Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute
There is a phenomenon that happens when multiple and even infinite options or data points become available for review. The process leads to confusion and paralysis, such as when you are confronted with 200+ choices of what to watch or a four-page dinner menu. We search with the typical FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and ultimately burn up extra time, get decision fatigue, and make poor choices or no choice.
Efficiency and happiness experts teach us the dangers of too many options and the reality of the phenomenon called “decision fatigue.” The solution is to embed simple favorable life strategies into our daily life so, like brushing your teeth, they become a habit and generally non-negotiable. This is really important going into the new decade where advances in technology will cause a logarithmic increase to our available options for how we fill our 24 hours.
Let’s apply this to the longevity strategies in our daily life so we can make fewer decisions on the simple things in order to save energy for careful thought on the important things.
Est. Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Acting on the five factors that impact wellness long-term is the most productive place to start. There is always debate but most people agree that the modifiable predictors of health and happiness incorporate the BIG FIVE: sleep, movement, nutrition, gratitude, and cognition. Let’s apply some small modifications to our day and embed lifestyle habits that automate our health and wellness going forward.
Our ancestors dedicated one-third of their 24 hours to sleep at a cost of not seeking food or reproduction and exposing themselves to the risk of predators. We know from scientific studies that sleep deprivation for as little as three days can lead to significant mental illness manifestations. Sleep is almost as important as food to our wellness and health.
Start with the simple intervention of setting an alarm to initiate the “go to bed process.” This will mean turning off the lights and darkening the household about 90 minutes before you anticipate going to bed. This will greatly improve your sleep quality with a better quality of Deep Sleep and REM sleep. The more sleep you log in before midnight generally improves the quality of Deep Sleep and sleep efficiency. I suggest setting that sleep stage initiation for as early as 8:30 PM so you’re off to bed by 10 PM.
Just like brushing your teeth, make this a habit and don’t think about it.
Everybody knows they should exercise, has goals and visions of fitness clubs, Spartan races, half marathons, and tennis club championships…but few of us ever get there in our busy lives.
Do you have five minutes most mornings before you get in the shower? Then you have time for fitness. You can couple the shower with a five-minute muscle activation effort every morning.
I suggest 30 to 60 seconds of stretch band workouts that hit the 5 to 6 major muscle groups and escalates in intensity by the speed of repetition. Possibly start with air squats with the band under your feet to increase resistance. Then, go to biceps with the band in each hand standing straight up. Finally, bend forward and do triceps with the bands still under your feet.
By the time you get three minutes into it, you will start feeling some fatigue, especially if you do them quickly until the muscles say “enough!” Now wrap the band around the door handle and do the classic back muscles with the rowing move. Then, turn around and work the chest muscles with a pushing motion. You can finish the mini-workout with 30 to 60 seconds of jumping jacks.
You haven’t done enough until the muscles say “that was hard.” You’ll get a growth hormone signal pop and start to shed fat and add muscle while increasing your metabolic rate throughout the day. The benefits to your brain are also profound, as you make BDNF- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, that fosters neuronal health and wellness. Possibly do this on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then on Tuesday and Thursday pre-shower mornings, maybe do a stretching five minutes, such as Sun Salutation.
In summary, never get into the shower without some muscle activation in five minutes or above. It can go a long way.
Just like brushing your teeth, don’t think about it.
Nutrition is a thorny topic. Any diet can be defended or refuted with extensive literature support. Sometimes the best results emanate from “nonnegotiables” that you vow to never do. This greatly helps with the concept of decision fatigue and making hard choices easy. In my hospital career, I would frequently see tours of new nurses walking the hospital near the cancer center. I would frequently stop to welcome them and give my unsolicited advice: try committing to three things while you work here and it will change your future wellness. For example:
- Always take steps rather than the elevator
- Make every meal a salad
- Only drink water, or sugarless hot tea and coffee.
Those simple life changes at work, where most people spend 1/3 of their day, can lead to a different person in 5 to 10 to 20 years.
In your home life, try:
- Making water (hopefully filtered tap water rather than bottled) your default fluid of choice. Don’t buy anything else to sit around the house and tease you except medicinal tea or coffee prepared cleanly.
- If you eat breakfast, consider an always go to and maximally healthy option that is quick to prepare. I favor the low carbohydrate approach and enjoy options like an organic soft-boiled egg drizzled with olive oil or grass-fed butter. Or, try avocado drizzled with lemon and sea salt – whatever healthy option you know you can make in five minutes.
- Stop with the fast food, sweet packaged processed bars and such, and sugar-based cereals. All of these are nonnegotiable “nevers.”
Wow! We just wiped out a whole block of potentially hand-wringing and fatiguing decision moments – you should feel much lighter inside. Feel that momentum…
We have all heard that some sort of daily practice of mindfulness, meditation or gratitude can work magic with results, such as reduced anxiety, improved mental focus, diminished irritability, and overall improved happiness.
In the spirit of “keep it simple,” start being mindful by identifying three things you can be grateful for in your life when you wake up in the morning. That way, before your foot hits the floor, you have contemplated the first three things that come into your awareness and spent a moment “emotionally marinating” on the positive nature of these items. This 2-5 minute exercise will also replace the anxiety-driven thinking of all the things that you have to do that day.
So, the memory link is reviewing three things in the three minutes upon awakening before your feet hit the floor. This simple exercise adds no time to your day and is a catalyst to get us less focused on ourselves and more on others which is the pathway to mental health, wellness, and happiness.
Finally, what simple thing can we do to improve our cognition? Well, the good news is you already have! By reading this you demonstrated curiosity and, if you do simple steps on the above topics, you will greatly improve your brain function and long-term health. In brief:
- Exercise is the single most thing you can do to reduce your risk of dementia
- Good and efficient sleep is the second most important thing. It restores memory and cognitive function and reboots the brain’s detoxification process.
- Good hydration and low blood sugars are clearly aligned with dementia prevention as the new type III diabetes is dementia.
- And finally, a gratitude, breathing, or meditation program is an effective tool to prevent mental illness and the cognitive dysfunction that follows.
Like most things in nature, there is a harmonious genius of how things work together. By addressing the first four you get the fifth one as a 2020 New Year Gift. Automate your easy healthy decisions going forward, think less and do more, and never forget…you are your own best doctor.
Jump into getting more sleep, building your meditation practice, and getting daily exercises.
Put wellness to practice
Now more than ever…be your own best doctor!
About the Author
Dr. Charles Meakin III, MD, MHA
Charles (Chuck) is a 60-year-old cancer doctor who spent the last 40 years passionately studying healthcare, eastern philosophies, and fitness predictors of longevity and happiness. As someone who lives in two worlds, the traditional healthcare western model and new integrative strategies and personal biohacking, he hopes to present the best of both worlds for rational decision making on difficult personal health issues.
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*Article is re-posted with permission from the author, Dr. Charles J. Meakin III, at Coach It Forward Chuck.