Five ways to make the most of the time we have

This is a great week to talk about staying healthy and living as long and as happily as we possibly can. My boyfriend’s birthday is this week! Happy Birthday, Honey!

As we come to the end of the calendar, it’s the time each year when we all feel we have a “reset.” That’s why there are New Year’s Resolutions. Are you resolving to change an unhealthy habit, start a healthy habit, or do more of the good things you were doing this year?

I’ve written before on my views of starting over, visualization, planning, habits, and New Year’s Resolutions. They are all worth re-reading at this time of year (I did). And there was this compilation of good ideas which I may have to re-visit for 2019.

All that has been written about the subject can make it seem easy. Every December we sit on the eve of the New Year and vow to make it better. And more often than not, somewhere between January and March, we fall back on old habits, forget the promises we’ve made to ourselves, or simply believe that there’s plenty of time to get things done. Time however, eventually does run out. And perhaps in accepting that, we can live the long, healthy and happy life we deserve.

It’s hard to live the life I’ve led and live in denial about death. After losing my parents, aunt and uncle and then my husband in eight years, the finality of death was staring me straight on. Face it, we’re all going to die and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Shocking, I know. Although it’s in facing that realization, that we can make the most of the time we have.

Business Insider summarized a comprehensive study of adult development that pointed to six factors that make people live longer and happier lives that have little to do with socio-economic background.

“Things that make people live longer happier lives” , E. Aug. 2018

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol: Duh. 
  • Years of education = good: Education seems to increase good habits (and being surrounded by smart, ambitious people never hurts). 
  • Have a happy childhood: It’s huge. And surrounding yourself later in life with people who love you can help repair a difficult youth. 
  • Relationships are everything: “Happiness is love. Full stop.” 
  • Mature coping skills: Stop projecting and stop being passive-aggressive. Use mature defenses like humor when life gets hard. (Yes, immature humor is still mature coping. You’re welcome.) 
  • Generativity: Build a good life, a well-rounded self and then give back.

Those are the big picture things. I found some of these smaller things noted in this article from Runner’s World are good practice all the time: “30 Ways to Stay Healthy When Cold and Flu Season Is Lurking”  (Millard, E. September 2018)

I’ve come up with my own list of how to live a fulfilling life. I’m not sure that not living a long life should be considered a failure. Some people accomplish a lot in a short amount of time, so maybe fulfillment rather that longevity is a better goal.

  1. Accept mortality. Immortality is simply an unachievable goal no matter how many superpowers you believe you have.
  2. Be grateful. Come at every day thankful for what you *do* have and who you are.
  3. Be mindful and present. I know it’s difficult but stop thinking about all the “what ifs” and bad decisions and bad behaviors that make up the past. Find the lesson and move on. Similarly, stop wasting time today worrying about what’s to come. Today is all we have. Live there. Embrace everything – including the messiness – that today has to offer. And be mindful of how you’re spending that time.
  4. Just do it! Nothing can be accomplished without action. Part of living in today is doing and feeling and loving. Do it! Plan your day and work it.
  5. And if you can’t, get help. There are some days, for many people, when 1 through 4 can be virtually impossible. Depression or anxiety, grief or fear, become paralyzing. Just don’t give up. Reach out. To friends or professionals. No one is ever alone in their experiences. Be courageous in sharing your story. You will find others that have walked that path before you. You are never alone.

And a bonus: celebrate your birthday! Gather all the people that mean something to you  and throw a party, or one special friend and do something that makes your heart sing, or both. Getting older is a gift that should be cherished every year. Don’t hide your age. Be proud of it! A lot went into getting this far.

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Running together. Vernon Hills, Illinois. December 2018.

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