“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
― George Bernard Shaw
Life, and how to live it, is the subject of a lot of discussion, thought, and opinion. Books on the subject are as numerous as doctors, life coaches, and wellness advisors who make their living giving advice on how best to face the rigors of age and aging. Obviously people give a lot of thought to the question of how best to live, and how to ensure that we’re making the best of our time. And why should it be any different? After all, a life well lived is something for which all of us are striving.
Generally speaking, there is broad consensus that preventing illness is far better than working to cure it. The good news is that we don’t have to go too far out of our way to proactively manage our health and ensure we’re doing everything we can to live a healthy and productive life. Let’s look at a few things you can do to prevent illness, feel better, and be more productive.
Let’s face it: our technological world makes it easier than ever to be a couch potato. The old school remote control has been replaced by portable devices with streaming on-demand content; more and more of our work and our lives is found online. It’s easy to be sedentary in our modern age, but in truth, sitting still is not only a bad idea, it’s literally deadly.
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) reported recently that a sedentary lifestyle—that is, a life of sitting and not moving—is actually dangerous to your health. Among NCHPAD’s findings:
1) Inactive people have a higher risk of breast and colon cancer
2) Watching TV can increase diabetes risk
3) Sedentary people have the highest risk of heart attack
The good news is that, according to the same study, physical activity can go a long way to correcting the effects of the sedentary life. Men who are physically active, for example, decrease their risk of stroke by two thirds. Not only that, regular physical activity decreases the risk of cognitive decline—exercise is literally a smart idea! So, if you’re looking for an easy way to lower your risk of health problems and increase your health, get into the habit of regular physical activity.
Medicate or Meditate?
Western medicine has increasingly recognized the important link between the mind and the body. Studies on the effects of meditation on maladies like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain reveal that quite often a regular program of mindfulness meditation can have a significant effect in reducing or eliminating symptoms.
Other studies point to the need for, well, more studies, but present equally convincing evidence that spending some time in quiet meditation on a daily basis can have a good effect.
Of course none of this is to suggest that you stop taking your prescriptions and immediately start humming a mantra instead. Taking a balanced and thoughtful approach to managing the mind-body connection is very important! If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, talk to you healthcare professional about the benefits of a meditation program to augment your medication regimen.
You Are What You Eat
If you’re ever curious about the number of stars in the sky, you can form a pretty good estimate by counting the number of opinions on the best diet for human health. Should you go paleo? Vegan? How about one of the panoply of medical weight loss programs? The choices are varied, and entirely up to you, but the American Heart Association has some great advice on diet that provides a good general framework in which you can make more detailed decisions. Among the AHA’s recommendations:
1) Use as many calories as you take in
2) Eat a variety of nutritious foods from among the food groups
3) Cut the junk food
4) Eat lean meats and decrease your fat intake
Michael Pollan, a writer and thought leader on food, sums it up thusly: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Remember that quote from George Bernard Shaw we started with? Well, it’s more than a quip, it’s actually true: Laughter is the best medicine. Benefits of a joyful belly laugh include lowered blood pressure, decreased stress hormones, increased immune response, and more. Next time you tell a joke, be sure you remind those who find you funny that you just added years to their lives.
Life is in the Balance
No matter how you slice it, living a good life is about balance—diet , work, stress, mood. Everything we do has an impact on our health, so it’s important to be aware of how we’re living and what we’re doing to ensure that we have the proper balance if we want to live a long and healthy life.
How do you balance life and all of its demands? Tell us in the comments! Stay healthy, stay happy, and please stay in touch!