Here is what is on the menu of those people who enjoy long and healthy lives and what you can do, TODAY to potentially join the “100 Club” of centenarians TOMORROW. Why not choose one and create a new tiny habit?
FUEL: Eat mindfully
In Okinawa, also known as “land of the immortals”, the folk follow a principle called “Hara hatchu bu” which means to eat until you are 8 out of 10 full. Sadly, many of us eat until we are ‘stuffed’ and experience discomfort, fatigue and even heartburn. Studies of centenarians suggest that social connections and finding meaning in life are both crucial to longevity.
How? Bring in the pleasure principle and eat more mindfully and with gratitude. Slow down. Breathe between mouthfuls. Savour each mouthful. Don’t eat while doing something else such as watching television. Take pleasure in preparing more home-cooked meals from whole ingredients instead of buying processed foods and meals. Approach time in the kitchen as an opportunity to de-stress and be creative.
ACTIVATE: Stay brain fit
An example of a tiny habit to reduce brain fog: Train your brain to deal with chaos. Neuroscience research shows that the regular practice of mindfulness can promote resilience and productivity at work (and in life). There’s no need to head off to a silent retreat for a week. Simply start with 5 minutes as you wake up and have your morning tea to sit in stillness and start harnessing the benefits of mindfulness.
BEHAVE: Create an attitude of gratitude
This is a game changer. To hard-wire this as a habit takes a little time and effort, but once your gratitude neurons fire together, they then wire together… forever. If you consciously express gratitude (verbally or non verbally) a few times per day, your body will produce less of the ageing stress hormone, cortisol!
To kick-start this habit … link your gratitude thoughts to existing habits; for example, as your turn your shower tap, think of one or two moments of your day that you’re grateful for. Or as you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, do the same. At least you’ll be doing it twice a day …everyday!
What one thing will you do differently from today to increase your FAB Quotient™ to stand a chance to shift from being stressed and tired, living in a state of brain fog to being energised and brain fit, driving a sense of feeling youthful and playful, a magnificent feeling of juvenescence?
In her fifties, my gran developed Alzheimer’s. I remember visiting her as a child. One of my first experiences of her illness was when she began to lose her ability to filter what she said to those around her. On one occasion, I took a friend along with me to see her. It turns out my gran didn’t like my friend. So what did she do? She told my friend to leave! This is not something she would normally have done – not the gran that I knew.
Health changes people – for better or worse
And we had no idea at the time how my gran’s health, or lack of it, was changing her. We even thought that she had been drinking secretly, so unpredictable was her behaviour. But of course, this wasn’t the case at all and it was just a few months later that she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. I had always understood that this disease is genetic and somewhere at the back of my mind, I’ve worried that I might fall prey to it too. Watching her deteriorating was devastating.
But a recent Carte Blanche episode shed some light on the subject. It’s estimated that 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are reported annually – and while nothing can cure this disease, some simple lifestyle choices can help prevent it.
The three pillars of health
What we eat, how we move and how we sleep – research and the experts tell us that, done well, they can help push back this disease. That’s because the cell loss process begins 20 years before the disease presents. Plus, the role of genetics is less than researchers first thought. It’s actually environmental factors that determine if it develops. That’s encouraging for me – because it means there is less left to fate and more that I can manage.
Take action as early as you can
Physical fitness is all-important. Did you know that all it takes is brisk walking to reverse brain-size decreasing, something that happens in old age? And eating well is essential; when it comes to keeping Alzheimer’s at bay, a Mediterranean diet is encouraged. Did you know that olive-growing regions rich in fish, vegetables (especially leafy, green ones), fruit and seeds benefit us cognitively and reduce our risks? Sleep, that third – and one of my favourite things – pillar (or is it pillow?) is important for brain function. The slow wave sleep phase is when your brain development increases.
Will these three pillars eliminate your risk of Alzheimer’s? No. But apparently, they can more than halve it! That’s a statistic I’m happy to work with.
So, to the three pillars then! And to a cruise on the Med – purely for health purposes, of course!
To sustain your motivation to change, use the three simple tips in this article.
In today’s ever-changing, busy and complex world, the need for new ways to stay resilient, to stay energised and to stay healthy are of vital importance … especially if you want to #MakeThisTheYear!
Prioritising self-care is essential for older adult wanting to maximise longevity and juvenescence (the ability to stay younger for longer!).
“Efforts to improve health are forestalled … through our failure to convert what we reliably know into what we routinely do.” Dr David Katz, founding director, Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and current President of the American College Lifestyle Medicine.
Your life won’t get better by chance – it will get better by change. Life applauds action, not intention. Unfortunately, many of us set ourselves up for repeated failure by making too many changes to our lifestyle at once.
Behavioural science tells us that the tinier a new habit is, the easier it is to practise it and this leads to positive reinforcement which then drives further behaviour change.
To make this the year of wellness for yourself, create new lifestyle habits that will be easy to sustain and set yourself up for success both in happiness and in health!
Professor BJ Fogg from Stanford University has some very interesting research and processes to support this concept under the banner of Tiny Habits™. A new behaviour, such as drinking more water, is more likely to be successful if you:
firstly, are motivated to make the change;
secondly, keep it as easy and simple as possible; and
thirdly, attach the new behaviour to a current one, for example, have a glass of water with every cup of coffee or tea.
Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Although each hour of lost slumber goes into the health debit column, we don’t get any monthly reminders that we’ve fallen in arrears. In fact, the greater the sleep debt, the less capable we are of recognizing it: Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it’s like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.
Scource: The Family Health Guide – Harvard Health Publications
Joni and Celynn give us some great advice on how to using power napping a technique to get out of sleep debt!
If integrating mindfulness techniques seems foreign … here are a few simple daily practices. The emphasis here is on daily practices to hardwire this new good habits. Looking after your deep inner world will certainly determine the quality of your outer world! Before you choose which techniques resonate with you take into account that our brains respond better to short bursts of mindfulness.
We often chat about the gold standard being 20 mins a day. However, that’s not an easy way to begin. Rather start with developing a few tiny new habits to get you going. The trick here is to polish the diamond of your third inner world DAILY!
Here are a two simple, yet powerful suggestions:
Resist opening your eyes and kissing your cell phone good morning
A mindfulness practice first thing in the morning sets the tone for your day. Start with a ‘micro-activity’ like getting out of bed and lying on your bedroom floor to do a breathing exercise for literally one tiny, short minute. Build up to three minutes, five and perhaps 20 minutes won’t seem that out of reach.
How? Breathe-in to the count of 4, hold to the count of 7 and breathe-out to the count of 8. Do this 4 times.
Pick other ‘regular moments’ in your day as triggers for another micro activity of mindfulness
These moments become cues for your brain to shift into a mindful mode … even if for just one or two minutes. Think of this as using your windscreen wipers while driving. Your thoughts, queries and concerns can accumulate and clutter your brain, giving you the sense of having brain fog. Often we aren’t really aware that we are not as brain fit and clear minded as we could be. Like dust, particles and raindrops on a windscreen clutter the glass but we only really realise how much after we’ve cleaned the windscreen again.
Think of a few regular moments during your day that you can clean and clear your windscreen, to reset for the next hour or two. Here are my moments, beside the one that kick-starts my day on my bedroom floor:
After I reverse out my driveway, I hesitate and breathe deeply (using the breathing technique) before I drive to my clients.
I “reset”; stand still and feel my toes while I am waiting in the reception area in corporate offices.
Something else to note about waiting rooms: we are often asked to ‘go and take a seat’. I prefer to rather stand. We sit for hours in our car and in meetings. Rather stand in the reception area, relax your shoulders and jaw and use your mindfulness breathing to be present, in the moment and alert before your meeting.
EVERY single bathroom break. Take those two minutes to close your eyes and give yourself a mini windscreen wipe: a break from all the visual stimulus of the day that can clutter your brain!
You’re getting older. I know you don’t like hearing it, but the fact is that we’re all trapped in the clutches of Mother Time and she isn’t letting go. What we have to remember though is that growing older doesn’t make you ancient; it makes you human.
Nobody enters their 50th year to find their clothes no longer fit or that stairs have become impassable overnight. You do need to take steps to maintain your health in the long run, however, and there are a few inescapable factors we have to deal with.
Our metabolism slows down over time. Maintaining the same exercise-to-diet ratio that you did ten years ago will make your clothes a little tighter around the waist than you’d expect. In light of this, might it be time for a change?
Where Are My Hormones?
Our hormones are responsible for many of our youth-like qualities. One unfortunate price we pay for our growth in wisdom and responsibility is that their production falters. There’s nothing we can do to increase it, but by using our behaviour to boost our health and wellbeing, we can counterbalance its effects.
Hopefully, you took mother’s advice and drank plenty of milk as a youngster and were rewarded with healthy, strong bones. Sadly, these also deteriorate with age as they lose calcium and other minerals making them both more soft and weak.
While we don’t mean to make ageing sound quite so daunting, it is important we consider our own mortality now and again. Fortunately for us all, each of these age-based nuisances can be countered with the right mindset.
Take control of your body by exercising and reclaiming your youth. Fauja Singh epitomised this by being the oldest man ever to run a marathon, at 101 years old. Before you panic, we aren’t asking you to run 26 miles, swim across the sea or climb Everest; do whatever exercise you can, within your daily schedule, to provide your brain with fresh, oxygenated blood.
Get to know the local park by walking there a few days a week. If you’re desk bound (which sadly the majority of us are) then why not take a few calls on your feet or take a stroll to a nearby shop instead of the canteen for lunch?
Gym work and intense cardio are great for the body, but what we’re really advocating is that need to energise your body every single day in smaller ways. They say sitting is the new smoking, and we’re all getting steadily addicted. Break the mould and start activating today: reignite your metabolism, build stronger muscles and boost your brain power.
Don’t worry about the extra candles on your birthday cake – if you’re active and in control, you can probably even afford an extra slice this year!
Our Inner world is a reflective reaction to the outer world
Our habitual thoughts, way of being and ‘lens’ on the world that determines how we react or respond to situations and hence our experiences in and of the world. For example if you are the worrying type, you may over-plan, are probably afraid of changes, and unlikely to disrupt your daily routine with a spontaneous activity. We need to stop, take time to think of our inner world: our thoughts, our attitude, our complex emotions that drive our various ways of interacting with others.
Are you aware that there is a second layer to your “inner world”, your “third world”?
This is our true inner, deeper self and our inner life. This third world truly speaks to us as when we are in silence; when we are meditating or when we are being present and mindful such as when in deep prayer. In the mad rush of life, this is the part of the inner world that is often neglected. The part that absolutely needs to be remembered in order to address the barrage of demands and onslaught from the outer world.
How do we access this “third world”?
The simple answer is to develop the ability to be “in the moment”, to be present and to be mindful. This seems like another thing on our To Do List: which, in an overwhelmingly busy life … is anathema to most of us. Many of us feel like we are already tail-spinning through life.
In my next blog, I will suggest ways in which you can take care of you inner world.
When it comes to finding a home at the right address, estate agents emphasise the importance of, “Location, location, location.”
No-one disputes the advantages of living in the right city, the right suburb, even the right street – this will result in a better return when you sell the house. But if you think your physical address is important, consider the importance of your mental address.
A good physical address is worthwhile, but it’s not going to help you achieve anything in life. There’s another address you need to make sure is a good address – this one will either help you achieve more with your life, or will be a stumbling block to any dreams and ambitions you may have. This address will in all probability determine your physical address of a few years’ time.
Where you live mentally will determine your physical address in the future.
Where are you staying in your mind? Is your mental address in a run-down neighbourhood, littered with junk and in a state of general decay? Or is it in a really great place – well maintained, pleasant, attractive, and a really good place to be?
No-one else but you determines your mental address. You might blame your boss, your partner, your family circumstances, your background and a host of other people and things for your physical address, but you can blame nobody for where you’re staying mentally. That’s an address only you choose.
Your mental address is determined by your attitude to life and to the circumstances you face. Life comprises a blend of pain and pleasure. Those who expect only pleasure out of life set themselves up for frustration, disappointment and possibly depression. No-one, no matter who they are, can avoid having to deal with pain of some sort in their lives.
So don’t be angry when you encounter pain, physical or emotional. Realise that it’s an opportunity to grow yourself into somebody bigger than who you currently are.
While this may sound like cold comfort, I can assure you, based on hindsight, that I can now see the benefits of times when I experienced pain. I am now consciously thankful for what I went through because of what I learnt as a result.
Whether it is personal pain in the form of relationships, health, finance, personal emotions or professional pain in the workplace, don’t try to ignore or avoid it. Face it head on, do what is necessary to overcome the circumstances. Allowing things to get out of hand and by living in denial gives the pain opportunity to increase its power over you.
When you turn and face the pain, you start a process that helps you clean up your mental neighbourhood. Tidying up your mind is the first step to tidying up your life.
So start looking to change your address so you can live at a much better mental address. And, in the process of moving house, do a spring clean also. Clean out the junk at your current mental address and start preparing right now for a better future for yourself, your career and your company.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.
Humans are hard-wired for pleasure. Most of our passions and ambitions are centred on the unremitting sensation of joy, exhilaration or satisfaction in what we do. This is most blatantly seen in sports, where skydivers feel the adrenaline coursing through their free-falling veins or when the raucous celebrations of fans when their team wins the big game shake the rafters.
It’s also true for diet. Food has never been all about fuelling the body; what we eat is mostly driven by taste and satisfaction.
A primary culprit is sugar. It’s our Achilles heel. Newborn infants have a hardcoded sweet tooth – sugar is a strong energy provider to the brain – but it’s something we carry right through our entire lives. Being healthy shouldn’t mean taking the axe to everything you enjoy that doesn’t fit in a salad bowl; it’s about moderation and control.
I recently spent the morning outside an artisan bakery in Paris, where the majority of people were filling the role of stereotype by leaving with some baguettes in tow. What struck me was that almost all of those people broke off the end of the bread and ate it leisurely on the walk home.
That set me to thinking.
When we decide to watch our diet or maybe to lose a little weight, we go for the axe; we suspend the chocolates, the pastries and the crisps in a little basket over a cliff and we chop the rope holding it in place. Scientifically, that will work: cut the large quantities of unhealthy fats and sugars and you will have improved your diet. Realistically, cravings will rack our bodies until we all clamber down the precipice and start scavenging for the contents of the basket.
Fats and sugars are good, essential parts of our daily routine. Rather than the axe, why don’t we follow these Parisian bread lovers and just tear off the corner piece? By allowing ourselves to nibble or snack in moderation, the little monster in our heads that screams for guilty pleasures will be sated and we’ll have a weight off our minds.
As I said, our favourite foods are a pleasure to us, not merely a temptation. When we deny ourselves something we love, we set ourselves up for failure and erect a tall rod for our own backs. Why would we do that? If it’s Monday morning and you really want that warm pain au chocolat, then enjoy it. Just think about the rest of your day; maybe have an apple at lunch instead of your cereal bar, or walk to work over the subway.
We are completely capable of having our bread and eating it, it’s just a matter of not eating all the bread on your way out the bakery.
Let’s face it, Mediterranean Europeans are the apple of many of our eyes; from the glowing, clear skin to the chestnut eyes and bright white teeth, these hardworking and joyful people are often admired from afar in their seemingly utopian lifestyle. Something which has definitely struck me from my time in the South of France is the influence of diet on people’s vitality and happiness.
We’re all guilty of slipping off the “good food” wagon now and again. Picking double pepperoni over the vegetable medley is fine, and no one is pretending that the romans don’t get sore heads from having one too many flagons of wine, but there is actually an huge amount to be gained from living a more Mediterranean diet.
The key is simplicity.
What are the obvious ingredients to a “healthy” diet? Vegetables – check; freshness – check; natural – check. That’s the bones of eating in the Mediterranean style. It’s not about loaves of bread as big as the dog; it’s about balance and using carbs like pasta or bread as an accompaniment, not the main body of a meal.
To give you an idea, an average meal might be like this.
Breakfast: a bowl of fresh fruit topped with Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds,
Lunch: a selection of crudités with dips such as hummus, guacamole and tzatziki served with cucumber and chickpea salad,
Dinner: grilled fish and roast veggies, a large green salad and maybe a glass of red wine,
Snacks: a small handful of nuts, fruit, yoghurt, cheese or olives.
Suddenly it’s not so complicated, right? There’s a stigma which says this diet is too expensive or complicated to be achievable, but if millions of people do it naturally, it’s probably not all that difficult.
The best part is that so much of this diet is right out the ground or off the tree; if you are fortunate enough to have a large garden or a small plot of land, then put it to good use and grow your favourite vegetables. If not, the supermarket will supply everything listed above and the cost is comparable to convenience foods.
A real highlight of this diet, aside from the mouth-watering taste and obvious health benefits, is that it’s a sociable way of eating. If you tell the Italians to be quiet during dinner so you can hear the TV, you’d better be ready for the response. Around the Med, a meal means sharing; it means conversation, friendly banter and getting the family around the same table. It’s an experience, not just a means of providing us heterotrophic organisms with energy. And yes, I found the term “heterotrophic organisms” using Google…
Another boon of the Mediterranean lifestyle is the use of fresh herbs. Salt and pepper are the wooden spoons of seasoning: useful, but limited. Fresh garden herbs are the Swiss army knife: varied, exciting and always the solution to creating a flavoursome meal.
When it comes down to it, a Mediterranean diet is quite easy, but you will want to ease yourself in. Try going vegetarian one night a week, or experimenting with different types of fish. Try hummus with lunch at work over a chocolate bar. With time, it’ll feel natural and your body, as well as your mind, will thank you for it.