Healthy Happy Aging Tips

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The average American is spending 4x more on their health per year than anyone else in the world, and yet almost 1 out of every 2 adults have at least one chronic illness. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans are from chronic disease. 

The good news is that most of the leading causes of diseases are preventable. According to the CDC(Center for Disease Control), “In addition to being among the most prevalent and costly health conditions, chronic diseases are also among the most preventable of all health problems.”

No doubt implementing lifestyle and behavioral changes can make significant differences in our quality of life and life expectancy. Even if you already suffer from a chronic illness, studies show that changes such as nutrition, stress management, and exercise can help you better manage your illness, avoid complications, and prolong your life.  But we often think that it’s too much trouble to get healthy. The mere prospect of good health seems daunting.

In the more than twenty years that I’ve practiced Chinese and western medicine, I’ve specialized in making it easy for myself and my patients to achieve better health. Our lives get busier all the time, and if you’re like me, you have so much to do that you can barely imagine getting it all done let alone spending 10 hours a day keeping yourself healthy.

It’s not easy to change your life all at once. Instead you can begin by taking simple steps to change your health. Try one new thing every week, and in one month you will feel a whole lot different. It’ll give you a sense of excitement, adventure, and by keeping it simple, you’ll feel successful.

Here are three simple things you can try to feel healthier.

#1: Once a day, spend one minute standing on each leg. This may sound silly, but this serves multiple functions. Physiologically, as we age we start losing balance. When you stand on one leg, you are strengthening your core abdominal muscles that hold you up, strengthening your legs, and building up the part of your brain that regulates your balance. You can start with 10 seconds on each leg, then build up your strength without assistance.

Healthy Aging Tips

This exercise also acts as a reminder to keep balance in your life. Balance is an important principle in the practice of Chinese Medicine. Our bodies and minds are constantly adjusting, to maintain the best balance possible. Standing on one leg once day, will help your body remember what it fels like to be balanced on a deeper level.

#2:  Try a food experiment. A good one is to play with trying different foods for breakfast and then observing how you feel with them. One morning eat eggs for breakfast. The next day eat a muffin. On the third day enjoy a bowl of oatmeal. Keep tabs on how you feel every morning until lunch. Are you hungry sooner with a muffin than with eggs? Do you tend to feel more stressed after your oatmeal breakfast or after your muffin? Do you seem happier after you ate your muffin?

Everyone has different dietary needs. But you may not notice what your own best way to feel is because you’ve never done an experiment to see if you can feel different.

One of my clients decided to go off gluten because his wife turned out to be gluten sensitive. He wanted to support her. He never had digestive problems, joint pains, or any other symptoms commonly connected to gluten. Two weeks after he went off gluten, he ate a pizza one night. The next day his wife pointed out that without gluten he hadn’t been depressed for two weeks. After the pizza, he was depressed. Some food allergies can be so subtle you might not notice until you’ve tried eliminating a food, because no blood test or medical diagnosis will tell you.

Happy Aging Tips

#3   Try an attitude adjustment. Often when we’re stressed, we feel like we are helpless to change anything. We are especially unhappy when we think we don’t have a choice about a situation. Many years ago, when I was working in the emergency room, I had a boss who always put me on the night shift. I was getting tired because I sometimes worked 5 nights in a row. I felt like she had a personal vendetta against me and that she was trying to make me unhappy. I thought about it so much that I began to obsess. It affected my mood because I felt like I didn’t have control of my schedule.

At some point, I realized that I was thinking about the situation in the wrong way. Working nights allowed me to have my days free to go to acupuncture school, and to spend time outdoors. I realized that, even though I preferred other shifts, the night shift actually worked well for me. I also realized that if I didn’t like it, I could always go get another job, or have a serious talk with my boss. I suddenly felt happier even though nothing had really changed. All I did was adjust my attitude by realizing that working nights was best for my lifestyle at the time.

If you are stressed about a situation that you feel powerless to change, try to look at it in a different way. Try to see the positive about what you are doing.

Remember that you somehow agreed to be in that situation. If you’re having difficulty with your job, your relationship, or your children, try to remember the positive reasons you made those choices.

When you recognize that you really do have a choice, you get to have your power back. You can always think differently.

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