Mon, 17 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #164
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"With a healthy lifestyle, it's not at all unreasonable to expect ninety or one hundred exceptionally healthy years of life, years in which we will be of sound body, mind and spirit." —Dr. John D. Day, author of The Longevity Plan: 7 Life-Transforming Lessons from Ancient China
In Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, a man who lived from 1706-1790, in Part Two along with his well-known 13 virtues for a good life, he explains his approach to bringing order to his life (the 3rd virtue - "let all things have their place; let each part of your business have its time") with his daily routine written out by the hour. At the young age of twenty, Franklin was clear about a schedule that would enable him to eventually do all that we know he was able to achieve and accomplish, which was quite impressive. Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule:
Why exactly is a daily regular routine significant when it comes to the overall well-being of our lives? If anyone has observed the stability routines provide for children, students, pets and colleagues, one will acknowledge, so long as the routines are healthy, restorative, invigorating and based on sound reasons to benefit the individuals to reach their best potential, that routines are a simple solution to much of what we wish our lives to become: fulfilling, enjoyable, tranquil, and a foundation for moments of spontaneity from which we can springboard from occasionally, all the while knowing we can and will eventually come back to the routine that enabled us to be someone who can think outside the box, who can and feels comfortable taking a risk. From the routine I keep with my blog writing, to the routine I adhere to in my classroom, as well as with my dogs when I at home, the purpose is to gain more energy, to not deplete it in myself and in others unnecessarily, to cultivate an environment in which the unexpected wonderful ideas, experiences and conversations can blossom. Because when we need not worry about our fundamental survival needs, food, shelter, social connectedness, etc., we can then make our why to self-actualization (which I talk in great depth about in episode #25). While some dislike the idea of sticking to a routine, I will admit freely, there have been routines I loathed, either they didn't work with an approach to good health for my body and mind or I was being expected to do tasks, etc., that I didn't find meaning or purpose in. We will all have times in our lives, especially when we are younger or the newbie on the job in which the routine we are given is not the routine we want. The task we are given, or that we must give to ourselves is to ask the question and do the homework, what will work best for me to reach my full potential? Areas of your life to consider aligning into a daily routine: 1. Eating schedule Dr. John D. Day's new book The Longevity Plan describes in detail a diet (not a temporary, but long-term, forever approach to eating well) that will enable you to thrive into your 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond and obliterate the Western assumption that old age is a deterioration. Especially what we eat, but as well when we eat has a powerful effect on our overall health. In fact, he shares, "Erratic eating schedules have been shown to result in decreased metabolism, which can lead to long-term weight gain." 2. Sleep time
"Nobody in Bapan had an alarm clock. When we're hitting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, and a regular schedule, something quite amazing happens: We get the exact amount of sleep our bodies need without having to be jarred awake by a buzzer before we're really ready." —Dr. John D. Day, The Longevity Plan
3. Create a life of motion Instead of punishing your body with the workout you think is intense enough you only need to do 3-4 times a week, Dr. Day recommends, based on observing the centenarians in The Longevity Village in Bapan, China, simply live a life of movement. Granted, many of our lives don't easily support this. If we work at a desk or behind the wheel, but even by adding a standing desk to your office or a walking treadmill, the job you have to do doesn't have to keep you sedentary. Again he reminds, our bodies were meant to move, not stay in one place five days a week. Consistency is key and doing what you love is the best way to make it a habit. So if you dread the spin class or the run you are determined to take each morning before work, don't do it. Do something you love, raise your heartbeat enough, but then keep your body in motion throughout the day: park further from the front door, take a stroll after dinner (something those in Bapan do nearly daily), or get outside for lunch. Create a routine of movement that keeps your body awake and entices you to stay active. 4. Productivity As witnessed in Franklin's schedule, having a clear objective is imperative to reaching the desired goal. After all, if we don't know what we want to achieve, how can we ever feel productive at the end of the day? I have found one of the few must-have ingredients in a day that I would need to experience in order to call it a good day would be a sense of achievement, progress, accomplishment or productivity. By no means do any one of these things need to be grand or even known or understood by outsiders, but if I put the task of write the introduction to chapter four as my objective, it not only gives me something to focus on, but when I do complete the task, I feel as though progress has been made. An essential component to being productive is to know what enables each of us to be our most productive selves, and create a routine that fosters productivity rather than making it difficult to find our rhythm. 5. Social lives Social lives are less likely to fall into a daily routine only because you are engaging with others who must adhere to a schedule that works best for them and there will be times, sometimes many, when it will shift. However, the key is to focus on your engagement, how you stay in touch, how much you stay in touch, how you keep your boundaries so you can continue to be productive and how you can support those you love to accommodate their needs (and they hopefully are doing the same for your needs) without sacrificing a quality way of living. 6. Our mind-set
"The way in which we choose to perceive and deal with stress is, after all, a tremendous market of biologic age. Studies show that those who embrace stress actually live 17 percent longer. In contrast, as measured by telomere length, it appears that people who don't effectively manage high levels of stress age their bodies by nine to seventeen years." —Dr. Day
Shifting from feeling as though we are lacking and rather appreciating all that is going well is a simple way to shift your mind-set for the better. The American mind-set especially, but we are certainly not alone, tends to work more hours in order to earn more money to buy more or bigger things. But in so doing, we are racheting up our stress. As well, finding work you enjoy can reduce your stress level, and paradoxically, Dr. Day points out, enable you to be more productive as you are not depleting your energy but rather are enlivened by what you have the opportunity to do. Such an approach is helpful in both our professional and personal environments.
"At least 70 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related ailments."
Another way to reduce stress is to play. Play not only outside of work, but at work as well. Have fun, lighten up, keep in perspective what is important. "When we treat work as play, we change the very nature of work. We rob it of its power to stress us and deplete us of our energy." Think about someone who turned what they loved doing on the side or out of pure enjoyment into their job. It's possible to do that yourself; the key is to be able to return to that feeling of pure play because it is through play that we learn more as we are fully engaged and not worried about outcomes but rather enjoying what we are doing. Perhaps you are dismissing the concept of playing in your life, let alone at work. Here's another tidbit of information to keep in mind regarding the importance of play. National Geographic has reported that there is a "direct correlation between playfulness and intelligence, since the most intelligent animals engage in the greatest amount of playful activities. The reason is simple: Intelligence is the capacity for learning, and to play is to learn." Hmmm. Make room to play; how wonderful of a directive for living well is that? 7. Environment One of the seven lessons Dr. Day advises we all pay close attention to when it comes to cultivating a life of longevity is to place ourselves in a positive environment from the people, to the homes, to the communities that support healthy living. Where we wake up, the air we breathe, the words we hear, how much technology we consume, the support we receive, the products and furniture we live amongst, the information we consume, each of these items are details that effect our daily lives and to live in a positive environment, a supportive, healthy environment and to wake up in such a place every day is to continue to improve the quality of our lives, as the opposite would be to gradually deplete the quality of our lives.
"Yes, our electronic influencers have a powerful impact on the rhythms of our lives, but our bodies want to be in sync with the natural world." —Dr. Day
With each of these areas in which to create a routine, simply do your best. Even Ben Franklin shares in his autobiography about the creation of his daily schedule, "I enter'd upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continued it with occasional intermission for some time. I was surprise'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish." Even he did not stick to his routine fully each day, and took breaks ("occasional intermission"), but he stuck to it the majority of the time, and in so doing, saw the quality of his life improve. His routine may not appeal to you, but as he arose each morning with a question, and assessed at the end of the day how the day had unfolded, this simple habit is a grand way to determine what is working, what is not and how to do better tomorrow. Small corrections can be made and a pat on the back can be given as well each day. Find your rhythm. Create a daily routine that hums your tune, makes you tap your toes in excitement to start the day. Rhythm, your rhythm, a rhythm that enables you to reach your full potential will be a song you want to sing again and again and again.
"the reason [the village people of Bapan - Longevity Village]'s hearts are in rhythm is because their lives are in rhythm." —Dr. Day, The Longevity Plan
It will take time, or maybe for some, not much time at all because you've already been stepping into a routine and observing what is and isn't working. Now, consciously, sit down, and ask yourself, what works? How can I do more of that? And give it a shot. Each spring and each fall before my summer schedule begins and before school begins, I sit down and look at the daily schedule that will work best for me incorporating routines that will enable me to reach my goals. I love this bi-annual ritual. To help me make the best schedule, I will reflect back on past year's schedules to see what worked and if it didn't, why not. Just this year I have added something new to my routine, a weekly check-in on my progress along with my nightly journaling. This weekly check-in usually takes place on Sunday evenings after the week has wrapped up and a new week is about to begin. I find myself able to quickly rectify anything that didn't go as planned or get back on track before it goes too off the rails without much of a fuss. I also am reminded and motivated by observing what I have done well, what daily routines are producing the outcomes I have desired and this is motivation to keep adhering to my daily routines in the new week. Again, this is what works for me. I have always been someone who loves to plan, write it all out, not excessively, but in a manner that is clear for me to visualize. Today, consider for a moment the benefits of establishing a daily routine that works for you. Perhaps Dr. Day's list of benefits will provide even more motivation:
"The overwhelming majority of cases [cardiac arrest], perhaps up to 80 percent, can be prevented, and half of the people with arterial fibrillation can reverse their condition through lifestyle changes aimed at eating better food, maintaining a healthy mind-set, building supportive communities, staying in motion, and learning to connect with their own rhythms."
And as we create a rhythm in our life that works well for us, we discover more energy to do what we most enjoy, we experience more mental clarity to make sound and successful decisions for the life journey we are on and as all of these benefits are felt, our overall well-being begins to soar. There is nothing boring about that. I am continued to be reminded that is us, humans, who make life difficult. Real luxury. The luxury of living a life of quality and true contentment is actually quite simple: create a daily routine that enables you to live well and experience your life begin to improve.
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