We all have a finite amount of time to be on this earth. The time we have to spend with loved ones, to pursue fun hobbies, to do work we love, and to explore this world is limited. Time is the one resource that no amount of money can buy more of. I’m always amazed by people who seem unaware of this fact and who live in ways that seem designed to minimize the amount of time they have on this earth. While it’s true that there is nothing you can do to manufacture or buy more time, there are things you can do to try and ensure you have as much time as possible.
Research shows that smoking can reduce your life expectancy by as much as ten years. The good news is that if you quit, you can gain some or all of that time back. Smoking also costs you a lot of money.
Exercise is the one thing that researcher agree on that will extend your life. You don’t have to run marathons, but you do have to get moving.
Fruits. Veggies. Water. Less fast and processed food. You know the drill.
Wear Seat Belts
A car accident that may not be that big of a deal can turn tragic if you’re not wearing a seatbelt.
When biking, skiing, motorcycle riding, working in hard hat areas, or playing sports, wear your helmet. I have even started to see surfers wear helmets which is a fantastic idea. Get over the idea that helmets don’t look cool. They can keep you alive.
Don’t Engage in Risky Behaviors
Don’t practice unsafe sex, don’t engage in daring sports without proper protection and instruction, don’t drive drunk, don’t drive too fast, and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Risky behavior can kill you.
Get Routine Screenings
When it’s time for that colonoscopy, mammogram, prostate screening, or physical, get to the doctor. Problems caught early can often be treated. Left too long and they can kill you.
Stress leads to heart attacks and other diseases. Learn to reduce and deal with your stress.
Do Work You Love
People who work at things they enjoy tend to live longer than those stuck in jobs they despise. But don’t go overboard to the point where you do nothing but work. You need to balance work and having a life.
Proper rest contributes to extended longevity. Seven to nine hours per night is considered optimal. While you can get by with less for short periods if you have to, chronic sleep deprivation reduces life expectancy.
Don’t Drink to Excess
Excess alcohol is a longevity reducer. Keep it to just one or two drinks per week.
Develop Good Relationships
People who have good friends and family connections tend to live longer and healthier lives than those who are solitary.
Take Care of Your Teeth
If your mouth is full of bacteria, that bacteria can travel to other organs and systems in your body causing disease and inflammation. Brush, floss, and see a dentist regularly.
Have More Sex
Just make sure that it’s safe sex. People who have sex more often life longer than those who don’t. The release of positive endorphins and hormones is one reason. Sex is also a form of exercise.
Limit Sun Exposure
Skin cancer is a killer. Wear sunscreen if you’re outside, as well as a hat with a brim and other protective clothing.
Exercise Your Brain
Your brain needs to be healthy if you’re to live a long life. Keeping your brain active can help stave off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Deal with Mental Illness
Depression and other forms of mental illness can take years off of your life. Get help from qualified professionals if you’re dealing with some form of mental illness.
Maintain a Desirable Weight
Being overweight can reduce your life expectancy, as can being too thin. Ask your doctor what your ideal weight should be and try to stay as close to that number as you can.
Turn off the TV and Sit Less in General
People who watch a lot of TV have a shorter life expectancy than those who don’t. This is not because of the programming, per se, but because of all the sitting involved in watching TV. In addition to cutting off the tube, find ways to reduce your sitting time overall. Stand up and move around at work, take the stairs, walk the parking lot, and walk over to talk to others instead of emailing.
Get More Education
The more educated a person is, the longer they are likely to live. Part of this is due to the fact that higher educated people tend to earn more money and can thus afford better care and nutrition, and another part is that the better educated are just generally more aware of what constitutes healthier living. Education also contributes to longevity by keeping your brain active. Don’t stop learning when you leave school. Keep challenging yourself and learning new things your whole life.
Be More Spiritual
You don’t have to believe in a higher being, although that can be helpful, but research shows that those who somehow connect with their spiritual side live longer than those who don’t. This may mean meditation, yoga, enjoying nature, prayer, or organized religion.
Have a Purpose and a Goal
People who are always shooting for something live longer than those who just give up and float through life. They have a reason to get up every day and live. Find something that gives you purpose, whether it’s excelling at your job, raising the kids, or achieving a life long dream.
Avoid Drugs (and not just the recreational ones)
I mentioned recreational drugs above, but you also need to try to avoid as many prescription drugs as you can. Some have miracle properties, but many have scary side effects such as causing cancer, dependency, or death. If the drug is potentially worse than the condition you’re trying to treat, look for other options.
Get a Pet
People with pets tend to live longer than those who don’t. This is because pets satisfy several of the needs listed above. Companionship? Check. Having a purpose? Check (you’ve got to get up every day and take care of the pet). Exercise? Check (if you have a dog that needs to be walked every day). Control stress? Check (animals have calming influences on their humans and are shown to lower blood pressure).
Since time is also money, the more time you give yourself, the more time you have to earn. This extra money can be used for the fun you want to have, to pay for your expenses so that you don’t burden others with your financial problems, or to build a bigger legacy to pass on to others.
Nothing will make you live forever and the sooner you face up to your own mortality, the sooner you can start to make decisions and lifestyle choices that will give you the most time you can get, as well as allow you to make the most out of that time. Sure, sometimes you can do everything right and still get hosed by Fate. People die young every day. But don’t you want to at least try to give yourself a little more time to do what you love? I know I do.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver)