‘It’s as if, quite literally, we’ve earned a second lease on life – an extra half-century!’ – Martha Stewart, Living the Good Long Life p.22
I love this book. I read it at least once a year. It’s packed full of facts and guides to improve our quality of life, plus inspirational stories and sidelines.
One of the greatest parts comes in the very first pages: the 10 Golden Rules for successful aging.
As the page facing this list states, ‘genes account for only about 25 percent of your health and longevity, the rest is influenced by where and how you live’. Certainly a poignant push to take better care of ourselves.
And there’s definitely no point in waiting, although this book can appear aimed solely at the over-50s. Here’s how I’m doing so far in respect to the 10 “Golden Rules”…
(1) Eat well
I love to cook. I love to bake. I often prepare meals from scratch, incorporating a variety of veg.
I would say though that I could eat much more fruit, reduce my portion sizes and avoid takeaways (when I have one, I tend to end up having several in a row for a week!).
(2) Maintain a healthy weight
I’m fortunate in that my weight hasn’t really changed over the past 12 or 13 years. That said, over 2015 I somehow managed to put on one stone in weight. I wonder if this could be a result of switching from teaching (on my feet four five or six solid hours a day) to office-based admin work.
I managed to shed that stone again before Christmas – now, it’s about keeping it off!
(3) Stay physically active
The one stone in weight I lost is mainly thanks to the amount of walking I do each week now, alongside a period of smaller portions with less bread and pasta. Walking to work or across to my parents’ house is great for coupling effective exercise with another thing we need or want to do.
I do fall short in varying my activity. I rarely get above a fast walk, so could do with some cardiovascular exercise at some point in my week. I would also like to tone up again a bit – everything’s become a bit “loose” in the last few months.
(4) Get quality sleep
Sometimes I wonder if I sleep too much! I believe keenly in early to bed, early to rise, and am without doubt more productive in the morning. 2 or 3pm sees my energy levels slumping a bit.
I ought to avoid going on my phone in bed so much. I miss the days before mobiles when you’d got to read a book rather than reach for Candy Crush or Minecraft Pocket Edition.
(5) Wear sunscreen
Uh-oh! Big failing here. Before my teens, I used to be pale. Like a vampire. Then self-awareness kicked in and the top flew off. I’ve been a devout sun-worshipper for years. Without sunscreen.
That’s changed in the last few years, and now I try to make sure I have some lotion somewhere for quick application (you have to be quick in the UK, or you’ve missed the sun!).
I actually just started using daytime moisturiser with SPF 30 from The Body Shop this last month – well ahead of sunny days!
(6) Collaborate with a GP regularly
Hmmm I’ve got to admit I don’t do this… I think it’s more of an older person practice. My mum goes for regular bloods and pressure tests, but I think it’d be a waste of precious GP time for a healthy younger individual to go.
That said, it can’t hurt for us to keep medical records of our own (when we’ve had to visit the GP or hospital, what medications we’ve taken and for what, when we’ve been particularly unwell).
(7) Find your passion
Only since graduating back in 2009 have I truly got to grips with my loves in life: cooking and baking, gardening, walking and crafting. I’ve always loved reading and writing too, but having to do these things a lot in uni sucks away a lot of enthusiasm for a while.
Crafting is one pastime I could indulge in a lot more often, but not having my own space for supplies hinders this. As for gardening – again, having my own garden would help!
(8) Connect with others
When I developed anxiety and panic attacks severely in the early 2010s, this aspect of my life fizzled out. I lost contact with many university friends who lived further away, as the thought of hopping on a train to visit terrified me. (It still does, now I’m not used to it).
But connecting with others, taking part in social activities more frequently and getting to know new people is something I’m working on. Being with Alex has helped with this a lot. Not least as he has a large family and his own friends.
I would say I see my own friends less than I once did, but sadly, if I’m honest, there’s been a divide growing between me and them, and I’m not sure how to bridge it. At least not yet!
(9) Stop complaining
This is tough. I’m inherently a worrier, and my family are natural complainers.
I’ve been working hard over the last few years to get back to my uni mentality, where I acted where possible and ignored what I couldn’t alter. It’s an on-and-off effort though. Some days I think it’s better to give in and offload to someone else. It’s never healthy to hold it all inside.
(10) Stay curious
I love this point. I’ve always been an eager learner. Not all things interest me, but when something piques my curiosity, I look into it more deeply.
I’ve done a range of courses since leaving school (IT, interior design, Spanish, floristry) and can’t imagine life without learning.
If I were to develop this point even more, I’d aim to visit a greater range of places and try out even more different crafts.
I know that many people will avoid Living the Good Long Life, thinking it irrelevant to their life. But if there’s one thing we all take away from this book, it’d have to be these 10 Golden Rules. Let’s apply them to our own lives, see what we already do and what we could work on harder.
This book’s principles apply now, and the earlier in life we begin looking after ourselves, the bigger the positive impacts we’ll have on our health and longevity.
I would love to hear how you measure up to these 10 rules, or if any of your 2016 plans fit in with them? Leave your comments below!