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Let the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Every goal you set, by definition, is in the future; but life occurs in the present. Don’t be so focused on what you are aiming to accomplish that you miss the joy of living in the now. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

Life is a precious gift. What a shame if you’re too busy to fully unwrap it. Don’t let “Enjoy life” be the last item on your “To do” list. What’s the sense of having it all if you only have time to enjoy a little of it?

Susan Pinker, (www.SusanPinker.com) author of the book, “The village effect,” is a developmental psychologist who is spent 25 years in clinical practice and teaching psychology at Dawson College and McGill University. Her research concluded that our human connections have a huge impact on our well-being and physical health – even to the point of extending our lives. She claims that women live an average of six years longer than men because they tend to prioritize spending time with friends more than men do.

The full benefit is only achieved through person-to-person contact, not through social media, email or texting. Pinker says that face-to-face interaction (even making eye contact, shaking hands or giving high fives) lowers your cortisone levels and releases dopamine, making you less stressed and giving you a little high.

One of the most important things in finding true happiness and meaning in our lives, according to author Emily Esfahani Smith (“The power of meaning”) is a sense of belonging – having people in your life who truly love and care about you.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Relationships are protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s, lengthens your life, and help you cope with traumas such a serious illness or loss of loved one.

Isolation, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your health, and people who feel lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The very things that make us thrive – relationships, nature, exercise, and healthy eating – are at risk if we continue to focus on creating a better life for ourselves and not leaving ample time to enjoy the one we already have.

The best time of your life should be right now.

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Health management is more important than time management

In general, we mature and grow wiser as we grow older. Time management experts used tell us (and most still do) that in a lifetime we could get the equivalent of two extra years of work done if we applied their time management strategies. I bought into this concept of getting more done in less time, and built my career on the virtues of efficiency. But now I would ask, “Wouldn’t it be easier to simply live two years longer? Then we could be as inefficient as we are now and still accomplish just as much. And as a bonus, we would have an extra two years to enjoy whatever life has to offer.”

In fact, we could get ten or more additional years depending on our health and the lifestyle habits that we adopt.

Ten years ago, I changed my training programs from effective time management to holistic time management, which include strategies completely different from the usual planning, scheduling, delegating, technology, multitasking and so on. These strategies include such things as sleep, personal relationships, and connection to nature, energy cycles, and exercise. I refer to these and other strategies in a new book I am writing with the working title of How to grow older without growing old. I also cover some of them in greater detail – those that also have an impact on slowing down the pace of life as well in one of my e-books published by Bookboon.com, Internal time management.

 It’s important to get rid of the myth that you’re old when you reach retirement age. There’s a difference between growing older and getting old. Old age is a destination. Growing older is a journey. I’m not old. I’m only 83, getting older all the time, and enjoying every minute of it. I believe my destination is heaven, not old age – and I’m in no hurry to reach my destination.

In the book that I’m writing, I interject some of my own experiences to date. I have included some of the results in these blog articles. But what works or doesn’t work for me are not necessarily things that will work for you. I am hoping, however, that some of the recommendations from me or others or the research findings that I pass along will help you to live a long, happy and purposeful life throughout your senior years.

According to an article in the January, 2018 issue of Prevention Guide, published by Rodale Inc., nearly 80% of us want to reach 100, at least according to Stanford University researchers. If you or I happen to be one of those people, I’m sure we would prefer to be in good shape both physically and mentally – at least with enough wind in our sails to blow out all those candles.

One thing that I want to avoid is dementia. Like many people, I don’t want to outlive my mind. Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by the fact that one of my older brothers died from Alzheimer’s at a younger age than I am right now. Because of this, in the first chapter I briefly discuss ways to avoid dementia or at least lessen its impact on your life. There are medications of course that will slow its progression and make life more livable, and I won’t discuss these. But in the various chapters, I highlight natural ways to maintain a healthy brain and strengthen your cognitive skills, and increase the odds of avoiding dementia altogether.

What’s good for your brain is also good for your body, and some of these strategies are discussed at some length. You may be surprised by some of the benefits of simple things such as nature, relationships and a good night’s sleep.

 There are some shocking statistics that are already painful realities for some of us. The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems and that aging Americans fear memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease more than they fear cancer, heart disease and even death. One in nine Americans age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease according to a 2015 special edition of Scientific American, and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease kills about 40% of those aged 85 and over.

The lifespan of a person in Canada is 80 for men and 84 for women. In 2016, for the first time in census history, there were more seniors over 65 than there were children under 14.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Canada, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia – more than the total population of Canada – making the disease of global health crisis that must be addressed.

Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, usually involving memory loss and a decline in thinking skills. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia (about 60 to 80% of all cases), with vascular dementia following a stroke the second most common type.

Dementia is not senility since it is not a normal part of aging, and many memory problems can be treated – sometimes simply by exercising the brain through memory training and mental and physical exercises.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, people with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or travelling out of the neighborhood. Also many dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms start slowly and gradually get worse. So don’t ignore the symptoms. See a doctor to determine the cause.

Although medication can slow down the progression of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, your goal should be to avoid or delay its onset through relatively simple strategies such as exercise. By caring for your body and brain – from the food you consume and the sleep that you get to the way you respond to stress – you can influence the vitality of your brain, and greatly reduce the chances of ever being affected by the disease.

In my next blog article I will provide a list of actions that are recommended in order to guard against dementia and improve longevity.