In an earlier post entitled ‘Health, Wealth and Happiness’, we briefly looked at a number of simple steps to achieve positive outcomes in all three states of being.
The path to Health is similar to the path to Wealth in that there are many overly complex things people say you need to do, but there are just a few simple things that matter.
What is the “spend less than you earn, invest in global low cost index funds, and benefit from the magic of compound interest” of the health world?
In a world saturated with complex health advice, much like the financial realm, simplicity is the key. Today, we delve into eight simple principles shared by Dr Parker Hewes in his book "Lifelong Youth: The Simple Path to a Long & Youthful Life".
Lifelong Youth: The Simple Path to a Long & Youthful Life
There is so much health advice that it can be difficult to know where to begin, or where to focus valuable energy and time. As with our finances, we want to get the most ‘bang for our buck’ when it comes to our decisions about health, and Dr Parker Hewes book outlines a refreshing perspective on health which boils down to eight health behaviours:
1. Find Your Sense of Purpose
What gets you out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step and a smile on your face?
Much like financial goals provide direction to your personal financial plan, having life goals will give your life direction and purpose.
People with a strong sense of purpose are happier, and finding your purpose can positively impact your overall well-being. By having a sense of purpose, some estimates say you could lengthen your life by an average of seven years.
It's not just about living longer; it's about living better. Your attitude to life changes when you feel like you have a reason for living.
2. Eat Food a Caveman Would Recognise
Think of your body as a financial investment portfolio. Invest in real, minimally processed foods that are close to their natural state.
Avoid the 'inflammatory stocks' like artificial sweeteners and high-sugar foods, while focusing on whole, fresh options; fresh foods with a short shelf life for optimal health returns.
3. Drink Water
Consider water your health dividend. Eliminate sugary drinks and avoid drinking calories through sodas, sugary liquor, and other sweeteners. Recognise that thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
Additionally, incorporate beneficial beverages like tea, red wine, or coffee in moderation. The emphasis here is on understanding the importance of water for overall health.
4. Sleep Like You Mean It
Quality sleep is the compound interest of health. Establishing a regular sleep routine, creating a bedtime ritual, and maintaining a cool, dark sleep environment contribute to better sleep quality. Avoid caffeine, screen time, and late-night eating for optimal sleep; alcohol may sedate but doesn't promote restful sleep.
By getting better sleep, you can improve nearly every system in your body. Conversely, if you struggle with an illness or other ailment, poor sleep is likely a contributor. Without proper sleep, you will die sooner, get sick more often, and be worthless throughout the day.
Restful sleep is the single best thing you can do for full body health. Your body heals, repairs, and prepares for the next day while you are sleeping. So, every time you skimp on sleep, you restrict your body from doing its main job, healing!
Prioritize sleep for improved health, well-being, and productivity.
5. Move Naturally and Play
Exercise does not have to be a chore; it is an investment in your health portfolio. Embrace a lifestyle of constant movement and incorporate play and creativity into your fitness routine, making it enjoyable and sustainable.
You don’t have to live at the gym to be healthy. Being a ‘mover’ is more important than being an ‘exerciser’. If you have an active lifestyle that keeps you moving for most of the day, you will look and feel better than the desk worker who spends an hour at the gym after work.
The longest-living people on Earth rarely go to the gym, but they stay fit and healthy because their lifestyle is a constant expression of movement and exercise.
6. Find Your Tribe
Socialising is your health insurance; engaging in healthy activities with friends, joining clubs, and establishing deeper connections with those around you.
Socialising with like-minded people is proven to improve health and happiness, and the world’s longest-living cultures spend much of their after-work time in a social setting.
However, when you hang out with your tribe, try to do healthy activities; Instead of drinking and sitting around a table, you might choose to do movement-based activities like hiking or playing outdoor games.
7. Embrace Discomfort
Voluntarily exposing yourself to a small amount of stress or volatility increases your adaptability and resiliency as a human. Adaptability and resiliency characterise what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier.
By voluntarily exposing yourself to small doses of a stressor and doing so in a controlled way, you train your body to overcome any stressor, even the kind that catches you off-guard and occurs at the worst possible time.
For example, exposure to hot and cold temperatures is a way to embrace discomfort (cold water immersion aka cold plunge, ice baths, and sauna) and incrementally embracing the extremes of hot and cold can have widespread effects on your physical and mental health.
Do things outside, in all types of weather. The easiest way to embrace discomfort is to step out of your climate-controlled box and experience the real world. Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.
With an ‘embrace discomfort’ mindset, you become the master of your stress, not the victim of it. Viewing stress from a different perspective and realising you have control over outcomes, your emotions, and even your physiology (your body’s internal responses), is a philosophy that will change your life forever.
Embrace short term discomfort for long term benefit, even something as simple as taking the stairs rather than the lift.
8. Practice Spirituality
Think of Spirituality as a means to achieve positive behaviour, like when investing you must embrace positive behaviour biases; ‘stay the course’, ‘time in the market, not timing the market’, ‘do not succumb to fear and greed’.
Spirituality, not necessarily religious, is promoted for its positive impact on health and happiness. It involves sharing beliefs, fostering social ties, and engaging in mindfulness or meditation. The brain benefits from focusing on positive emotions, and every time you focus your attention on something, your brain rewires itself by establishing new neural connections.
With meditation and mindfulness, you often draw your attention toward positive emotions and in doing so literally reshape the structure of your brain. Meditation also helps deactivate the genes associated with inflammation which is implicated in almost every chronic disease that affects our aging population. After a stress-triggering event, meditation, mindfulness, or quiet repose is one of the best ways to calm yourself down again and de-stress so that it is less likely to overflow and cause damage.
Focusing on your breathing is shown to be impactful and beneficial for your mind and body. A standard breathing exercise for relaxation is to breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for ten seconds through a relaxed jaw.
Final Word from Dr Hewes
“Health is not about finding a quick fix in hopes of solving years of problems or inefficiencies…it’s about consistent habits that make healthy behaviours instinctual and natural, and compared to the amount of advice floating around the health universe, the behaviours that truly matter for your life are relatively few.
Lifelong Youth means living your life to the fullest. It means you not only live longer, but those years are filled with activity, adventure, and fun. You don’t just sit on your couch when you reach some arbitrary age, you maintain your youthful exuberance long into the golden years. To put it in the words of the World Health Organization, you have achieved complete mental, physical, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
To put it simply, health and well-being mean having more positive life experiences than negative ones. Whether it’s through mental stimulation, social connections, or feeling physically strong and capable, the more positive experiences you can create for yourself, the greater your likelihood of achieving lifelong youth”.