By Dr. Elaine Dembe
1. Explore life and live it as an adventure. – Even if you have no one to do it with. Never deny yourself the pleasure of doing something just because you are alone. Do it anyway. Remember the lyrics from the Tragically Hip song “Ahead by a Century ~ “No dress rehearsal, this is our life.” Travel as much as possible, whenever you can. If your funds limit your journey, plan a unique “staycation” or small getaway.
2. Every choice in life, whether it is about food, lifestyle or our relationships, is either life-enhancing or life-diminishing. Look at the situation and use that template. If you are sleep-walking through life you may not be conscious or aware of your automatic life-diminishing behaviour. Smoking is life-diminishing. If you’ve started, STOP immediately! 100% guaranteed to cause health problems.
3. There is a Buddhist Philosophy. “Comparing is the root cause of suffering.” Every time you say “I used to…” as in “I used to be thinner, younger, fitter…” you are comparing. Instead look at the current reality and who you are today and either accept or change the situation. Likewise, stop comparing your life to others. Believing their lives are better than yours, leads to misery and envy. Be grateful for your life, which is the shortest path to happiness and peace of mind.
4. Stop eating crappy food. High sugar, trans-fat, and processed meats. Eat nutrient dense foods, and mostly organic fruits and vegetables. Drink water! You cannot buy your health, and you’re not immortal!
5. Keep your body fit and strong –- Try weight training, high intensity interval training, Pilates. Get your body moving – even 20 minutes a day will make a difference. You’ll be a lot healthier by 50 and beyond. See a flight of stairs as a fitness opportunity. Seek ways to minimize optional motionless.
6. “One of these days” is here NOW! Don’t put off your passionate pursuits. Do you want to: write a book? Get a second degree or advanced degree? Change your career? Learn to play a musical instrument? Learn to cook gourmet meals? Run for public office? Make a plan and get started.
7. Be generous. Do one small thing that inspires you or touches your spirit or someone else’s. There’s nothing better than paying it forward. (acts of random kindness) Give to others so you feel the goodness that service brings. However you give, do it with your full heart, soul, and effort. Expect nothing in return.
8. How often are you disappointed? Get over it! Are you too attached to life unfolding in a particular way? Let it go. You can only do so much to control a situation. Try saying this, “I want such and such to happen… or the ‘most benevolent outcome.’ We also need to balance this idea with taking responsibility for your own life and fulfillment outcomes.
9. Do you act too fast when faced with a conundrum? If you leave a decision for a while—instead of making it under pressure—often the situation sorts itself out without intervention. And how you feel about something on day one can be quite different from how you feel on day 4.
Avoid quick judgements based on what might be incorrect information. We often hastily send an emotionally-charged email, text, or make a phone call without sufficient reflection or patience.
10. Maintain (or repair) relationships with parents and siblings. Even if you have very complicated relationships with them, and sometimes limited or no contact, family ties are extremely important. Soon or later you’ll understand that your family is the most important connection you’ll ever have. Addendum: Much depends on the circumstances!
11. Nurture your friendships. Why text when you can have a live conversation? Here’s a novel idea: buy a birthday card, hand write a message, and mail it to your friend rather than a quick Facebook greeting. They will probably be joyously shocked with your thoughtfulness.
12. You might not think Aging is relevant to you NOW, however NOW is the time to focus on your health. 70% of how fast we age inside and out is based on our lifestyle, 30% is genetic, and we can even alter our genetic map by making healthy choices. If diabetes or heart disease is part of your family history, staying lean and fit is your best bet.
13. Get to sleep. We need 7-8 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep. A dark room or sleep shades will block out light. No bright screens before bedtime. A 10 pm lights out with a 6 am wake up is ideal.
14. Read at least 10 books a year and never stop learning. Take courses; engage your brain to keep your neurons firing.
15. Learn to meditate and practice mindfulness. Scientific evidence has made the connection between meditation and equanimity.
16. Belly Breathe! When we are tense, we unconsciously hold our breath or shallow breathe. This triggers the sympathetic nervous system and cortisol, the “flight or fight hormone.” Slow diaphragmatic breathing activates the healing, restorative parasympathetic nervous system.
Moving yourself into a healthy parasympathetic state, and staying there as much of the time as possible, helps heal all health conditions, both physical and emotional ones as well. Try 4-7-8 breathing. Take a slow breath in to a count of 4, hold your breath for 7 counts, and exhale for 8 counts. Or try this mini relaxation exercise for stress reduction: breathe in and say “I AM,” breathe out and say “At Peace.”
17. Live in AWE! Notice everything! Clouds, flowers, birds, animals (domestic and wild). We live on a beautiful planet. Be astonished at nature’s force and beauty – sunsets, thunderstorms, rainbows, and snowstorms.
18. A thought for those who are focused on the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Here is a life-changing quote from the Dali Lama when asked what surprised him the most about humanity,
“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”