By: Joe Delaney
As a financial advisor I understand the power of compounding. Making small adjustments now, such as saving early and often, spending less and watching investment-related expenses pay big dividends over time.
The same can be said for your health. What little changes can you make now that will lead to a better quality of life in the years to come? I like to call it lengthening the Runway of Life. We’re all coming in for a landing eventually, and we all hope there is enough good runway there to meet us when we do.
I want to age gracefully, don’t you? What a waste it would be to enter the final years of life with robust retirement savings but significant health challenges that could have been avoided. Here are my top 10 micro changes for getting a better return on my health investment.
1. Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier than I normally do.
At first I told myself I would get an extra hour ofsleep each night, until I realized how difficult that goal would be to achieve in one step. Instead, committing to going to bed just fifteen minutes earlier means I’ll be more likely to fall asleep when I really want to get a full night’s sleep. Just fifteen minutes of extra sleep equates to an additional 91 hours of restorative sleep over the year.
2. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
Micro changes are supposed to be simple and relatively easy to make. Like putting back $5/week into savings instead of spending it on Starbucks, building the habit of drinking water first thing in the morning will contribute far more to my long-term health than a cup of coffee will.
3. Spend more time standing.
Dr. James Levineof the Mayo Clinic calls sitting the new smoking. Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. What is the solution? Invest in a vertical (standing) desk.I did four years ago. It has made a tremendous difference in my daily routine and I have dramatically reduced my seat time.
You can survive for weeks without food and days without drink but you will only last a few minutes if you don’t breathe. Oxygen is a critical element for cellular respiration. So take some time to conscientiously breathe deeply throughout your day. There are a number of iPhone apps (just search “breathe” in the App Store) you can use to provide reminders to just breathe during your busy day.
5. Write in a journal five minutes a day to manage stress.
You don’t necessarily need more than a simple notebook for this, but I have found The Five-Minute Journalapp to be very useful. It provides a “simple structured format based on positive psychology research” that has been helpful in bringing my life challenges into perspective and lowering my stress level.
6. Pledge to get an annual physical.
It’s so easy for me to tell myself I feel fine, I’m busy, I’m not going to bother this year. There are many reasons this is faulty thinking. With the prevalence of cancer alone – it touches so many of our lives today – I’ve realized this is a one- or two-hour per year micro change I can afford to make.
7. Phase out sugary drinks from your diet.
This is actually a micro change I made about 10 years ago and continue to endorse. So many ailments are linked to soda consumption, from diabetes to obesity to heart conditions, that it didn’t seem worth it to me anymore. And you know what? I don’t miss them at all.
8. Compliment someone once every day.
I find I’m happiest when I’m more focused on making someone else happy than on myself. A simple way to act on this is to find one thing I appreciate about someone in my life each day and tell them. I can’t think of a better way to ensure good social health for the next 30 years or so.
9. Spend an hour in nature once a week.
Research tells us spending time in or near natural environmentslowers stress. This is an easy one for me because it’s something I already want to do. The micro change is just accepting that it needs to be a priority because it really does make a difference.
10. Add Fiber to your diet.
Surveys have shown that the fiber content of the typical American diet is about halfof government recommended levels. One convenient way to remedy that is to add whole psyllium husksto your morning routine. The bulking action of psyllium can play an important role in maintaining regularity and gastrointestinal health. I did this a few years back after a close friend recommended it and it has made a profound impact on me.
For too many, as we approach the end of our flight, we touch down on the Runway of Life only to find we don’t have enough good pavement to a come to a safe and complete stop. Join me in making these micro changes so together we can extend the runway, laying down enough road for a smooth landing.
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