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In this week’s episode, I want to talk about health.

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “health?”  For me, the first things that come to mind are things like absence of illness, whether someone exercises, and the food that someone eats.  When we say that someone that looks healthy, it usually means that look fit and maybe have healthy looking skin.  But health goes far beyond exercise and the plate.  It’s something that we often forget.  For example, you can look healthy and still have an eating disorder or mental illness.  You can look healthy but maybe be suffering from burnout or you can even look healthy and have heart disease.

After reading Dan Buettner’s work with National Geographic a few years ago in Blue Zones and Blue Zones of Happiness, it reshaped what health meant to me. If you haven’t heard of the Blue Zones, the Blue Zones are places in the world where people live and prosper even at age 100, and have the highest concentration of centenarians.  What contributes to this health span into old age?

Directly from his book, Dan Buettner suggests health and longevity includes:

  • engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, often as part of your work
  • eat until you’re 80% full.
  • eat a diet with a “plant slant” and limit intake of meat and processed foods
  • drink red wine in moderation (but bear in mind alcohol is linked to causing certain types of cancer and can has toxic effects on your organs when daily consumption exceeds a glass or two)
  • take time to see the big picture
  • downshift and take time to reduce stress (examples like not rushing around and meditating)
  • participate in a spiritual community
  • make family a priority
  • be surrounded by people who share blue zone values

I’ve translated Dan’s work with the Blue Zones to my own life in these ways:

  • Exercise, and exercise with a positive perspective. i.e. don’t use exercise as punishment and don’t overtrain. Make sure you give yourself enough recovery from exercise.  Also, for me, exercise is always very cardiovascular focused. Stretching, doing yoga, or working on strength and mobility are important to overall health- and I struggle to make this a priority.
  • Eat as close to a whole foods, plant-based diet as you can. For me, I don’t consume any animal products, but I admit that going out to eat because I’m too lazy to cook, or eating too many treats or eating vegan processed food can creep in if I don’t watch it.
  • Spend time with friends and family– whomever makes you feel happy. This one actually is hard for me.  When I’m really passionate, I want to apply all my focus to my work.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I’m in the thick of my work, I don’t want to stop and spend time with friends or family.  I remind myself I need to make time because it’s important. After I do, I always feel better.  There are even studies that show that working longer and avoiding social time does not equate to doing better work.
  • Spend time looking at the big picture and the meaning of life by reflecting on death and impermanence by reading spiritual text or philosophy that inspires you so that you can connect to something bigger.  Sometimes we think that we are individual, but we are all connected.
  • Spend time talking to my partner every day without a screen.  Sit in the backyard or sit on the couch with a cup of tea (or wine) and just talk.
  • Work on personal development so that I can continue to learn about who I am so that I can be of greater service to others
  • Keep learning new things
  • Sleep 8 hours per night
  • Remind myself that there is a lot more to life than my current goal to gain perspective.  Put things like cooking my own food and going slower at times during the day as priority.  I am guilty of putting work or training as #1 and things like cooking, or taking a break, or spending time with friends become a low priority. Interesting how usually it’s only when we have had a health event that we put these things a priority when they probably should be a priority all along.
  • Go outside in nature regularly without headphones. Be as present as you can listening to birds, wind in the trees, air on your skin, etc.

I hope that this episode gets you thinking about what living a healthy life means to you so you can put it in perspective for yourself.  As you can see, I told you my priorities, but my work still will creep in as #1 and other important things fall to the wayside. By knowing what is healthy for you, it will help you check in and ask yourself, “am I sticking to what I think is healthy? What are some areas that need improvement?” It’s never going to be perfectly balanced, and even having intentional imbalance is okay. But striving to do what makes you feel best will help you live a more easeful, fulfilled, and healthy life.

Mentioned in the show


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