If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for a quality “health” span, not just a long life span as measured in years.
We want energy, vitality and strength to enjoy all of life’s pleasures, however we define them.
We want each year to be free from the vicissitudes of any life style driven diseases, debilitating illnesses, or limiting aches and pains.
And most of all, we want our mental faculties to be as sharp as possible, undiminished by the ravages of Alzheimer disease or other forms of dementia.
In his article 7 Habits with Surprising Mind and Body Benefits, Dr. Younes Henni shares his recommendations for simple activities we can incorporate into our lives every day to promote healthy aging.
Here’s my lightly edited version of his recommendations. I hope they resonate with you as they have for me.
These simple daily habits require little to no effort.
In fact, you may already be doing some of them.
By knowing their actual benefits, you can:
- Motivate yourself to practice those you’ve been neglecting.
- Do the ones you’ve already been doing with added intention and purpose.
Which ones appeal most to you?
Be sure to pick at least one and commit to practicing it on the regular.
Practice Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements
I’ve never heard of this one before, but something about it intrigues me.
From the moment we wake up until sleep, our eye movements jump around from one object to another. Smooth pursuit eye movements, however, require fixating our gaze on a slowly moving target.
Doing smooth pursuit is easy.
- Simply fix your gaze on a moveable target, the tip of your finger or a pen.
- Then without moving your head, track the target. Slowly move your hand from left to right, up to down, or trace the figure-eight infinity sign.
According to Dr. Younes, smooth pursuit is important because it engages and strengthens the extra-ocular eye muscles. Exercising these muscles can be helpful in relieving eye fatigue, strain, and dry eye syndromes.
In a study, participants suffering eye fatigue performed smooth pursuit for three minutes a day, five days a week. After six weeks, their eye fatigue scores were down 40%. In contrast, their colleagues who didn’t receive the training saw their condition worsen. Their eye fatigue scores were 15% higher.
You know I love to surf the wave of the gratitude. I write about it a lot. Awe is gratitude’s just as lovely twin sister.
Psychologists define awe as that feeling you get when confronted with something vast, unusual, or mysterious — a place or an object that transcends your everyday routine.
According to Paul Piff — a pioneer in awe studies — a lack of awesome moments makes people feel less joy and less connected to others.
Awe stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing your stress levels. Its effects linger even up to several weeks after an awesome experience.
Among positive emotions, such as love, happiness, and curiosity, awe is the strongest modulator of cytokines — a protein that promotes inflammatory diseases. And most recently, we’ve been learning a lot more about cytokines as a driving factor in severe Covid infections. Definitely want to modulate those cytokines!
It’s easier than you think to get a daily dose of awe.
Watching videos of earth, animals, and landscapes can induce a strong feeling of awe. Perfect for experiencing awe when Covid restrictions limit our away from home activities and options.
Watching an artistic performance, or a trip to the museum can do the trick. Even if, due to Covid restrictions, these experiences are virtual too.
A stroll in the park, stargazing, watching sunsets or the crashing waves of the sea are also great ways to lose yourself in awe.
Close Your Eyes
This one is soooo easy. It really appeals to me. Any time. Any place. It’s a no-brainer!
Notice how people tend to close their eyes when recalling details or to focus their thoughts. According to science, briefly closing your eyes on purpose is probably the simplest productivity hack there is.
Your brain is like a machine with limited energy. Vision, it turns out, sucks a lot of that energy.
That’s why the moment you close your eyes, you free up a significant amount of brainpower. And when this happens, your brain works harder to retrieve details, imagine creative ideas, or find answers to challenging problems.
When you close your eyes, you grasp more auditory information. This can be helpful especially if you’re listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Studies have shown that closing your eyes after learning new things helps you memorize and consolidate knowledge even better.
If you never rest your eyes, you might be missing access to some great ideas. The next time you’re struggling with a problem, pushing past a creative block, or wanting to learn something faster, simply close your eyes and let your brain power up.
I’m all in. Easy-peasy!
If you think you’re too old to play, think again. According to behavioral psychologist Stuart L. Brown, play is as important for adults as for children.
People who engaged in play are happier, more curious, and more energized. “Without play, adults can feel down, exhausted, or burn out without knowing exactly why,” says Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
But, what kind of play are we talking about?
The kind that is fun, carries no material gain, is safe, and has no time pressure.
According to Brown, “the opposite of play isn’t work; it’s depression.” He suggests three simple ways to get more play into your life:
- Body play: dancing, sports, bike, riding, playing an instrument.
- Object play: use your hands to create something you enjoy. Knitting, needlepoint, painting, sculpting, drawing, doodling.
- Social play: from engaging in chatting, or light, playful talk, to deep talk or verbal jousting.
Try remembering what you liked doing as a child. You can turn that into an activity that fits your current circumstances. Doing things that are fun or sometimes silly is beneficial for your mental health and sense of well-being.
Get Your Vitamin D From Sunlight
Getting a daily dose of sunlight has health benefits.
There is no better source of vitamin D than sunlight.
Sunlight boosts the release of serotonin, a hormone that uplifts your mood and makes you feel happy. And if you suffer a vitamin D deficiency, your bones, teeth and muscles suffer.
Although excessive sunlight can contribute to skin cancers, moderate sunlight lowers the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon, ovarian, and prostate cancer, as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Not getting enough sunlight deprives your eyes of violet light critical to their functioning, putting you at higher risk of becoming nearsighted.
When you soak in sunlight first thing in the morning, it signals your body clock that it’s time to wake up. And when the sun goes down, it signals your body clock it’s time to sleep. Getting sunlight early in the morning is crucial to both a day full of energy and a good night’s sleep.
How much sunlight you need depends on the weather conditions. If it’s a bright day, get 30 to 40 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight. If it’s overcast, your daily exposure should be longer, from 60 to 90 minutes a day.
Spend Time in Green Spaces
Enjoying green spaces, trees, plants, gardens or arboretums, just spending time in nature, has remarkable benefits for the mind and body. Common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to have a study back it up.
Researchers monitored the effects of time spent in city parks on young adults and seniors. Participants made regular trips to a public park in spring and summer. Surrounded by cherry blossoms, green grass, and ponds, they sat calmly and absorbed the beautiful scenery for 10 to 15 minutes a day. All the while, scientists monitored several of their body functions.
Participants enjoyed an increase in positive mood and started having lower:
- Blood pressure.
- Levels of anxiety, depression, and anger.
- Heart rates.
“The results of this study suggest that viewing urban parks results in physiological and psychological relaxation,” conclude the authors of one of the studies.
Fast Intermittently (IF)
This is a tried and true favorite of mine. I have been eating all the food I consume each day within an “eating window” for more than 3 years. If you’re IF curious, you can work with me to help ease into it, even if you’ve been reluctant to try it.
One the astounding benefits of IF is it’s support of the body’s ability to efficiently eliminate toxic waste that accumulates in cells.
The process by which the body eliminates that toxic waste is called autophagy.
Think of your body as a neighborhood and autophagy as a waste disposal company. Without regular waste disposal, the whole community would become overwhelmed with toxins.
Autophagy is one of the body’s most vital processes.
If you eat every few hours, you’re not allowing autophagy to run its entire course. As a result, toxic waste keeps accumulating in your cells. This can lead to disastrous health risks.
Autophagy begins when glucose and insulin levels drop considerably, and your body digested all you’ve eaten. That’s why going without food for 14 to 16 hours is key.
For instance, a starter protocol I use is the is the 14/10 system. You eat only between the hours of 8 am to 6 pm, then fast until the next day at 8 am. Put that on repeat.
A very popular system that my clients often land on is the 16/8 system. For instance, you eat all the food you plan for the day between noon and 8 pm. Then, you don’t eat again until the next day at noon. Repeat.
The science is clear: the small habits we engage in intentionally have a significant impact on the well-being of our bodies and minds.
- Spend more time in green spaces. And get your daily dose of sunlight, especially in the morning.
- Take a minute or two a day to do some eye movement exercises. They are known to slow the decline of eyesight and keep your vision sharp.
- Try to remember when was the last time you played for fun or experienced an awesome moment. Can you think of simple ways to repeat these experiences?
- If taking a short break from work, close your eyes for a few minutes. Vision takes so much of your brainpower. With your eyes shut, your best ideas might surface.
- Eating whenever you feel hungry — snacking now and then — shortens your lifespan. Practicing intermittent fasting can help you live healthier and longer.
It’s Never Too Late to age well and enjoy a healthy, energetic life span.
My coaching program not only helps you lose unwanted weight, it also helps you learn and groove new habits that support aging well.
Whatever your age, it’s time to take me up on my offer for your FREE Strategy Call so you can jump start weight loss and improve your odds for enjoying years if good health
Make 2022 your year to create a more vibrant future.
It’s Never Too Late to make your weight loss journey easier. A year from now, you will thank yourself you started today.
I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.