiser years I have a clearer understanding of the positive impact of better nutrition, sleep management, moderate exercise, and stress-free living. Following are a few tips for your path to a longer and healthier life.
Maintain a positive attitude – Negative thoughts impact your body and how you feel. When you are over stressed a barrage of destructive indicators occur. Your neck and back muscles tighten, you feel that pit in your stomach, you can’t think clearly, and you experience feelings of anxiousness. Additionally, you are more likely to smoke, overeat, binge drink, and less likely to exercise. All having a negative physical impact on the body.
If you feel those unsettling impressions start to run through your brain, stop. Smile, even if forced, and change the framing to a positive notion. It is hard to carry a destructive thought around in your head while you are smiling. You just can’t do it. Also, the brain is incapable of holding both a harmful and optimistic contemplation at the same time. Give it a go and see if you can. In the end, replace the bad with the good and continue moving forward.
Interact with friends – I read an article the other day talking about loneliness as the new smoking. As humans we have a fundamental need for inclusion into a tribe, experiencing close relationships and interaction with others. And like negative thoughts, isolation can impact your health in profoundly negative ways.
Feeling a little blue about going home to an empty house tonight? Call a friend and invite them over for an impromptu dinner and get some Chinese takeout. Oh, and be sure to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home. A glass or two always seems to lighten my mood. There are lots of ideas and opportunities for engaging others if you keep your mind open to the possibilities. Join a running or walking group, start a dinner club, or take a day trip with friends.
Eat good food – One of the best ways to enjoy a long and healthy life is to eat right. When someone first said that to me my initial thought was, “What the heck does that mean?” I have come to discover through books, articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos that a plant-based diet is the path. Eat like those long-lived inhabitants of the Blue Zones. Their daily menus tend towards what has been referred to as the Mediterranean Diet. One filled with fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Meat is reserved for special occasions or celebrations and is not part of a weekly meal plan. And when meat is part of the dining experience it is fish and poultry vs. beef or pork. Moving towards a whole food plant-based nutrition plan will pay off with improved cholesterol readings, lower blood pressure, and greater heart health.
Exercise – Since we have heard it over and over, I think we can all agree that exercise is good for you. It’s good for both your brain and your body. Moderately intense weekly workouts lead to higher levels of energy, lower blood pressure and cholesterol readings, improved weight management, better sleep, enhanced brain health, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. I know that I feel better and have improved cognitive function on those mornings I run, bike, or walk.
These are just a few of the ways to improve your chances for living a long and healthy life in retirement. Take time today and consider the best way for you to adjust your lifestyle choices as you incorporate these ideas into your daily living experience.
“Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well.”
–Dr. James H. West
Enjoy your journey!
Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO
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