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No doubt, the best time to start being healthier with the goal of living longer is early in childhood. However, it's never too late to develop healthier habits for a longer life expectancy. So, let's get started!
- EAT LESS - eat just enough to maintain a healthy weight. As the old saying goes: "Eat like a king for breakfast; eat like a price for lunch; and, eat like a pauper for dinner." During the day you are usually active - at least more active than you are sleeping during the night - so common sense tells us that we will burn more calories throughout the day rather than store up the fat while sleeping.
Nutritionists suggest that you eat a mostly plant-based diet. You should focus on proteins (but not too much red meat - good substitutes include peanut butter, protein bars, protein shakes, etc.), add the good fats and complex carbohydrates. The five healthy dietary pillars are whole grains, greens, tubers (underground plant stems like potatoes, artichokes and yams - there are others less common to us), nuts and beans. According to some well-respected nutritionists, "one cup of beans a day adds three to four years of life expectancy."
- EXERCISE 45 MINUTES EACH DAY - This can be any number of exercises - walking, running, climbing stairs, swimming, riding a bicycle, lifting weights or dancing - you name your passion, but those 45 minutes each day are key to a longer life. This exercise time can be consecutive or in 2 or 3 shorter sets. The main fact that all aging experts agree on is that lifelong movement is paramount!
- GO AHEAD WITH A DRINK OR TWO A DAY - But don't overdo it... Consuming too much alcohol causes weight gain and even depression. Being a little bit of a social drinker is considered OK. It provides some level of relaxation.
- STIMULATE YOUR BRAIN - You need to use your brain cells or risk losing them as the age-old saying goes! It's like exercise for the brain. Reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or other puzzles help to stimulate the brain and therefore keep this vital organ younger and more capable of solving problems and making everyday decisions. A strong brain also provides a stronger memory track.
- BE OF GOOD CHEER - Hopefully you were born with a good spirit and sense of humor. But everyone is not so it is important to work on achieving this trait. Longevity studies tell us that being outgoing, easy-going, and optimistic versus pessimistic, keeps us engaged in everyday activities. It is true, these traits might be genetic. But it is also true that we can work to enhance our personalities and change to be more upbeat even in adulthood.
AVOID LONELINESS - Most people enjoy a good laugh and social interaction on a daily basis. As we age, our circle/size of socialization opportunities may diminish. It is important to continue to have human interaction in your life. You may have to work a little harder to achieve it! Family, neighbors, church, clubs, athletic endeavors are very good ways to continue to have that social stimulation. If you are unable to get out, then have a good circle of friends who communicate daily by telephone. Being alone is good for us from time to time for short periods of time but consistently being by ourselves can cause one to suffer depression and develop other illnesses caused by too much alone time.
CULTIVATE CLOSE FRIENDSHIPS - We all need close friends to share our life activities with on an on-going basis. Close friends become almost like family and that is a good feeling. With close friends we can share our hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, and even failures with for encouragement and a sense of sharing. Also, these friendships provide a consistent means of human interaction and socialization. Close friendships give more meaning to our life. It is a human trait that we all strive for acceptance and reinforcement with a mutual love for mankind.
GET SOCIAL TIME - This may sound like a broken record. But it is true. As human beings we thrive on human interaction. "When it is safe, in person social interaction is much better." Social isolation is just as much a threat to our longevity as smoking, obesity or other bad habits we pick up along life's way! Research shows that the more time spent in social activities (sports, book clubs, volunteering or personal hobbies - just to name a few), the lower your mortality rate becomes. When it is not safe to meet face-to-face as has been our recent and still existing experience, digital social connection is better than nothing.
HAVE A PURPOSE - Unlike a career, life purpose does not end at a certain age. Retirement is often a toxic word that sends the signal that your productive life is over and now you begin a life of boredom. This does not have to be true. You need to forge a sense of purpose and engage yourself with the world and people, places and things in it. This engagement or purpose in your life creates a psychosomatic effect. Your body rises to the occasion and that purpose gives your life more meaning to continue on.
- KEEP THE FAITH - GOD works in mysterious ways for your well-being. I know you have heard this statement time and time again. But it is also true according to researchers who aren't entirely sure why people practicing a religion live longer, but they credit its related social life to be stress-reducing. Researchers also credit prayer and an attitude of gratitude to increasing our life expectancy.
These are a few tips to follow for a healthier, longer life. Why don't you start practicing these today and decide for yourself their importance.
Credit for much of the research and contents of this article should be given to the Harvard Business Review.
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