In the third chapter of ‘The Longevity
Plan’ by Dr John Day he says that if you want to live a longer, healthier and
happier life, it’s every bit as important to pay attention to your community as
to pay attention to what you eat.
‘Community’ means different things to different people, but at its most basic it is the people with whom you surround yourself. In the digital age it can be people you feel connected to via social media. I have to say that I struggle to find people in the real world with whom I feel a real connection. That sounds a bit sad, no actually, it sounds very sad, but it’s the truth. It’s partly because many people my age have grown up children and/or grandchildren and so their lives revolve around family. My partner and I live 180 miles from our parents and we don’t have any children. We therefore have very different lives from most other people our age.
I spend a lot of my time reading and learning about how to make positive changes in my life. Others probably don’t have as much time as I do, but often I feel that they’re just not very committed to making changes, as it takes determination and hard work. It also takes motivation and sometimes until something happens to give you that motivation then it makes it hard to stick with it during the difficult times. Unfortunately changes in my health made me see the value of looking after myself and motivates me every day to eat well, exercise and enjoy life. I feel that people without a strong motivation talk about losing weight, doing more exercise, etc., but it rarely comes to anything. I am therefore one of those sad people whose community is a virtual one – I feel more in common with people whose blogs I read than with my friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Sports teams, interest groups,
political organisations and lifelong learning classes are great ways to meet
new people. I always say that the world isn’t going to come to you. If you want
to meet people you need to get out there and join groups, volunteer or sign up
for evening classes.
Apparently, if you’re surrounded by people who don’t lift you up, won’t treat you right and don’t appreciate your goals, you stand a much lower chance of living a long, healthy and happy life. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I certainly know that over the years I have become more like my partner and I use phrases that I have picked up from him and am influenced by his thinking. The trick is to spend time with people that you admire and want to emulate. For me, the trouble is finding them in the first place.
The healthiest communities are those in which we’re surrounded by people with mutual goals and values and who act accordingly and consistently. I listened to an episode of the ‘Do It Scared’ podcast the other day which was about the core values of Ruth Soukup’s organisation. It was really interesting to hear how they helped influence ways of working. It made such a change to hear employees talking about the positives of working for their organisation.
So how do you find your ‘community’? Do your friends share your interests or do you feel you connect more with others on social media? Do you get to spend time with others who ‘lift you up’? I’d be really interested to know.
is the second chapter in the book by Dr John Day, ‘The Longevity Plan’. He
states that a positive mindset isn’t just about feeling happy. He believes that
the way we think about our lives is
perhaps the biggest factor in how our bodies will respond to the conditions of
our lives. If we are going to change our lives for the better, we must first
change our minds for the better.
gives us three statements to ponder:
teaches that the root of all unhappiness is desire. This does not mean that we
should desire nothing, but rather than we should focus our desires on that
which is most important to us – family, health and safety – and leave all
feelings of entitlement by the water’s edge.
we’re burdened by trying to maintain the inessential things we have (let alone
procure more) we have less time, space and energy to devote to making the real
changes that are so vital to creating healthier and happier lives.
along the way, many people in our society began associating happiness with
these wise words I feel that they could have been written for the FI/RE
community or for those trying to live a more frugal and simple life. Isn’t that
about deciding what is important to you? For each of us we make conscious
decisions about what to spend our money on rather than just buying to keep up
with the Joneses.
suggests simplifying one’s life by asking yourself two basic questions:
we have what we need?
we need what we want?
These questions help us to begin the process of decluttering our lives which is a vital step towards stress relief. Marie Kondo is popular at the moment in the world of decluttering. Marie believes that each of your possessions should bring you joy and if it doesn’t you should thank it for the service that it has provided to you and discard it.
our age is often a tremendously large part of our mindset about ‘where we’re
at’ in life, it is a perfectly pointless measure of who we are. In Western culture
getting old has negative connotations, but in the village where his study was
based maturity was something to be respected. He states that the mere belief
that growing older is a positive thing might be an influencer of good health. When
you start to worry that you’re over the hill I suggest thinking about the
alternative – being dead. I am sure that we would all choose the former!
all have stressors in our lives. The key to living well with stress lies in how
we perceive and manage it. For example, if you have a stressful commute try
listening to the books or podcasts you never seem to have time for while
driving. At the time that I made this note I didn’t act on it, but now I
absolutely love podcasts and have discovered a whole new free world of
learning. If you find podcasts you like you might actually look forward to the
days when you have to drive for work in order to be able to listen to
something. The miles will pass and you may not even notice them.
Dr Day believes that at its best, exercise is something we should look forward to. Positive anticipation is a vital part of a healthy mindset. How to fit this into your day is probably something that you may still be struggling with. In our sedentary lives, mostly spent sitting at a computer, even thirty minutes a day may seem impossible. Laura Vanderkam, who has written several books about time management suggests that the most successful people, who she has spent time studying, exercise first thing in the morning, as they are least likely to be interrupted at this time. I am sure many of you will be saying, ‘But I don’t have time in the morning’. Check out her advice about time tracking and building a morning routine which may help you find the time in your week.
back to the first chapter on healthy eating Dr Day goes on to suggest ways to
change your thinking which will help you address your diet and improve your physical
health. For example, when we have achieved something positive or had a
difficult day at work we often ‘reward’ ourselves with unhealthy food. He suggests
picking something healthier and ultimately more rewarding. For him that is
doing something athletic with his family.
need to challenge customs which are intrinsically unhealthy. For example, why
is inviting someone over for alcohol, caffeine or sugar-packed pastries
socially accepted while inviting them over for veggies might be considered
weird? Why do we celebrate birthdays with cake instead of a complete healthy
meal? I have to say that my manager now brings fruit to our team meeting, but
it never seems quite as attractive as the biscuits and cake she also brings.
by little we can take actions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom
especially if what we do conventionally isn’t particularly healthy. That’s not
just limited to food. One of the most promising work-place trends over the past
few years is the advent of the standing desk. I had thought about this, but it
costs over £1000 to buy a desk that you can both sit at and stand at. One
option, if you have the space, is to have a shelf at which you can stand to use
your computer and then a desk at which to sit when you want a rest from
you’re going to take actions that are better for your life and the lives of
people you care about you’re probably going to have to endure a bit of ribbing.
And if that’s going to happen the best thing you can do is to simply adapt the
mind-set of not really caring what those people say. My colleagues call me the
‘food police’ as I tend to refuse the offer of sweets, biscuits and cakes and
frequently Google what they are eating and tell them how many spoonfuls of
sugar are in that iced Greggs doughnut that they are eating – eight in a ‘pink
I think that much of the advice in this chapter is about reframing your life and experiences. You need to have the courage to be different and not just follow the crowd. Have confidence in the choices and changes that you want to make to improve your life. Maybe others might follow your example and join you on the road to improving their mindset as well.
book was the one which started my note-taking habit. There was just so much
interesting and useful information that I wanted to be able to remember it. I
read it, then I read it again and took notes.
main author is Dr John D. Day, who is a cardiologist and speaker of Mandarin,
along with his wife Jane Ann Day and Matthew LaPlante.
went to study a village in China where a disproportionate amount of people live
to one hundred or more.
message: if we apply the principles they live by/their way of life to our lives
we will be healthier and happier.
Your Place in a Positive Community
the Most of Your Environment
So here’s the first one:
Eat Good Food
Surround yourself with food that is good for you
As you are reading
this I would guess that you have more than likely surrounded yourself with food
that is not good for you. We all do
it, those bars of chocolate and packets of crisps and biscuits stashed in the
cupboard ready for the post-lunch dip. Unless you have a great level of willpower
then at some point you will eat them. In order to surround yourself with food
that is good for you then you need to clear your cupboards of junk food. Maybe
it feels wasteful to throw food out. You could give it to a food bank instead.
Then, fill the cupboards with healthy food. When you are peckish and bored at
three o’clock in the afternoon you won’t be able to munch through that packet
of biscuits as they won’t be there anymore. You just have a handful of nuts or an apple
with some peanut butter to eat.
Eat unrefined grains
We all know this –
brown rice, bread, pasta, etc. The low carb movement has increased in
popularity recently and many people try to reduce the amount of grains they are
consuming as a route to weight loss. On the BBC Food Programme in 2018 the
issue of fibre was discussed and the view that without these carbohydrates we
wouldn’t consume enough fibre. Apparently, there are many types of fibre and
just eating vegetables does not provide the full range. If you do choose to
each grains, and Dr Day says that we should, they should be whole grains. An alternative is the recent ‘pasta’ products
that have appeared on the shelf in some supermarkets which are made of red
lentils or green split peas.
Eat one portion of fruit and two portions of vegetables at every meal
In the UK we are
advised to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but Dr Day
recommends two portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit with every meal.
If, like many people, you’re struggling with this it may be because for most
people breakfast rarely features vegetables. That’s where everyone goes wrong.
We have moved away from the unhealthy fry up to ‘healthier’ cereals, but in
fact we are eating dessert for breakfast. Muesli, followed by toast with jam,
washed down with a glass of juice is just sugar, then sugar with sugar on top,
accompanied by liquid sugar. What we should be eating and what would make
getting those veggies in before midday easier is having some eggs to start the
day. My accompanying veggies of choice are mushrooms, avocado and sweet potato.
You may be thinking that you don’t have time to made a cooked breakfast, but
how long does it really take to scramble some eggs? Cooking the mushrooms may
take a little longer and I would suggest steaming the sweet potato on a day
when you have plenty of time and then reheating the leftovers on subsequent
days. You should be able to cook and eat your breakfast within 20-30 minutes.
Eat nuts and pumpkin seeds
According to Dr Day
nuts help to maintain a healthy weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and
fight back premature death – lofty claims!
Pumpkin seeds are even better – a superfood no less! Historically nuts
were avoided, and still are by some, due to being high in fat. Their promotion
now is because is it recognised that we need fat and apparently nuts are full
of ‘good fats’ – not sure exactly what this means, but eating a handful a day
is considered good for us. The fat also keeps you full, as opposed to a biscuit
which lasts a couple of seconds and makes you feel hungrier in the long run
rather than satiated. Buying five cute plastic containers and filling them with
a daily portion of pumpkin seeds and nuts on a Sunday will make sticking to
this easy. You won’t have to think about it each morning, just put the pot in
your bag before you go out of the door and you’re all set.
One portion of lentils/beans, every day
In Britain we have the
famous ‘baked beans’ which most people eat and I think are regarded as a good
source of fibre, but unfortunately also contain a lot of sugar. A couple of
years ago I saw a display in a chemist shop’s window which showed the amount of
sugar in several products. One of them was a tin of baked beans and there were five
sugar cubes sitting in front of it. Instead we need to eat the beans without
all of that sugary sauce. It’s as easy as emptying a tin of kidney beans or a
handful of dried red lentils into your stew or curry. Red lentils cook really
quickly. They’re particularly good if you’ve added a bit too much stock. Dried
lentils and tinned beans keep in the cupboard for years.
Fish – particularly mackerel, salmon and sardines
I have recently
discovered how easy it is to make your own fishcakes. Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall has a great recipe using tinned mackerel. You coat the
fish cakes in polenta which gives them a crisp coating when fried. As he aptly
says this is a good store cupboard recipe which can use up some old potatoes. Polenta
is not something that everyone will have, but once you buy a bag it lasts for
ages, like other grains.
Drinking two litres of
water a day can burn as many as 96 calories. He advises drinking when you’re
feeling thirsty, when you’re feeling hungry and 30 minutes before every meal. Please
don’t buy bottled water. Hopefully the focus on plastic recently will make you
reluctant to increase the rubbish we create which ends up in landfill or our
oceans. It is also a complete waste of money – just buy a pretty reusable
bottle that you enjoy using and fill it from the tap. It’s free and it’s good
for you. If you don’t like the taste of plain water just add a slice of lemon
or a few crushed mint leaves to the bottle. Please don’t add squash as that is
Eat sweet potatoes several times a week
Apparently these are
one of the best sources in the world for beta-carotene, which helps maintain
healthy skin. Sweet potato fries have become trendy recently. I often choose these as an alternative to
regular fries, but apparently they can be covered in unhealthy oils, sugar and
salt and therefore should be avoided if this is the case. You might want to try
making your own sweet potato wedges at home, but if you can get them crispy in
the oven I’d be interested to know how you do it.
No snacking before bed – twelve hour fasting window
Once you’ve eaten your
dinner, that’s it, no more food until breakfast. Satchin Panda, who writes
about circadian rhythms, says that your body needs time to repair and if you
are still digesting food during the night it is like trying to patch tarmac on
the motorway with cars still driving up and down the road. A great analogy I
So that’s it for the moment. I am sure that you are familiar with some of these suggestions, but maybe not all of them. A few things to try maybe before next time when I will be looking at ‘Master Your Mindset’.
My advice for today is to be the tortoise rather than the hare – small steps, not big leaps. In this way you are more likely to arrive at your chosen destination.
This is the time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions – get fit, lose weight, give up smoking, save money – but as we all know many people fail to see these through despite all of their good intentions. Now if you have made some resolutions, that’s great, you have some long-term goals to work towards in 2019. The next step is to translate each resolution into something that you are going to do at least several times a week, if not every day, in order to achieve that goal. The key is to start small. If at the moment you don’t do any exercise at all don’t commit yourself to going to the gym for an hour five mornings a week. Start with say a fifteen-minute walk three times a week and if you achieve that and can keep it up for six weeks, then increase it.
In order to monitor your progress a habit tracker may be useful. These are a popular tool with those in the bullet journaling community. Basically, it is a star chart for adults. Draw out a table with the days of the month across the top and the habits that you want to cultivate down the side. At the end of each day look at which habits you have achieved and put a tick (or a star!) in the box. Then, at the end of the month you can assess your progress and adjust next month’s habit tracker accordingly.
The good thing about a habit tracker is that you can see your progress and hopefully, if there are lots of ticks, you will be spurred on by your positive progress. Even though the initial changes may be small, you have to start somewhere and over time they can grow and help you move towards your big goal. As the saying goes, ‘Every journey begins with a single step’. Every day you will take one step and eventually you will arrive at your destination. Good luck on your journey!
Began taking anything that I want to eat or drink during the day, with me
This is a common one that anybody who wants to save money can easily do. I am not one for a Starbucks everyday, but occasionally I would get myself a coffee on the way to work or stop for a sandwich if I couldn’t be bothered to make one that morning. Now I make myself a flask of coffee for the day and try to take something to eat. As it’s winter it tends to be a flask of soup, but when it gets warmer it will be salad, usually including some left over veggies from dinner the night before.
Looking at the price of petrol at every petrol station that I pass
Having done this for a while I have realised that Tesco is always the cheapest and recently it has been going down by a penny a litre every time that I visit.
Got a Tesco Credit Card
Apparently Tesco has one of the most generous points systems – one point for every £1 spent in the store, two points for every £1 spent on petrol and when buying something from another shop, you get one point for every £8 you spend. One point is approximately one penny. I have 0% interest for 20 months on the card and so I can make the minimum payments for 18 months, put all the money that I would have spent in a savings account, earn some interest and then pay off the balance next year. Hey presto, free money!
Wearing more clothes when working at home
Some days I just sit at my computer and type, other days I am out and about. When I am at home I have taken to wearing thick socks and putting a blanket over my knees so that I don’t have to put the heating on. I have been lucky in that our winter has been quite mild until now, but over the past couple of days it has dropped and I may end up having to put the heating on for an hour or so. Working at home saves me money on petrol as I would have a round trip of 70 miles, but I am not sure money wise how that equates with two hours of central heating.
Opened a stocks and shares ISA
I have had money in premium bonds for a few years. It felt a safe way to save money with the exciting possibility of becoming a millionaire. Although I think that that is more likely with premium bonds than when buying a lottery ticket, surprise surprise it didn’t happen. Occasionally I won £25, but I think I would have earnt more through interest in savings account. I therefore took the plunge and opened a stocks and shares ISA with Vanguard. Unfortunately so far I am down nearly £100, but it is very early days and all the advice that I have read says that you have to play the long game. Don’t lose your nerve when the stock market dips, but in fact invest more money, as what you buy today is cheaper than it was yesterday. When the stock market rises again, as it inevitably will, your investment will go up.
Started eating more vegetables and less fish
I was a vegetarian for a lot of years, but when I met my partner, who is a meat eater, the compromise was to start eating fish and I do actually enjoy it. The difficulty is that fish is expensive and with the meagre budget that I have set for our food shopping I can’t afford it every week. Therefore it is now an occasional treat and we are back to eating mostly veggies, which consists of a lot of Indian food as you can put almost any vegetable in a curry.
Making double the quantity of dinner and freezing it
I’ve read a lot about batch cooking – spending most of Sunday cooking and putting it all in the freezer in nice little plastic tubs. I just find the thought of spending the whole day in the kitchen unattractive so instead I try to cook double or triple the quantity for dinner and freeze the surplus. In this way I am not doing any extra cooking, but we still have meals in the freezer which we can eat if we don’t have a lot of time for cooking on a weekday evening.