Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘optimal health

Twenty Years

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Six months into 2019, I will reach another decade milestone of birthdays. It will mark the entrance to my fourth life span, as measured by my twenty-year segments of life. My perspective goes like this: From birth to age twenty, it seems like a mind-boggling amount life experiences.

We know almost nothing when born, basically starting with little in the way of consciousness, then progressing to a fully functioning adult –give or take a few/some/many skills; individual results obviously vary. Using those first twenty years of life as a benchmark, the changes in the next twenty years aren’t so dramatic.

But here’s the key: It is still the same span of time in number of years.

If it felt like a lifetime of experiences to get to twenty-years-old, then use that same reference to view life from twenty to forty. Don’t devalue that second span of twenty years just because of how much you already knew when it started.

Same thing again when reaching sixty. You have lived from zero to twenty, three times by sixty years old.

Young people may naturally perceive small differences between people in their sixties or eighties. But considering it from the twenty-year reference, that difference is another lifetime.

Last fall, my health insurance provider mailed me a notice that it was time for my annual physical. You know, that annual physical that I get around to every four years or so. As the calendar rolled over to the new year, the one where I will turn sixty, I felt motivated to make the appointment.

Now that I’ve survived that nuisance cold I picked up over the holidays, I’m in great condition for a well-health check. Problem is, I don’t want to bring up any symptoms of aging for fear the doctor will want to sell me a battalion of pharmacological solutions.

Among nuisance details like age spots on my skin, and declining testosterone induced nose/ear/eyebrow hair growth, I’m recognizing new and increasing signs that my oft-sprained ankle from years of sporting activity is sending very arthritic aching signals lately.

The ankle pangs provide a compliment to the arthritic thumb pain that my hand doctor discouraged me surgically treating when I sought advice on it after the family trait showed up in my left hand about a decade ago.

Being uninterested in long-term prescription treatments, I would like to delay a standard routine of osteoarthritis pain medicines as long as possible.

I’ll focus my next twenty-year life span toward optimal hydration, controlled sugar intake, healthy meals (portion control!), regular planking and stretching, clean air, positive mental focus, regular dental checkups/eye exams, interacting with our animals, and sending love to everyone, in attempt to manage the ravages of time.

Who knows? Maybe in another twenty years, they will have perfected the art of genetically re-engineering epigenetic changes or senescent cell management, and aging will be a thing of the past.

Twenty years seems like a lifetime of experience, though, doesn’t it?

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Increasing Love

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It’s simple. Last night I scanned the headlines of my news feed and didn’t find anything other than gloom and doom. Shortly after that, I happened upon the PBS Frontline episode, “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis.”

It was unsettling, to say the least.

There is only one response I can muster. Love, and more of it.

A lot more of it.

Please join me in growing more love. New love. Feel love. Conjure it in your mind from your heart and your soul.

Send it out to every corner of your world and beyond.

Love one another. Love your neighbors. Love your enemies. Love those who are so damaged they only feed on hate.

Send love to leaders who provoke and promote hatred in all its forms.

We have the power to generate unlimited amounts of love. Don’t take that for granted, and for the good of the human race, don’t for a minute neglect this most precious of resources.

Grow your love and throw your love out into the world with reckless abandon and laser-like focus.

All we need is love. Love is all we need.

And as an added bonus, a loving hug is icing on the cake.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2018 at 7:00 am

Other Examples

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As long as I’m on the subject of sticktoitiveness, there are two other examples in my life that have slowly rewarded me for staying the course day after day, in one case, for years.

When I finally took action to address an addiction to sugar which manifested in cravings that controlled my decisions, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I had previously experimented with simply cutting out desserts and cookies or candy treats for a random period of weeks, just to see if I could, but I neglected to account for the amount of sugar I was getting from other sources.

My cravings for breads and cereals would ramp up to impressive levels, and I would allow myself those compromises.

After learning more about where I was getting most of the sugar in my diet, and discovering the actual measurement of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization for percentage of daily calories, I set out to control it by watching the numbers.

That made a big difference. First of all, it showed me how physically addicted my body, and mind, had become. I experienced withdrawal symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tremors, not because I cut out sugar completely, but simply by strictly limiting the amount of sugar in the food I was eating.

It has taken me years at the rate I am working it (because I waver with my level of strictness), but self-control slowly improved to a point where it hardly takes mental energy to employ anymore. Most importantly, I am not just doing this for a period of weeks. This is forever. I always measure how much cereal I eat, and I always check serving size information to figure out how much sugar there is.

A more recent adventure in every day tenacity that I am watching produce slow results is, my daily planking exercises. When I started back in the last week of March, I decided to see what results I might achieve if I did the exercises my physical therapist recommended for the entire month of April. These were focused on strengthening my core to treat the painful symptoms of degenerating discs.

It is really helpful to not be constrained by debilitating pain when doing daily chores to care for our animals.

Thirty consecutive days of planking in April established enough of a pattern that I found it easy enough to keep going through May. Then two months became four, and in a blink, I’ve made it eight months of pretty regular planking. In that time I have slowly gained enough strength that I have modified my methods to match.

The current plank that is my primary exercise is four minutes long, starting with a minute and a half of a basic horizontal planking, then 45 seconds of lifting an opposite arm and leg for a two-point plank, 45 more seconds with the other arm and leg, and then finishing with a final minute of the basic plank again.

There are other leg exercises and some yoga stretches that get mixed in after the planking, depending on how much time I have to spend, but the planking is key.

Between these two daily efforts of healthy controlled-sugar diet and regular exercise, practiced over months and years, my physical health is in better shape than most of my previous adult life.

That is providing plenty of incentive for me to stick to this indefinitely.

Maybe the fact that these steps are not a quick fix, makes the positive results that much more satisfying. It definitely provides a welcome bonus of boosting my mental health, as well.

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Think Sticktoitiveness

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Stick-to-it-iveness.

If there is one simple key to self-improvement that could serve us well no matter what aspect of our lives we wish to address, I would select —whatever action toward better health you choose: repeat it every day.

Repeat it every day. Don’t stop. If you miss a day, don’t give up. Pick up the next day and the day after that. For a week. Then a month. Six months. A year. No reason to stop now. Keep doing that healthy thing every single day.

Look at the inverse. What do humans do that make themselves suffer negative consequences?

Smoke cigarettes? They smoke every day.

Eat poorly? Day after day.

Not get enough exercise? Harbor negative thoughts and feelings? Don’t get enough sleep? Neglect friends and family? Neglect themselves!

Most of the afflictions we heap upon ourselves grow into problems because of unhealthy choices enacted repeatedly, day after day, over an extended period of time. It’s illogical to think an easy remedy would erase the results in a fraction of the time it took to travel a great distance away from good health.

Turn around. Go the other way. Take a step toward optimal health and then do it again the next day. And then three hundred sixty-five more days after that.

Because. Progress accumulates.

I took the first steps to interrupt my slowly intensifying depression in 1993. As can happen in many situations, things got a little worse after the initial diagnosis and early treatments, but eventually progress settled in and incremental improvement began to develop. Slowly.

Sometimes, in waves. I can almost measure progress by decades. This year, I am noticing new levels of relief that reveal I am continuing to improve, even decades removed from the day doctors released me from medication and therapy treatments. A year ago, I didn’t notice that my mental health was anything less than prime.

It is only by experiencing this unprecedented level of healthy mindset lately that I’ve gained a sense that it wasn’t as good as this before.

Every day, I do something that helps. I also DON’T do things that harm. I don’t do negative self-talk like I used to. I make an effort every day to not do that. I do get exercise, I eat healthy, I smile, I pay better attention to energy, I send love, I sleep well, I write a daily blog. Doing these things regularly and over time, continues to provide accumulating improvements to my mental health.

This year, I am noticing improvements that weren’t so apparent last year.

It really does pay to stick to it.

I invite you to stop doing something today that isn’t healthy for you in the long-term. Replace that with one thing that is healthy that you can do every day. Do it for more days than you ever thought possible. Then do it for a few more years after that.

Here’s to the ongoing journey toward optimal health.

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It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Improvement Movement

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In my grand scheme of a continuous improvement movement toward optimal health, I have recently added new attention to not cleaning my plate. It’s an old habit, but eating everything served has long contributed to my consuming more food than my body needs at a sitting. I’ve decided to take another crack at altering that pattern.

It’s a project I tried off and on in the past, just like my attempts to stop snacking directly out of the bag, or trying to get a full 8-hours of sleep a night. I have not accomplished everything I set out to achieve.

I’m hoping to springboard on the success I have been experiencing with my daily regimen of planking and stretching exercises.

Actually, it parallels well with my recent decluttering effort. The latest accomplishments have inspired me to keep going to the next level of clutter out in the shop.

My planking success –started about 6-months ago and still making daily progress, well beyond the initial 30-days-in-a-row goal– seems to be inspiring me to take the next step toward better (and consistent) attention to portion size.

This whole portion control thing rides on top of my earlier focus to kick a sugar addiction and rein in the percentage of my daily sugar consumption in my diet.

Last night, I took a moment to calculate the number of grams of sugar in a serving of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Coconut Almonds that Cyndie brought home as a treat on our anniversary. It’s the coconut that sends these over the top. It calls out to me every time I walk past them.

Sixteen grams in a 1/3rd cup serving, which is a little under 1-gram per coated almond.

I have tried to satisfy myself with eating just 2 or 3 almonds at a time, but then the challenge I face is to honestly track how many little visits to the well I make in a day.

Craving is a powerful thing.

I’m happy that I have developed a bit of a craving to do my daily planking routine, and I struggle with the craving to sleep that washes over me at times of the day when I can’t.

Now, if I could just get myself to crave small portions of really delicious large servings of food on a plate in front of me, I’ll really be getting somewhere.

Here’s to continuous movement toward optimal health, one step at a time. Mind, body, and spirit.

Join me, won’t you?

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Karmic Humility

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Today is Friday, so I was able to sleep in because I don’t commute to the day-job on Fridays. The final minutes of my slumber this morning were filled with a dream about our cattle.

We don’t have any cattle.

Made me think of the saying, “all hat, no cattle.”

I would have said I was dreaming about cows, but after the great escape and tromping of our property by our neighbor’s bovine ten earlier this summer, we learned he didn’t have cows. His herd was all steers, so the term to use was, cattle.

I’m thinking my mind was dreaming of cattle to distract me from what is stabbing me in the back during my waking hours these last two days: degenerating discs again.

In a twist of karmic humility, instead of boasting about the progress of five consecutive months of daily plank exercises, I find myself focused on a debilitating flare up of stabbing back pains. The precious positive thread woven into this tale is the noticeable difference in level of disruption this time. I truly believe it is the result of the strength built up in my core from my string of consecutive days of planking.

When my series of painful back injuries were diagnosed as degenerating disc disease years ago, I was given a regimen of recommended exercises to treat the symptoms. The easiest was to walk a half an hour a day. Stretching and plank exercises were also advised. 

I was all about the walking, but the exercises weren’t activities that I easily maintained.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t my degenerating discs that inspired my decision to finally get serious about planking. It was more about vanity. I was unhappy that none of my healthy efforts ever seemed to put a dent in the paunch and love handles that graced my midsection.

Cutting the amount of sugar in my daily diet had gone a long way to trim out my overall plumpness, but that classic paunch persisted.

I also credit the annual Tour of Minnesota bike trip for inspiring me to plank. Knowing I was at a risk of not having enough opportunities to bike in preparation for the mid-June trip, I decided to try planking every day in April to at least build up my core strength.

My butt might not be ready for the trip, but the rest of me would be resilient and strong. Knowing that planking was also advised to ward off back problems did help maintain my motivation at the time. Who wants to bike all day and sleep on the ground at night with an ailing back?

So, I succeeded in planking all through April, twice a day, in fact. It’s said that doing something for 30 consecutive days goes a long way to creating a habit. I planked through May, June –taking a week off during the bike ride– and have continued pretty much every day since.

Sometimes I miss an occasional day, or skip a morning or night, but the habit has been established, and the developing results are noticeable. The paunch and love handles are losing ground. As the planking has gotten easier with accumulated strength, my routine has expanded to longer duration, two-point planks, side planks, and more yoga stretching.

This morning, the routine is greatly modified to accommodate a recently unhappy, worn out disc.

Consider me duly humbled.

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2018 at 7:53 am