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Seven steps to a satisfying long life


Seven steps to a satisfying long life

A good retirement is strongly linked to health and wellbeing. JUDY RAFFERTY looks at how we can maintain our wellbeing as we age.

A great deal has been written about how to achieve healthy aging and increased longevity.

I am not sure how many people want an increase in longevity unless they can be assured of ongoing wellbeing – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Many people want quality rather than quantity of life. In order to achieve that quality there is a plethora of information directed towards keeping in good shape.

We are advised to take vitamins, or maybe not, depending on our diet. We are recommended to eat a keto diet, or a Mediterranean diet or a balanced diet or not to diet.

We read about taking mud baths, doing brain training, learning a language, ice water submersion and much more.

It is hard to know what to listen to and what to follow.

Australian research has pinpointed seven significant factors predictive of longevity and/or enhancing the quality of that longer life.

  1. Nutrition. Eat well
  2. Social support. Get out and make friends. Having good relationships with family or friends leads to an increase in life satisfaction and personal wellbeing and a reduction in loneliness and dementia risk.
  3. Meaningful activities. Do something worthwhile. It will be worthwhile if it gives you a sense of accomplishment and control and helps you to feel useful.
  4. Mental stimulation. Continue to learn or find a way to apply the knowledge you have accumulated over your life.
  5. Exercise. Get moving. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It might just be physical activity. Such activity reduces the risk of dementia, depression and anxiety. It improves cognition and emotional resilience.
  6. Manage stress. Stress damages both the brain and the body. Stress reducing activities impact on the pathways in the brain as well as on the chemicals that influence aging of the brain.
  7. Self-worth. Do what it takes to improve or maintain your self-esteem, self-acceptance and to stay optimistic. The six ideas above all contribute to self-worth.

It is much easier to take morning vitamin pills than to do any of the activities recommended by research. But consider these seven factors and assess them within your own life.

Which ones might you need to work on? Which ones can you tick off and confidently say that you have or do? Perhaps write down the factors you want to work on and stick them to the fridge.

Try starting with one if you have multiple area to address. Starting small might increase your chances of success.

The following approach seems to work well for some people when they have more than one area to work on. Spend one week focusing on one factor then move through the list week by week.

If, for example, you have four areas to work on you will have given a week of focused effort to each area every four weeks. Over the period of a year each of the four areas will have received three months of attention.

You may not have the stamina you had 40 years ago but feeling healthy and in control is a great feeling and worth an investment of your time and energy.

 Judy Rafferty is the author of Retirement Your Way, A Practical Guide to Knowing What You Want and How to Get It. Available at all good bookshops and online.

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