This week, my inbox has been stuffed full! I’ve had e-mails offering to sell me prescription drugs at pennies on the dollar, emails asking me to help a dethroned African prince get a million bucks out of the country, emails telling me how to get a bigger penis, and one that informed me I had won 860,000 dollars! I can collect as soon as I send in my bank account numbers. Wow.
None of my e-mails this week, however, have been from any of you asking for advice on any particular problems. I’m really glad everyone is doing so well!
But because I need something to write about, and advice is what this column is all about, I thought I’d give you all some unsolicited advice for a change. I was inspired by author Suzanne Forster’s blog this week on this very topic. So I thought I’d pass its valuable wisdom on.
According to Suz, there’s a study out from the University of Cambridge in the U.K., that claims there are four simple things you can do every single day that will add 14 years to your life expectancy. Fourteen years! (Mandatory disclaimer: I couldn’t find any place where this study guarantees those won’t be fourteen years spent wearing Depends brand undergarments and drooling in your oatmeal, but if longevity for longevity’s sake is your goal, this study may be for you.)
Ready for the four secrets to longer life? (Insert imaginary drum roll here ...) Every single day, you must make sure you ...
• Do not smoke cigarettes
• Drink alcohol moderately
• Exercise moderately
• Eat five servings of fruits and/or vegetables
Hmm. That’s hardly earth-shattering, late-breaking, formerly unknown news. We’ve been hearing this same stuff for decades now. I hope good ol’ Cambridge didn’t spend too much of their research budget on this.
Still, it’s probably good advice. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, and since everyone knows it, it is. If everyone honestly believed it was good for you, it is my contention that it probably would be.
Drinking alcohol moderately is an iffy proposition. Mainly because this study doesn’t define “moderate.” Outside sources vary in their opinions, from a range of 1 or 2 drinks per day to 1 or 2 per week; quite a wide range. Since Cambridge says these are things we must do every day, I guess it means the old standard “one glass of wine before bed.” And for those who believe this is good for them, it probably is. It would likely reduce stress if nothing else. I’m of the opinion that alcohol is bad for me, so I have to pass on that one. Because what you believe is what is true.
Likewise, Cambridge fails to define what they consider as moderate exercise. The accepted standard has been 20 minutes a day, three days a week. But again, this study is things to do every day. So maybe a brisk walk every morning?
Now, on to the fruits and veggies. I’ve rarely met a person who could manage to eat that much per day, every single day. But there are some cheats and shortcuts you can adopt if you want. V-8 juice crams several servings into a single glassful. So that might work, if you’re not terrified of the sodium content, any preservatives that might be added, or toxicity from the plastic container. (All pointed out in other “studies.”) You could try veggie burgers if you like those, that way you get an added serving or two that doesn’t even resemble a real vegetable. I eat those. Not because of any study, though, just because I like them.
So yeah, you can knock yourself out following the guidelines of this study, or a thousand other studies, if you want to. Me? I’m not so sure a few extra years are my goal. I think it’s far more important to enjoy the years I have. And that’s mentally and emotionally based, and it’s also a conscious choice you make.
When you put food into your mouth, for example, instead of thinking: “I hate this stuff, but I have to eat it to be healthy,” or “I love this stuff, but it’s so bad for me, and I feel guilty for eating it,” you should be thinking, “I am enjoying this immensely, and I’m so glad I get to eat it.” You should be tasting and loving and relishing every morsel. Not one negative thought about it.
When you go for a walk or a run or do a sit-up, it shouldn’t be something you do while hating it but feeling obligated. Or something you do because you detest your body. It should be something you do because you feel like doing it, and because you love the feeling of strength and empowerment you get out of it, and the endorphin high is such a rush. You should be enjoying it! Otherwise, don’t do it!
If you have a drink of wine, it shouldn’t be because you need to dilute the stress in your mind, or escape from worry or “take the edge off,” much less due to any study that says you must drink it. It should be because you like the taste and the relaxing effect of it.
And, yes, I’ll say it, if you choose to have a cigarette, and can do so without being convinced it will kill you, then have one. But not because of addiction or stress or strife. Just because you want to, and you enjoy it. However, I think we are far too bombarded with messages that tobacco will kill us to ever get that completely out of our minds, so unless you’re the most zen of zen monks, that message and that belief probably means there’s never a time when some damage won’t be done by smoking. So maybe that one should be ruled out.
In short, it’s my opinion that how you feel about what you do is far more important than the action itself. Being happy, being blissful, loving unconditionally, focusing on the good rather than dwelling on negatives, all of those things are what will give you the best possible quality of life.
So there’s your unasked-for advice for the week. Now go forth, and be blissful. And if you have a spare minute, write me a darn letter!