FOOD FOR THOUGHT: LIVING LONGER OR LIVING BETTER?
Have you ever been told that you should take care of yourself so that you can live longer?
I mean, sure, it's great that we can make nutrition and lifestyle choices that might help us live longer. The United Nations has called modern longevity one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st Century.
But is living longer necessarily living better? What we really want is to be healthy, happy, and thriving while we're living our lives. Longevity isn't exactly a prize when we're too sick or feeble to enjoy it. It also isn't worth living long if you constantly have to deny yourself every single treat or skip out on things just because they might be harmful to you. A donut once in a long while won't kill you!
When you think of living longer versus living better, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that you want to live as long as possible. You want to be around for your grandkids' weddings and their kids' birthdays. You want to see your kids grow up and graduate from college and get married themselves. You want to see your friends get married, have babies, and grow old with their spouses by their sides.
But when we focus on just lengthening our lives without considering how we're spending those years—and what kind of quality of life we're experiencing in those years—we're missing the point. Sure, we might be elongating our life spans by making smart food and exercise choices, but more importantly, we're bettering our lives by making those choices too.
We've been taught to think of our health in terms of what we can't have. We should be careful about what we eat and drink, don't smoke if you can help it, and certainly don't drink too much alcohol or do drugs because they're bad for us.
What if I told you, however, that there's something else we need to remember: that living better also means that we treat ourselves occasionally to something 'forbidden' like a cookie or that crazy new dessert at our favorite restaurant? And treats don't have to just be food. Maybe it's that book you've been eyeing for a while or a new dress or pair of shoes. While we should be responsible most of the time, absolutely denying ourselves even the smallest 'treat' will lead us to resent life and to really just not enjoy it.
So go ahead: pick up that cookie (or whatever treat is calling your name), buy that dress, and enjoy it knowing that you're doing something good for yourself at the same time!
I'm not saying we should go hog wild and eat whatever we want whenever we want it or spend whatever we feel like spending without checking our account—that's a recipe for disaster! But it's also good for our souls and our mental health to make sure we give ourselves a little treat every once in a while.
Speaking of our mental health, to live longer, we should make sure we take care of our spirits and minds, not just our body. How do we do this?
First off, don't let yourself get run down by work or life stressors. If you feel like you're starting to burn out or getting worn down by all the pressures of daily life, it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate where your priorities are in life. You don't have to be perfect at everything—in fact, trying too hard can lead to burnout! So instead of trying to juggle everything at once (or even try), try picking one thing at a time and focus on that one thing until it's done before moving on to the next thing on your list.
Second off: eat right! Yes, it all connects together, doesn't it? Eating healthy is important not only for your physical health but also for your mental health as well. Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries and dark chocolate our bodies repair damage by providing necessary nutrients to fight oxidative stress.
Go for a walk every day to clear your mind and get ready for the day. Or take your walk at the end of the day to leave behind the stresses of the day and release the stress of the day from your body and mind.
Make time for the little things. Make time to journal and write down your thoughts. Make time to draw, color, paint, crochet, or knit. Do something that makes you happy, even if it may seem "silly".
Make sure you have a support system in place. Friends, family, therapists, support groups, whatever and whoever you need to help support you and to provide community, which is essential to our mental and emotional health, which also affects our physical health.
We can't forget that keeping our minds healthy is just as important as keeping our bodies healthy—it doesn't matter how many miles you run or how many pounds you lose.
By making good choices about what we eat, how much sleep we get, how much alcohol or tobacco we consume, how we take care of our mental and spiritual state of being, we can ensure that we are living better.
And maybe… if all goes well… we'll also live longer!