Is 50 really the new 30? Five Suggestions for Continued Health and Happiness

Have our habits, technology and lifestyles really turned back the hands of time?

Is 50 the new 30? In a real word, no. But in a strange way, yes. If you are fifty, biologically, you are that many years old. However, the average fifty year old in 2020 is in about the same shape, mentally and physically as a 30 year old from 1920. What can we do to keep that evolution in an upward trend, and get the most out of whatever time we are gifted?

In 1920, the leading cause of death was infection. It was largely due to lack of dental hygiene, childbirth complications, lack of knowledge, and availability of antibiotics. This was followed closely by infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles and tuberculosis. Car accidents, suicide, and cancer made up such a small percentage, they were a rare blip on the statistics radar. Infant death rates were much higher and heart disease was much lower. The average man could expect to live to be 56, and women could tag on a few more years. Because, lets face it, women have more to do.

middle aged men in a running event
older men being healthy

The old begin to complain of the conduct of the young when they themselves are no longer able to set a bad example. – François de la Rochefoucauld

In 2020, we have an odd mix of societal collisions. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and allows room for so much inter generational interaction to occur at every level. How we make a living, conduct our families and relationships, contribute to the arts and sciences, and make a myriad of personal choices, is shaping the future of one of many possible societies where age simply isn’t a determinate of one’s physical, mental or romantic capacity. Aside from advances in medicine and information, here’s a few simple things you can start at any time to improve your odds of living a longer and happier life. Keep in mind, this list could go on indefinitely, but these few suggestions stand up repeatedly under various research conditions.

The Number One quality that is apparent in every cross section of any society, is healthy relationships. So, whether you belong to a Church, enjoy your co-workers, your immediate family, romantic life partner, volunteer organization, friends, hobbyist group, support group, or hunting club, it is clear that in major comprehensive studies, the nature and types of our relationships is the most important factor determining quality of life.

The GoodHome Report 

The Happiness Research Institute
& Kingfisher plc, 2019 
The GoodHome Report is a major new international study which has been undertaken by the Happiness Research Institute and Kingfisher plc. The report looks at the impact of our homes on our overall happiness and wellbeing. The study surveyed 13,489 people and conducted 78 in-depth personal interviews with people from across 10 countries in Europe.
A key finding is that the home is significantly more important to our happiness than our income or job.

-Happiness Research Institute

Social Media and a fast paced, distracted lifestyle may have made the speed and quantity of our interactions more proficient, but far less personal. Keep in mind that when you actually reach out and touch someone, (consensually) it lowers stress, slows your heart rate, and activates your orbital frontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.

friendship groups

The Second Biggest Factor in leading a longer, healthier life is taking care of your heart. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. This needn’t happen to you, or your loved ones. Cardiovascular health is impacted most by a host of lifestyle choices that are largely within our power to identify and many are correctable, if not reversible. Indicators of future disease are as follows: Stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, genetic conditions, or sudden shock or trauma.

You can easily glance at this list and see where a few simple, (but not easy) corrections are possible. For instance, pack a healthy lunch, take the stairs, park your car further away than usual, investigate simple relaxation techniques. Meditating for just five minutes every day can reduce overall stress, improve memory and attention span, decrease anxiety, help you sleep better at night, and curb anger. There are many helpful techniques available for free, that can be learned and practiced, daily, that can create sweeping improvements in your overall health. I will list some of my favorites at the end.

Third, You Are What You Eat. Your cells are only able to build, repair, and function within the limits of your genetics, and quite literally, the type of building material you allocate to that construction and functionality. You cannot put root beer in your gas tank and hope that it’s good enough for your vehicle because it is liquid, and vaguely looks like gasoline. Sort of. Human beings are omnivores, and more resilient than cockroaches. In effect, we can remain upright and string sentences together for many years, eating any and all manor of garbage. However, we will not function efficiently, consistently, or for a very long time without serious negative repercussion. Depending on your belief system and preferences, I am still pretty sure we can narrow down the food advice to a few basic common sense suggestions that everyone can agree on:

Eat as many fresh indigenous fruits and vegetables as possible. Consume a sufficient amount of protein. Drink lots and lots of clean water. Minimize the intake amounts of processed fats, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, fast food, imitation anything, unnecessary chemicals, and additive elements that simply aren’t food. Our brains and cell membranes need a fat source. This means from a natural source. Omega 3’s, coconut, olive, avocado, nuts, liver, fish. Real food. Helpful tip-if you wouldn’t give it to your puppy, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Know where and how your food is sourced, and be aware that the label “organic” now means less than nothing. Sorry. You can go down the Bunny Hole on any item you can stick in your mouth, so I will leave that up to the individual, or feel free to check back for future articles, as I am sure there will be plenty of exacting facts coming forward regarding individual products and truth in labeling.

variety of healthy food
healthy food choices

Fourth. Your Body, Use It or Lose It. Your body is more than just the mode of transportation that your head uses to get from the shower to the office, where it can be used to make other people money. Your body is where your fierce and immortal spirit resides, it’s how we experience our world, interact with other people and our environment, and through which we interpret all of the wonderful sensations and challenges that it allows. If you take good care of it, it will give you many robust years of faithful and happy service. It’s the only body you will be granted on this particular journey, so no matter what your heredity gifted you with, enjoy it, appreciate it, and take care of it! It needs exercise, air, clean water, nutrients, vitamins and minerals, adequate rest, personal attention, good regular check ups, personal hygiene, exposure to natural elements, intimate contact with other humans, occasional challenges, improvement goals, and self love.

a family enjoys being together in nature
a family enjoys being together in nature.

Lastly, A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste. What do you think about that? Anything? I’ve heard it repeated that most waking thoughts we have on a daily basis are some version of the exact same thoughts we had yesterday, and will most likely have tomorrow. That’s frightening, if you ask me. Science and philosophy have been trying to understand how we think since Descartes first muttered, “Cogito ergo sum” I think, therefore I am. A statement that has been hotly debated ever since.

To keep your mind sharp at any age, there are a few well known behaviors we can practice at any time, at any age and education level.

Keep Learning. They used to believe that if your dendrites were damaged, or unused for long enough, they would shrivel and die, and never grow back. This has since been disproved. We can make new neural pathways at any time. Every time you make a conscious decision to learn, (rather than unconsciously reacting to stimuli), you strengthen your brain cells, and create new pathways. Even using creative visualization is highly effective. The aforementioned exercise and good nutrition will also extend the long term functions of your brain. Your brain requires adequate sleep. The only time your brain filters itself with cerebral fluid is during the sleep cycle. Poor nutrition, over consumption of alcohol, stress, and thoughtless repetition can speed up neural decline.

Again, small changes can have lasting benefits. Read. dance, write in a journal. Draw your dog. Talk about something new. Join a Meet Up group that interests you, try new things. Be willing to do them badly for a while. Laugh. It’s a proven scientific fact that people will more easily remember things when they are associated with a positive emotion. We are both very simple and incredibly complex creatures. Seriously, if you use your faculties and challenge yourself, your brain will stay healthier, longer.

In Summary, the Reality Check is that there is no one practical way that the average working adult is going to get up every day and meditate, journal about it, go for a walk, do some tai chi and a crossword, e mail his new think tank buddies, prepare a fresh healthy breakfast and lunch, read a few pages of a book, walk the dog, and have whatever passes for an intimate exchange, and still get to work on time. Now it’s three o clock in the afternoon. BUT..we can incorporate a few of these positive suggestions incrementally into our lifestyle to improve and reset our overall perception and definition of health and happiness. Remember, it’s not a race, it’s an adventure, to which the ending is always the same. At some point, we are finished. In between the point where we start and the point where we end is the middle, and that is the part in which we get to choose how to spend our lives.

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