Routinizing Longevity

What’s your personal wellness plan? What are the habits, practices and disciplines that will not only serve you well today, but ensure you live healthy and well in the future?  What, you say? No time, unpredictable days, too hard to fit it all in, difficulty being consistent?

There’s a thought-provoking ad campaign on the air here these days.  Called “Make Health Last” and sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the campaign cites the disturbing statistic that on average Canadians will live their last ten years in sickness.  TEN years!  Sobering thought – and there’s so much we can do to avoid that result.Blueberries

It’s a well-known fact that stress is a huge contributor to less than perfect health.  The average executive, entrepreneur or professional’s day to day stress level? Usually pretty high.  Add the very sedentary work life of many people in high stress roles and it takes an awful lot of counterbalancing activity to offset the detrimental impact, let alone set you up for a healthy, energetic future.  So the odd salad and stroll around the block, while good starting points, are just not enough.    

The other thing to consider is something inherent in corporate culture these days, and that’s the idea that if it’s not big it’s not worth doing.  I know many people who have very strict “rules” for their fitness and general health routines – rules that involve lots of time and require exertion at very high levels, or several hundred dollars worth of organic produce and superfoods from the natural health store located on the other side of town, or total quiet in a particular location ideally suited to meditation.  Let’s face it – the hour-long power workout isn’t much use if you only get to the gym every other week.

The brilliant Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, came up with an idea that simplifies and takes the stress out of getting regular activity. Called “The Thousand Cuts Fitness Program”   it’s all about doing lots of small things.  He refers to the approach as “folding fitness into his life, like blueberries into batter.”  I love this idea, and I think it’s easily extended to many of the practices that support long term thriving.

If you’re serious about thriving into your old age, it’s time to get serious about your wellness.  And, as Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit, the more you can routinize a desired behaviour, the more likely it is you’ll create it as a habit.  So what if we bust apart the idea that our practices have to be “big” and “perfect” and get a little more accepting of what we CAN do, but increase the chances of actually doing it by attaching it to something we already do?  What if we were to combine the science behind forming habits with the idea that a large number of small actions might just add up to the same as one big action?

So do squats while you’re brushing your teeth. Meditate on the subway.  Drink a big glass of water before you walk the dog in the morning.  Take your afternoon break but replace the soda with an apple and some herbal tea.   Get a headset and some hand weights and do curls while you’re on the phone. Connect a new, positive habit to an existing one – and, most importantly, give yourself credit for doing many small things because they DO add up.

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