Big Investments

NOTE: It seems disrespectful if not insensitive to be sending "Alive 'n Well" posts during what could turn into a major war. There are people in Ukraine who are not alive, let alone well. Perhaps the sheer freedom to be contemplating life coaching and self-improvement might seem to mock the struggles of our brothers and sisters in eastern Europe.

Or perhaps it's exactly this kind of positive thinking and publishing that can be a balm for whoever needs a breath, good news or a different perspective from what is on TV right now. And so we blog on!

For sure, many things are out of our control: the weather, stock market, war hawks, decisions by loved ones or strangers, etc. But there are plenty of ways we can INVEST in our future: that is, plan for--and expect to have--a reasonably happy rest-of-our-life. What follows is an editing of the work of Harvard Doctors George E. Vaillant and Kenneth Mukamal from their 2001 research.

Here’s what you can do today to make sure your FUTURE accounts are as full as possible when you reach your later years:

  1. Don’t smoke—or if you already smoke, quit now. You might not succeed on your first try, but the earlier you begin the quitting process, the more smoke-free years you can invest in your account. If you need help, there are free resources available and your insurance might even assist you, too.

  2. Watch your drinking. Alcohol abuse is strongly correlated with smoking in this Harvard study, but plenty of other research shows that even by itself, immoderate drinking is one of the most powerful predictors of winding up sad-sick. If you have any indication of problem drinking in your life, get help now. If you have drinking problems in your family, do not take your chances: keep that switch turned off. Although forgoing alcohol can be difficult, you’ll never be sorry you made this decision.

  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. Find out what your BMI is and adjust your calorie consumption accordingly. Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and moderate serving sizes, but avoid yo-yo diets or intense restrictions that you can’t maintain over the long run. The frustration and disappointment might just make you give up and increase weight.

  4. Prioritize movement in your life by scheduling time for it every day and sticking to it. Arguably the single best, time-tested way to do this is by walking daily. I don't think there is more than one day a year that Alice and I don't get out for our walk, even with an umbrella or triple layers (yes, in Tampa!).

  5. Practice your coping mechanisms now. The earlier you can find healthy ways to deal with life’s inevitable distresses, the more prepared you’ll be if something difficult strikes in your 80s or 90s. This means working consciously—perhaps with assistance from spiritual practices or even therapy—to avoid excessive rumination, unhealthy emotional reactions, or avoidance behavior. Remember that I am a life coach- I'm here to help if/when you want my services.

  6. Keep learning. More education leads to a more active mind in old age, and that means a longer, happier life. That doesn’t mean that you need to go to Harvard; you simply need to engage in lifelong, intentional learning. For example, that can mean reading serious nonfiction as part of a routine to learn more about new subjects. Frequent your library or find out what is trending at your local bookstore.

  7. Do the work to cultivate stable, long-term relationships now- your spouse or partner, for sure but family and friends fit in this category as well. The idea is to find people with whom you can grow, whom you can count on, no matter what comes your way.