How can I enjoy and appreciate this as a gift right now?
The four areas of health on which I have been focusing – sleep, nutrition, movement and stress control – are the fundamentals, the bedrock, of my health. I focus on no, or very low, cost interventions that anyone can implement. I was going to list my top recommendations to optimize each of these when I realized they are all elements of one main thing – health! They aren’t separate and alone. Each of them feeds the success of the others, and its impossible to say that what you eat does not impact your sleep, or vice versa.
Having said that, here’s what is working for me right now:
Eating a ketogenic diet and fasting intermittently each day (limiting eating to the hours between 11 am or noon and 6 pm)
Moving for a minimum of one hour each day, including some HIIT and some balancing.
Keeping a gratitude journal daily.
Thinking happy thoughts 😉
And … getting 8 hours of sleep every night, enhanced by:
1. A very dark room. No lights but moonlight.
2. Cooling the room, the bed, and my body.
3. Getting away from blue light well before bed time and reducing EMFs as much as possible. Basically, the mobile device must be put in another room, in airplane mode, in the earlier evening.
4. Generating my own melatonin by walking outside in the mornings.
5. Reducing nasal stuffiness by reducing histamine-rich foods, particularly red wine, dark chocolate, and aged cheeses. (I know, could I have listed three foods I love more?)
6. Getting enough vitamin D (with K2) and enough magnesium.
7. Drinking sleepy time tea before bed.
8. Getting to bed by 10 pm so I have at least three hours of sleep before the witching hour of 1 am.
Regardless of what you think is coming, health-wise or otherwise, you will feel better (and behave more in line with your values) if you can stay in the present. This quote from Frank Bruni’s memorable column on losing his vision in the NYTimes:
Joseph Lovett, 72, a filmmaker whose 2010 documentary, “Going Blind,” chronicles the slow worsening of his vision from glaucoma, told me that his best counsel was that “you cannot spend your life preparing for future losses.” It disrespects the blessings of the here and now.
One of the doctors I have learned about in my quest to improve my health is Daniel Amen. He runs a number of clinics focused on optimizing brain health and decelerating the aging process, among other things, and one of his recommendations is this:
Don’t believe every stupid thought you have.
The brain is noisy, and skews negative. There is no imperative that you must believe every thought that is rattling around up there. Instead, ask yourself, “is it true?” This will help reframe the thought, and re-focus your mind. I have found this helpful and I hope you do too.
I love this video of Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt talking about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories either empower or constrain us.
What is the story I am telling myself about my situation? How do I feel, and behave, when I tell myself this story? If I stopped telling myself this particular story, over and over, what else might I see, hear, or experience?
A visual depiction of your health might be this: a clean, neat chain of DNA pulled taut, a chain that is tugged on and pulled at by all kinds of outside factors during your long life. The chain gets dirty, and stretched thin in places, and that is aging. If however, the chain breaks, you have yourself a disease that can be acute (like a cancer) or chronic (autoimmune, or neurodegenerative) disease. A disease that our allopathic doctors continue to treat with the same tools that may have enabled the disease in the first place.
What broke my chain of health? Was it an intervention like the thyroid my doctors recommended be removed via radioactive isotope? Or a long-term treatment, like the statins I took for years? Was it something more systemic like all the food I have eaten that’s been raised with glyphosate, or meat raised on factory farms with antibiotics and growth hormones? Was it the inflammation caused by too much manufactured “food” and not enough of the fresh nutritious stuff, or by the sugar that was a true addiction for me for most of my life? I have drunk a lot of good wine, used a lot of commercial skin and beauty products, flown a lot of miles exposed to high altitude radiation. I have let stress run my life. I have gone whole years without serious exercise. Any of these stressors could have been the tug that broke my health chain.
My goal in this thing we call retirement is two-fold: first, to learn everything I can about whole health and apply these lessons to myself so that I don’t break my chain of health in another spot, and second, to sound the alarm to those who can hear the bell.
A warm light spills out of the windows; we can hear the band faintly. The tasting room glows in the middle of a snowy field.
As we enter, we are warmly welcomed out of the cold. Our friends see us, wave us over, and my isolation is a little bit healed.
The band covers Chris Stapleton, while I get two glasses of mead from the bar. We catch up on everyone’s Christmas plans and watch the band.
They are beekeepers by day, musicians by night. They play harmonica, bass, and electric guitar, their charisma is catching. The singer is fearless and her voice is grand.
Two older women slowly gather their things and finally depart, and the guitarist calls out, “drive safe Grandma, thanks for coming.” It’s that kind of crowd.
Now the audience is singing, the room is buzzing. Everyone wears jeans and boots, and as far as I know, no one here is my second cousin.
There is magic here but it’s not of the melancholy variety. And I really don’t think it’s related to sobriety.
One last song, enjoying the ambiance. We say goodbye, then we too head out into the clear, cold moonlight.
It’s central Benzie County, on a Saturday night.
(Apologies to Tom Waits)