Recently, I’ve noticed a handful of health-related factoids floating around the internet describing some of the impressive things that our bodies do every day. How our hearts pump about 2,000 gallons of blood, or how our lungs take 17,000 breaths. Daily counts like these are easy to measure. Others like the number of thoughts our brains mull over each day are fuzzier, and estimates are as much guesswork as they are science. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of work the body does every day is impressive. And, that it’s done in a non-stop, no-rest rhythm is beyond extraordinary.
As we navigate our way to the other side of a global public health crisis, I’ve been thinking about the healthy habits behind the body’s daily rhythm. The same habits that keep the body and brain humming along while we go about our business also move us closer to the resilience we need to face whatever life throws our way.
What’s exciting to me is these habits are a choice. And for that I’m grateful. There’s no predetermined destiny afoot. No inescapable fate at play, and no immutable barrier holding us back. In other words, we all have the ability to choose to be more resilient, and it starts with healthy habits.
If I had to pick three habits that are the foundation of my health and resilience over the years, I would choose my diet, my exercise routine and my relationships with family and friends. To be sure, there are other lifestyle habits—restful sleep, positive outlook, stress reduction, among others—that play a role in resilience and health, but for me, these three habits percolate to the top of the list. Here’s the breakdown:
1. I’m grateful I can choose to stay active.
Now that I’m in my mid-80s, my activity certainly looks different that when I was younger. Back in the day, Francesca and I loved training and running marathons. But as the saying goes, the only constant is change (including my joints that are a little worse for the wear), so we adjusted to make staying active an easy choice. Today, the day starts with my morning Pilates, and Francesca and I make sure our daily routine includes at least one walk outside in nature. As I talked about in a previous post, a nature walk is just about the best stress-reducing, mood-boosting habit I can think of.
2. I’m grateful I can choose to eat a healthy diet.
As many of you know, Francesca and I are partial to a Mediterranean-style, whole-food, plant-based diet. Since Francesca is an amazing cook, this has always been an easy choice. She prepares savory dishes inspired by her Italian background with plenty of olive oil, veggies, fruits and whole grains. It’s a way of eating that is as delicious as it is healthy. And, as the number of cookbooks, culinary classes and online cooking tutorials continues to grow, it’s also an easy choice for just about anyone interested in this eating style.
3. I’m grateful I can choose to nurture relationships with family and friends.
I’ve talked about the importance of relationships in a previous post, and how people who nurture good relationships tend to be happier and healthier. That alone is inspiration enough for me to stay connected with family and friends and celebrate life. Plus, sharing adventures (and a little friendly competition) with loved-ones is just plain fun.
The bottom line
While behavior experts continue to debate the best way to turn a healthy behavior into a regular habit, they do agree on one thing: Make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Circumstances may require that you adjust things here and there (like trading in your running shoes for hiking boots as you age), but knowing that you can help fortify your health simply by choosing healthy habits can be inspiring.
I encourage you to choose a path toward a healthy, resilient future. Start with staying active, eating well, and connecting with those who matter most to you. Most of all, I encourage you to find ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice so you’ll stick with it.
Wishing you a happy (and healthy) Thanksgiving!