Nearly everyone wants to live longer. It’s wired in. But most people only start worrying about it as they start to notice how they’re getting niggly health problems. Maybe in their 50s, maybe younger or older. It’s the little things, like your weight creeping up and the doctor says you’ve got high cholesterol. Or maybe a dodgy knee means you can’t go running any more. Or you notice you keep forgetting things.
That’s when we start worrying about our futures. It’s when we start imagining that we’re losing it and turning into our children’s worst nightmare. And yes, it may come to that.
What can you do to give yourself the best chances to live longer? Here are 9 dos and 9 don’ts to help you enjoy a longer life and just as importantly, a longer healthspan.
1 Do – Follow a Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and fish. It comes out top of the diet pops for healthy living to a great old age every time. Plus, there has just been yet another study done which shows how you can live a longer life and enjoy a longer health span. It’s quite amazing what a difference it can make to YOUR life. Even if you’re already older it can make a difference of years.
Don’t – Eat Mainly Processed Foods
Processing takes out a lot of the fibre and adds chemicals. It’s the fibre in natural foods that does you so much good and the chemicals that aren’t necessarily good for you. In the end, it’s the choice you make that can determine your lifespan and health span.
2 Do – Keep a Healthy Weight
A combination of eating nutritious, filling food with plenty of fibre and regular exercise helps keep you a healthy weight.
Don’t – Overeat
We all like a good blow out from time to time. But it’s the road to obesity if you do it every day. The Blue Zone people aim to eat until they feel 80% full. Try using a smaller plate or eating from a bowl. Eating more slowly can really help to cut down the amount you eat and it helps your digestion too. Then you too can enjoy better health and a longer life.
3 Do – Stay active
All you have to do is to get up and move. Moving, especially in ways that makes your heart pump a bit harder, helps you to stay healthy and miss out on getting nasty diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and depression. It may even help you stay mentally sharp into old age. It makes you feel great to move.
Don’t – Sit Still
The couch potatoes and the workaholic office workers who sit still all day are putting themselves at risk of shortening their lives. Get up and move around. Stretch. Go for a walk down to the kitchen, do a few exercises. Do it every hour – you can set a reminder. When you get back to work, you’ll concentrate better as well as having helped your whole system function better.
4 Do – Sleep Well
Studies show that adults need regular sleep of 7-9 hours a night. Do all the things that help you sleep well and deeply. Switch off the internet and put away your electronic gadgets. Make sure your bedroom is not too hot and with as little light as possible. Eat your last meal of the day several hours before bedtime. Take time to calm yourself down to get in the mood for sleep.
If you’d like more information on getting a good night’s sleep, click below to try these tips:
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Don’t – Sleep Too Much or Too Little
Both sleeping too little (fewer than six hours) or too much (over nine hours) raise the odds of shortening your life. Take time to work out why you’re not sleeping well. You could have problems that put your health at risk, such as snoring, sleep apnea, stress or other sleep problems. If simple steps don’t help, it’s really important to get help from a doctor.
5 Do – Look After Your Mental Health
Nurture yourself. Take time to relax and enjoy yourself. Life isn’t all roses but taking time to smell them helps. Prioritise the things that make you happy – your family and friends, your hobbies and passions, your pets.
Don’t – Let Stress and Anxiety Turn into Depression
Doing nothing about your fears allows them to build up. Devote some time to taking action to prevent the stress and anxiety before it sinks you into mental illness. Try yoga or meditation. Go out into nature and breathe in its calm. Even a few minutes a day of deep breathing can make a difference to both your physical and mental health. Get help if you start to feel overwhelmed.
6 Do – Keep Up Your Social Circle to Help You Live Longer
People die from isolation. Loads of research shows how strong social ties are linked with a longer life. We need our friends and family. Good relationships strengthen your immune system. Reach out to your friends and show you care. Be mindful of people isolated at home and see if you can brighten their day. Go out with the intention of having fun.
Want to know more on how important it is to have friends? Click below:
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Don’t – Let Loneliness Beat You into Submission
Sometimes we end up in situations we are not able to control. Covid brought so much loneliness with its social isolation requirements. Staying connected can be really hard if you are feeling down or grieving the loss of a dear one. It’s especially hard if you’re not very mobile. Work on reaching out to friends and family. Reach out for help.
7 Do – Forgive
When we feel wronged, it’s hard to let it go. But holding onto anger is stressful. Forgiveness frees you from that anger. It reduces the negative feelings and lowers your blood pressure. It’s literally a weight off your shoulders. And it frees you up to enjoy yourself in your longer life.
Don’t – Hold a Grudge
Holding a grudge is a form of anger. Anger increases your cortisol levels and that in itself is another stress for your body to cope with. Studies show that high levels of cortisol mean your risk of dying sooner increases as well as the risks of diabetes, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases.
Let go, forgive, forget and feel better about the world. Reap the reward of living longer.
8 Do – Cultivate a Positive Mindset
It’s cheerful, busy people who live the longest. Cultivate your own happiness by thinking positively. Seek out your positive friends. Do more of what makes you happy.
Don’t – Hang on to Your Negative Thoughts
Nobody loves a moaning minny. And even your own brain makes it bad for your body if you hang on to negativity the whole time. How about looking at your thoughts each day and turning each negative one into a positive one.
Here’s my very own example of turning negative thoughts into positive ones. My computer died a technological death. I was thinking the world had come to an end. As I raged and wailed, my negative thoughts were that I’d lost all my work and couldn’t do anything until I got back all my data.
Since I had been writing this article on the old machine, I told myself to think positively. Like this: I can squeeze my budget for that computer which is on offer. It will cure the difficult problems I had been moaning about because the old computer had been running out of memory. I knew it would take time to sort everything out but I could do things I hadn’t got round to until I got the data back in a week or so.
It worked. I felt much more relaxed and didn’t worry about the things I didn’t get done.
9. Do – Take Action to Live Longer
If you carry on in your old bad ways, you risk a shorter healthspan and life. So read the list of things which help you live longer and do some of them. Make a 30 day challenge for one of them. I’ve recently been doing a 30 day walking challenge to increase my energy after illness. What would you like to try? Read the list of don’ts and stop doing one or more of those things. Read the list of dos and choose one of those to try. Taking action will slowly and surely improve your chances of a longer life.
Don’t – Think That Only Big Changes Count
We want it all to happen now, so we resolve to make big changes in our lifestyle. But it’s hard to stick to big life changes. Even small steps help, especially if you stack them up. So you get used to a slightly better diet and move onto to an even better one. You start exercising 5 minutes a day and build up to 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to do it all at once. Small regular steps in the right direction are the way to go.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Live Longer
It’s in our genes to want to survive, to live longer and be happy. There are lots of ways to improve the odds of living longer, including loads more than my suggestions. But you have to start somewhere. The way forward is to feel that compulsion and to try something. Then try something else. Doing new things in itself is a great way to enjoy a longer life.
The best way to improve your chances of living a longer life is to call on that deep instinct for survival and do the things that make you more likely to survive. Science has taught us so much about it that we already have a better chance of living longer than our parents. All it takes is a positive attitude and incremental action.
So make your choice and do something about it today. Share what you’re doing with your friends and family so that they can support you and maybe it will also make a difference to their lives. Let me know what is the easiest thing for you to try first. Have fun in your longer life.
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