7 Habits to Help You Enjoy a Longer, Better Life

Take care of yourself now to have a brighter future ahead

Posted in , Mar 26, 2019

A group of friends having smoothies in a kitchen.

There are experts that say the best years come in the second half of life. Although there are no guarantees, there are simple things you can do today to help you benefit from the blessings that arrive with gray hair and reading glasses. 

1. Reduce Stress

Everyone experiences stress. Too much or long-term stress, however, can have a negative effect on your health. While no one has a stress-free life, there are steps you can take to manage your response to stress, from scheduling regular time for meditation and prayer to stepping outside to enjoy nature when you need a break. Check out some of our tips in 8 Ways to Calm Down Right Now or 10 One Minute Stress Busters.

2. Sleep Well 

During sleep our body and brain work to support brain function and maintain physical health. During REM, or the Rapid Eye Movement phase of the sleep cycle, our brain files memories and learned information so that we can better access them when we’re awake. This also forms new pathways that improve cognitive function. 

Our body also repairs and heals itself in sleep, staving off disease. If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, try these tips: 5 Tips to Sleep Better.

3. Eat Better

You don’t have to adopt some crazy diet or give up all sweets. Instead, try to eat a few more vegetables and fruits. You can also eat more whole foods. A  whole food is an ingredient in its natural state, one that comes in its own wrapper. While it’s even better to eat cuisine that is organic, locally grown or pesticide-free, start by shopping for groceries that require no packaging. In his book The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman, M.D., lists foods with the most immune-boosting and anti-cancer effects. Among them are leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard), walnuts, avocados, berries, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, beans, seeds, and apples. They not only have health benefits, they taste good too.

4. Check with Your Doctor

When you feel good, it’s tempting to avoid going to the doctor.  No matter how you feel, though, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor for an annual check-up. The doctor will most likely check your blood pressure (high blood pressure may have no symptoms) and depending on your age and family history, the doctor may recommend  certain tests or screenings, like a mammogram or a colonoscopy. Your doctor may also do blood tests to check your cholesterol or screen for hormonal imbalances. Each of these tests can help identify any potential problems. You and your doctor can then determine the next steps needed to treat anything that comes up. 

5. Keep Moving

Back in 400 B.C. Hippocrates extolled the benefits of physical activity. Now, new research from McMaster University found the same. Exercise lowers blood pressure, regulates hormone levels, controls our weight, strengthens our bones and muscles, reduces our risk for cancers, and improves mood. Some research also says it has the power to keep us young. Physical activity—including exercises to enhance flexibility, strength, and balance along with aerobic movement—slows aging on a cellular level.  You don’t have to take up running marathons. Just work more movement into your day. Try these 5 Easy Ways to Exercise More.

6. Do Something You Love

A critical habit of aging gracefully is filling your day with joy. What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Where is your unique signature or contribution to life? If you want to lengthen your life, aim for a state of “flow,” a single-mindedness that harnesses all emotions into one action and produces a kind of rapture. Defined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when all senses are so focused on an activity that a person becomes oblivious to his environment. It’s different from leisure (which is also important) in that it involves an element of challenge, requiring certain skills. Flow provides a cerebral vacation from the stressors of life. For some people, it might be running, and for others it might be jigsaw puzzles. Only you kow what will bring you so much joy that you easily lose track of time while you’re doing it.

7. Connect with Friends

Simply said, we are better together. A paper published in the American Journal of Public Health identified high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, disability, cognitive decline, and depression among the conditions affected by loneliness, which is more rampant than you think. According to Cigna’s U.S. Loneliness Index, nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feel alone. Steps to build a social network include getting involved with your church, joining a cause, volunteering for an organization, attending civic association meetings, creating or finding a Meetup group, participating on online forums, checking out a support group, or trying a weekend retreat or seminar. 


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