Get to know you
Know yourself — or, should I say, know your best self — and eat and drink only what you need. Don’t compare yourselves with others unnecessarily, and don’t confuse wanting something with needing it (get help if you want something so much you think you need it). Learn what your body and your mind like and what they don’t like. Pay attention to things like hunger, thirst, bloating, pain, focus, irritation and the spring in your step. Consider your body shape and size, and whether you truly have control of your weight as you age. Energy and nutritional requirements vary depending on age, sex and lifestyle, but the statistics show an increasing number of us are overweight if not obese — this will weigh even more heavily on our health and health system over time. Do you eat because the food is there or do you eat because you’re hungry and that food is good for you? Do you have another wine because you know your limit or because the first one made you feel so good you reckon the next one will make you feel better? How’s all this working for you? For a start, eat more whole, fresh foods and fewer processed foods; drink more water and less alcohol. And don’t be a pig.
Like a Tiger
Be as active, agile and alert as you can possibly be, and then do even better. This is your best self, and it is dependent on you doing everything else right. There will always be excuses for not getting enough exercise, enough sleep, or being mindful enough — work has kept you busy, you’ve been running around with family, you think you hurt your back getting out of bed — but these aren’t life’s luxuries we’re talking about, they are necessities. Chances are you need to do more physical activity, and you may not fully appreciate how it will improve your daily functioning, let alone your long-term health. Strength and flexibility are crucial at every age, but if you maintain it as you age, it will be better for you in the long run (the number of older people who die from accidental falls is tragic). As you try to pack more into the day and night, however, don’t overlook the need for sleep. Sleep isn’t expendable: our requirements may vary depending on age, sex and lifestyle, yet getting sufficient quality sleep is crucial to maintaining the body and mind. Getting the right balance of activity and rest may be a forever challenge but your productivity, vitality and longevity depend on it.
Smile! This means looking after your smile and finding something to smile about. Our face presents us to the world, which can be a problem if you have dirty, neglected teeth and gums and rancid breath. Avoid sugar, eat and drink responsibly, and brush and floss regularly. There is psychology behind the superficial — our smile determines how others see us and how we see ourselves — but also medical fact, with gum disease and rotting teeth often a precursor to more serious health problems. Beyond maintaining your smile you need to hold up your mood. Feeling happy, joyful, optimistic, useful and fulfilled is a powerful combination. This is where life lives. If you feel your mood is slipping into the black, that your outlook has darkened, your routine become onerous or shallow, think about what you can change. Practise mindfulness techniques (look them up if you need a refresher). Put on a happy face and see if that jump starts the whole damn machine. If your smile is suffering from chipped teeth or sensitivity, go see a dentist. If you are suffering and your smile is rarely seen, go see a GP, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. There are always options.
The internet will kill you
Studies show that cold and flu symptoms, when typed into a search engine, give you incurable cancer. You start dying inside as you blindly scroll through obscure health sites, ignorant forums and online snake-oil stores in search of easy answers. So get off Google and simply make a diary note of when you need a check-up. Know yourself and you know what changes or symptoms might be of interest to a doctor. Know your family history. Know enough about health to make informed decisions and enough about the health system — hospitals, Medicare, insurance, medical interventions and therapeutic goods — to give informed financial consent. Get to know your doctor over time so they know you, and keep your records in order. Make use of the various cancer-screening services but run your own race without rushing to self-diagnose the end. Do the checks if necessary but don’t overdo the worry. Studies show that worry, when typed into a search engine, spreads rapidly, so it’s best to spend whatever time you have left being as healthy as you can by living well.
Find your utopia
People are overrated. They’re fat, lazy, grumpy, angry and stupid online. They’re unlikeable and they probably don’t like you. In fact, if you’re following tips one, two, three and four, they’re the very opposite of you. They’re the anti-you. They suuuck. But as much as we may sometimes want to retreat to the hills and live out our days in splendid isolation, we actually benefit from positive human interaction and society is the better for it. Of course, you can’t always be guaranteed positivity, nor can you control the nature of everyday interactions. Sometimes other people simply make us bad people. But our society has all shades of dark and light, so create your own community, find your tribe. Seek out those with similar likes, similar interests, similar principles, and share your lives if not your loves. If you’re being trolled, build a bridge, find some fellow goats and prance over it goat-style, then go climb hills together. As living beings, we need to grow and flourish and it is in our nature to want the same for others. Life is best when you have people — your people — and can see them being happy, healthy and at home, knowing they want the same for you. Go forth.