Tips for a longer, healthier, happier life
You have heard the phrase: “Your health is your wealth”, yet it is seldom applied to young people. That is because, as we know, it is particularly (but not exclusively) in our latter years that health issues are most likely to plague us.
So it’s understandable that literature aimed at the older generation focuses on wellness: physical, mental, emotional and psychological.
AARP website features an article: Your Guide to a Healthier, Happier, Longer Life, listing 99 ways to achieve this.
For you, our readers, I have distilled these inspiring tips to the top 20 – those we regard as most helpful towards creating a happy and healthy life.
The Top 20
- Throw that party
Make it your own kind of party, one you would like. Book it now and find deep joy in the planning: guest list, invitation, menu, venue, music. Cherish hanging out with your tribe. Isolation has a negative effect on your health.
- Say some hard goodbyes
A study found that people in positive close relationships may have a lower risk of heart disease than those who are entangled in negative ones.
- Do something
Anything. A study of 334,000 Europeans found the biggest beneficiaries of exercise were those who went from inactive to moderately inactive (16 -30% drop in death risk). See, even a little activity benefits you.
- Get enough sleep
A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found the effect of sleep deprivation on the body mimicked the aging process on a cellular level, causing cognitive decline and impaired memory. A Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study found an association between regular slumber patterns in older adults and longevity. Prioritise your sleep routine – respect the z’s.
- But not too much sleep
Another study found those who slept more than 10 hours a night had a 30% higher risk of early death.
- Hang around kids
When older adults share experience and knowledge with the young, they gain emotional satisfaction and feelings of fulfilment, according to a Stanford Center for Longevity report.
- Kick around a bucket-list
One study showed that a bucket list isn’t just for kicks—it can make end-of-life planning easier, as all parties, including family and physicians, will be aware of your life’s priorities.
- Dust off that library card
A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23-month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with non-readers. Reading was protective, regardless of gender, education or health.
- Put your best skills to the test — often
People who achieve a state of “flow” with their talents — total immersion, time disappears, no critical voice interferes — have greater long-term happiness than those who don’t. Flow is also predictive of high performance: winning athletes experience more flow than losing ones.
- Define what drives you
Research has shown that purposeful people live longer than their counterparts.
- Raise your hand
Folks over 50 who volunteered at least 200 hours in the past year experienced mental health benefits and were less likely to develop hypertension, a Carnegie Mellon University study reveals.
- …But only if you really want to
Half-hearted volunteer work isn’t healthy. A Boston College study found that people age 50 and older who had “low or medium” engagement in their work reported even lower well-being than folks who had zero engagement.
- Find your bridge
A new part-time or “bridge” job in retirement — either in or out of your field — has been associated with fewer major diseases and physical limitations, and better mental health.
- Think young
A study of nearly 6,500 subjects age 52 or older found those who felt younger than their years had a mortality rate of 14.3 percent; those who felt older had a rate of 24.6 percent.
- Don’t ignore that little pain
A 2015 study found that more than half of those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest had ignored warning signs. Studies show that when cancer patients ignored symptoms, it was often because they were busy, or didn’t want to make a fuss or waste a doctor’s time.
- Ask yourself: Do I react well to stress?
If not, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach. Research shows big links among chronic stress, chronic inflammation and stress-related diseases.
- Use your smartphone’s full potential
Your phone has the power to keep you connected and to be a data centre for your health. Patient-generated health data — info from your phone or wearable devices — can now be used to customise medical care. Ask your doctor what kind of data or apps might be useful.
- Thank your spouse or partner
Marriage or long-term partnerships have been linked to better health and longer life for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is, you lasted all these years without killing each other.
- Be a caregiver for yourself, too
Older adults providing care to loved ones and experiencing regular bouts of ‘caregiver strain’ had a 63% higher mortality risk than non-caregivers, according to a study in the journal JAMA. If you’re primarily responsible for the needs of a parent or spouse, be sure to give yourself care, too.
- Have your own back
Strengthen your core and fortify your back as you age with plank-style exercises. A study of 4,400 people 70 and older found that staying free of chronic back pain can increase life expectancy by 13%.
You may notice that I have selected these items around the Wheel of Balance for a life that is not only happy and healthy, but also holistic and balanced.