We’re into the first months of the New Year and many of us may be in earnest working on enacting those sometimes sincere, sometimes half-hearted New Year’s Resolutions. For a great number of us, those resolutions included intentions to “get healthier” in 2015. We do this for many reasons: maybe we have heard or been told that some habit we have or do not have is not good for us, or maybe we are tired of feeling the way we do. Some of us have even been told that some habit we have may be seriously detrimental to our health. Unfortunately, many of us will not move forward with our goals or will give up soon after our first attempts. One of the main reasons that many of our valiant efforts to change our health habits fail is that we are not connected to the proper motivation.
According to Stanford School of Medicine’s Health Improvement Program educator Kelly McGonigal, willpower researcher and author of the book The Willpower Instinct, one way to attain proper motivation is to stay focused on the visualization of the outcome we hope to achieve. If my goal is to get to the gym more, then I need to visualize myself in there on the treadmill and visualize myself in the outcome I hope to achieve, i.e., a dress I would love to wear again. If I want to cut out sugar, I can visualize myself feeling more energized and more balanced. Then take steps to change our old habits and institute new habits, carving out the time and mental and emotional energy it takes to get there.
While larger, all-encompassing motivation like “get healthy” or “get in shape” is harder to visualize, I would like to offer up some more research. The latest census reports indicate without equivocation, that people in their 40s, 50s and 60s can expect to live longer lives; in the majority of cases, people will see their early 80s and a greater number than ever will live into their 90s. The number of centenarians (those living 100 years and beyond) will double from present day numbers.
This despite the fact that according to the American Cancer Society, in the US, 40% of all people will develop cancer. Moreover, despite the fact that we live in an exponentially more polluted world and many people eat less nutritious foods than did their grandparents, we will live longer lives. The majority of us will live longer despite the fact that one in four children are diagnosed with a chronic illnesses. Equally confounding is the fact that most Americans have over 200 chemicals in their fat cells, all of which have potentially cancerous and pathogenic (detrimental) effects on our health. These chemicals can do their damage continuously over the course of a lifetime or instantaneously, as in the case of cancer and cell mutation. So though we will live longer, we are at greater risk than the generations before us, of living with chronic disease and illnesses that will take their toll on our quality of life.
What we see statistically in the present aging populations is that, the majority of seniors today take three or more drugs by the time they are 65. The number of different pharmaceuticals taken increases with age. According to the publication Health, United States, 2013, “In 2007–2010, adults taking five or more drugs in the past 30 days were more likely to be aged 65 and over and in fair or poor health than those taking one to four drugs… Polypharmacy is of particular concern for the elderly, who may be more at risk for significant side effects with some commonly prescribed medicines.”
There is a burgeoning need in aging populations for residential care facilities and a direct relationship between the number of pharmaceuticals a person takes and the number of years a person spends in residential care facilities. If you need them, you need them, but few would voluntarily leave their home for a care facility if they had a choice. Though we are living longer lives, it seems evident that our bodies are not really healthy along the way. Which begs the question: is longevity without health and vitality really the way we want to live if we have a choice?
We do have a choice. The American Cancer society says that at least 50% of cancer is preventable, meaning dependent on our choices. The American Heart Association is constantly releasing heart disease research focused on prevention (meaning things we can do before we need drugs and surgery). If we could prevent ingesting chemicals in our water, food, air, and health care methods (i.e., pharmaceuticals), all of which are foreign to the organic structures of our bodies and increase our overall toxic load, would we not take steps to reduce those?
The big image that I want to leave you with is a question about what kind of life you want to lead. We all certainly see examples of those who are living well into their aging years. They seem happy, active, and fulfilled. In the past, how they got there was a mystery and seemed based on chance or luck. What we now know is some of it is luck or genetics and some of it is choice. The choice part is about creating health habits before you are in crisis, before you need surgery, or chronic, repetitive use of pharmaceuticals. For those who are already going down that road, focus on changing what is still changeable to increase your wellness. The choice part is about doing things now to attain or remain feeling good and vital while you enjoy your longevity.
Because we need both short and long term goals to stay happy and productive in life, I recommend that we all think of the people we know who are living well into their longevity and visualize ourselves living well into our longevity. Then focus on taking the steps to get there. Our health should not be an afterthought or a reactive process. We live in these bodies that need, more than ever, extra attention in our stress and toxin filled world. Attending to our own temple is a paradigm shift and a challenge that is worth taking, especially with this new information on longevity. It can enrich our lives to live more intentionally.
Over the course of the next months I will be presenting the latest research through which I have developed what I call the 5 Pillars of Health. These are the pillars which enhance our innate self-correction abilities and are our best chance at taking steps toward a healthy and resilient longevity. Some of this research may be counter-intuitive, and some may be different from what you hear on the news or through your medical outlets. The 5 Pillars are:
1. Healing the master computer.
2. Eating well: focus on nutrition dense food and filling in our genetic and lifestyle nutrition deficiencies.
3. Exercising and stretching well: finding something that works for you that you can do every day.
4. Healthy mental and social health habits that make a difference.