The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car... a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little - Ben Sweetland

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ten Tips for Healthier Living

I do not usually write about health, but our health is part of a balanced, life. Without your health, you cannot enjoy your career, your success or your relationships, so you must pay attention to this area. Here are ten simple things anyone can do to make a real difference to your level of health and fitness. Doing all thee simple things will probably add years to your life, too! As with all things, good health starts in the mind and then takes form in the real world - opportunities arise naturally and we must take them, acting in a natural and easy way to achieve our goals.

Know that you are in control

In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey tells us that between stimulus and response there is a gap, and within this gap lies all our happiness. Between what happens around us and our response to it, there is a choice. Yes, we have been scripted through our childhood to respond automatically in certain ways to certain events, but we can unhook from our scripting and switch off the autopilot. We can assume manual control and take charge of our own experience of life. Realizing this can be frightening, but it is also immensely liberating and, ultimately, it is the fist step to a successful, abundant and healthy life. You must decide to get up and do something!

Live in ‘Easy World’

‘Easy World’ is a phrase I have borrowed from Julia Rogers Hamrick. In her blog, she writes, ‘when you are in the Easy World reality, harmony and ease prevail and things work out as if by magic’ and ‘as long as you relax and allow yourself to align with Easy World, you are there.’ This is a nice way of saying that life should not be a struggle. Effortlessness is our natural state and, whatever our circumstances, we should relax and go with the flow of things, not out of laziness and apathy, but out of a realization that to swim against the tide is tiring and futile – there is a grain to the universe and we should go with it. The benefits of a low stress life are enormous and scientifically validated – those of us with less stress in our lives live longer, healthier lives.

Exercise three times per week

It’s vital that you take some time to exercise several times per week. Do some weights and then either some cardio or interval work. This will build muscle and increase your metabolic rate. The benefits of exercise are astonishing. You will be less prone to diabetes and, since your gastrointestinal transit time will be reduced, it lowers your risk of colon cancer. Exercise strengthens bone making you les prone to osteoporosis and you will also be less likely to suffer lower back pain. It also increases your HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers your blood pressure. People who exercise regularly live several years longer than those who do no exercise.

Sort out your sleeping habits

Not getting enough sleep gives you a poorer quality of life. Of course, it makes you feel groggy and tired, but it also affects your memory and cognitive functioning – your ability to process information. People who don’t get enough sleep have twice the risk of being injured at work and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 deaths are caused each year because of tired drivers. How much sleep you need is a very individual thing, but not getting enough can damage your health and even reduce your life expectancy. One study recently suggested that the reason women live longer than men is because they sleep better.

One helpful suggestion for getting enough sleep is to always get up at the same time but to go to bed when you are tired. Some days you will get more sleep, and some less, but by doing this you will always get the amount of sleep you need.


Like sleep, taking time regularly to relax and unwind is very beneficial to health. Regular meditation can reduce back pain, headaches and depression. It can lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. It can help improve sleep quality and, above all, it promotes a relaxed and restful state of mind and helps with concentration and focus.

Eat a handful of mixed nuts every day

Eating 30-60 grams of nuts per day can do wonders for your health. Regularly eating nuts reduces the risk of stroke, diabetes, dementia, macular degeneration and heart disease. Nit eaters live two years longer than the rest of us, according to a recent study. Nuts contain vitamin E, copper, magnesium, boron, folic acid as well as manganese and plant sterols. They contain a lot of unsaturated fat and very little saturated fat, and nut eaters do not put on weight from consumption of nuts. Nobody knows why nuts are so good for you, but eating them regularly will do wonders for you.

Eat a salad every day

A recent study by the UCLA School of Public Health/LSU Health Sciences Center found that eating a salad every day has significant health benefits (as if we didn’t know already!) Try to go for a mixture of dark, green leafy vegetables (not iceberg lettuce which doesn’t contain much by way of nutrients). Salad provides many important vitamins and minerals, and even better news is that salad dressing contains chemicals which help the body absorb cancer-fighting nutrients called free radical scavengers more effectively.

Stop drinking alcohol

The health benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis have been well documented. However, most people who drink alcohol tend to drink too much and there are many negative health effects of this kind of drinking. I have found personally that it is just a lot easier to be very clear-cut and decide that you will never drink under any circumstances. Of course, you need not be too evangelical about this – eating a tiramisu or some brandy sauce won’t hurt you, but a black and white rule makes life a lot easier.

Cut down sugar and caffeine

Creative Commons License photo credit: Unfurled

Again, you probably don’t want to be too evangelical about this, but it’s worth cutting down on refined sugar and caffeine. I have found that having ‘sugar-free’ days to be a very useful way of cutting back. Once or twice a week I will have a sugar day, when I allow myself to eat sugar. I don’t binge, but I allow myself a small amount of chocolate or desert. I also recommend having ‘caffeine-free’ days, too. Even on days when you do drink coffee, tea and coke, only have one or two cups. This will improve your quality of sleep and make you less tense. Coming down from a ‘sugar high’ can make you really tired, so staying away from sugar can keep you alert. Try to go for less refined sugars, such as those found in fruit, honey and, especially, maple syrup.

Go to church!

Recent research has shown that people who attend church or some other form of corporate religious activity on a regular basis live between 1.8 and 3.1 years longer. So you’ll need to wait a couple more years before getting your reward in paradise!


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