November 2010


                                www.TheBestofOurLives.com

How long will you live? Yikes, what a question!

Now then, how long do you expect to live? Having just had another birthday, I posed that question to myself and it made me a bit uncomfortable. I then began to look at actuarial tables and the fact is, the figures didn’t really surprise me.

In the United States, most of the statistics indicate that males will live on average to between 75-80 years of age. Females will live on average to between 78-82. Of course, barring some unforeseen health problem, there are a number of factors that can subtract or add years to your life.

The first longevity factor many folks point to (and in some cases count on) is genetics. Yes, genetics is a factor, but not as much as one might think. There have been studies done with identical twins and they demonstrated genetics plays about a 25-30% role in one’s longevity. The other factors all involve lifestyle.

The fact that lifestyle choices play the most important role in longevity should come as no surprise to anyone. Here are the most important lifestyle choices we can make:

* Do not start, or if you do, quit smoking (this is at the top of every list)

* Maintain a positive attitude and properly manage your stress (reduce hypertension)

* Get proper nutrition with lots of vegetables and fruits (especially those high in antioxidants)

* Eat meals low in fat content (manage your cholesterol)

* Get proper sleep (7-8 hours is still best for most people)

* Get 30 minutes (minimum) of aerobic exercise each day

* Follow recommended schedule of health screenings for your age group

I’m sure most of you have heard that one or two drinks each day is also beneficial. Just this week another study came out with the same suggestion. Great news for some of you. My instincts tell me that taking another walk instead of drinking has got to be better for you, but maybe we can start a study looking at people who drink while they walk.

Well, there you have it. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but certainly worth thinking about from time to time. I’m not really into preaching to others, but rather presenting information and letting people make their own decisions. The fact is I’m a big guy and some might say, “well, do you follow these suggestions?” No, not all the time, but most of the time I do. The average American adult gains  10-20 lbs. per decade. When I retired, I was too heavy but knew that fast and fad diets would not be the answer. Over the last few years, I have slowly lost 40 lbs. and actively try to continue this pattern of slow but permanent weight loss and control. 

How long will you live? No one really knows, but in most cases, your lifestyle choices will play the most important role in the answer.

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As we prepare for the Thanksgiving Holiday, it’s a natural time of reflection. Therefore, I pose the question:  “Are you really happy?”

I can hear a predictable response loud and clear: “What do you mean by happy?” Fair enough, let’s give this a try. Here are ten questions I’ve come up with that, if answered honestly, should give you a fairly complete assessment of your happiness:  

1. Do you have enough love in your life?  Do you have a relationship or relationships  in your life that provide you with a sense of caring and support? Do you have friends and neighbors that you can count on? Do you have social groups that provide you with a sense of belonging?

2. Do you maintain your mental and physical health and fitness? Do you care enough about yourself to eat properly and excise routinely? Do you schedule regular screening exams and follow your doctor’s advice?

3. Do you control the stress in your life? Do you understand where your stress comes from and take appropriate measures to control and reduce it? Have you created a stress-free living environment?

4. Have you secured your financial situation by living within your means? Do you have an overall financial plan? Do you have a budget and live within it?

5. Do you regularly help others? Do you give of yourself through time, money, or effort to better the lives of fellow human beings? 

6. Do you live up to the goals, values, and standards you have set for yourself? Do you live a life of honesty, spirituality, and pursue those things in life which are truly worthwhile?

7. Do you express yourself creatively? Do you strive to learn new things, expand and express yourself?  

8. Do you like yourself? Are you satisfied with the person you have become? What changes would you make?

9. Do you have enough humor in your life? Is it possible you take yourself and others too seriously? Do you seek out humor in your everyday activities and entertainment?

10. Are you having fun with your life? Has life simply become a chore or do you take the time for those activities you truly enjoy? 

That’s my list of questions. Perhaps you have your own questions and/or methods for determining personal happiness. Is there any real value in periodically making such an assessment? And what is so important about happiness anyway? Is that what life is really all about? 

One of my favorite class exercises as a university professor was to have my students take note of facial expressions of people they encountered in everyday settings. Based on their observations, I asked them to offer opinions as to each person’s happiness. It was an interesting way to begin a discussion on the concept of happiness, which in turn led to a discussion of values, goals, humanity, stress, etc. It was always an interesting and  valuable discussion. I hope this exercise was beneficial for you.

By the way, don’t miss my wife Trisha’s new blog: 

                                                                       

                      Thanksgiving Side Dishes « Trisha’s Dishes

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Announcement

On our website, www.TheBestofOurLives.com, there is a page called Trisha’s Dishes. This is a page where my wife Trisha offered her favorite recipies. The problem has been that Trisha had to go through our publisher every time she wanted to include a new recipe. Well, good news. Trisha now has her own site where she will be providing her favorite recipies and a forum for others to share their favorites on a weekly basis.

Do yourself and your taste buds a favor and visit her new site.

Simply go to our homepage www.TheBestofOurLives.com and click on Trisha’s Dishes or click on the link below.

               

My Family’s Favorite Dessert « Trisha’s Dishes

Seniors and a Stree-free Environment 

After coming off a long travel adventure, it has taken a while to get unpacked, organized, and acclimated to our own home. As we were going through this process, I came across an online article that provided suggestions for creating a healthy and happy home. It reminded me of something my wife Trisha and I have been working on since we retired. In our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, we referred to it as creating a stress-free environment. Reducing stress is key to maintaining both mental and physical health, especially as we get older.

Have you ever visited someone who has been retired for many years and noticed their living environment had not changed in years? That in itself may not be a bad thing, but the fact is as we get older we need to pay attention to our environment and make sure we create one that is stree-free, promotes good health, and meets our need for safety.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a stress-free and healthy environment:

1. Reduce clutter – This is my personal favorite because I’m claustrophobic and clutter makes me very stressed. Clutter also increases your chances of tripping and falling (see my last blog). Now University of Chicago researchers have found that living with clutter actually makes you more tired and that fatigue creates a hormone called cortisol within your body that can cause you to eat from 200 to 1,000 more calories per day. I was just going to use the “big bones” excuse.

2. Keep it light – Scientests have shown that keeping your home environment filled with natural light is good for both your mental and physical fitness. There are some studies that now contend an abundance of natural light in our environment can even help prevent disease. I’m always intriqued when I walk into a person’s home that has closed blinds or heavy window covers that prevent light. I’m sure it has something to do with privacy, but keeping our living environment filled with natural light is very important.

3. Keep it simple and spacious – This doesn’t mean you have to have a large home, it simply means don’t over fill your living space with furniture, plants, etc. When my wife and I bought our first home (sometime back in the last century), I could not wait to get one of those big sectional couches. Well, I got my wish. Of course, even the kids had a hard time walking around in our living room. As my old baseball coach used to say, “You have to learn from losing.” Allow yourself plenty of space and wide walking paths.

4. Keep it personal and upbeat – Have you ever watched one of those television shows where exerts come into someone’s home and help them redecorate (o.k. guys, now you know I do watch some of those shows)? They will often look at the paint color or some art object and ask why it’s there. The person typically responds, “It’s been there since we moved in.” Yikes! How much does two gallons of paint cost. Why are you hanging on to grandma’s old quilt hanging on the wall? If you are retired, it’s definitely time to make your living environment your own. Look through some magazines, watch some of the decorating shows, and create the kind of living space would make you happy.

5. Enjoy your space – Once you have created the perfect space for your retired life, make sure you enjoy it. My wife Trisha and I have added a mid-afternoon break to our schedules. When we are home, around 4:00 or so, we stop what we’re doing and sit down for some hot or iced tea, sometimes a snack, and just relax. Sounds very English doesn’t it. It just seemed that around that time we are usually still going strong on various projects and a nice peaceful break would be beneficial for us. Our stress-free environment is the perfect location.

See you next time and don’t forget to share this site with your friends and family.