“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven.”
William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 1 Scene 1
In 1965, a research study began in the Californian urban community of Alameda County. Its aim was to explore the links between lifestyle and longevity, and 7,000 residents were involved. The longitudinal study gave rise to a list of ‘seven health habits’ that were shown to be positively correlated with living longer (see below).
The study found that a 45-year-old man following six or seven of the health habits had a 1-in-2 chance of living to age 78, whereas those following between zero and four habits had an expected mortality age of 67. For 45-year-old females, the difference was around four years less ((Breslow, L. and Enstrom, J.E. “Persistence of health habits and their relationship to mortality.” Preventive Medicine 1980; 9: 469-483).
Here’s the list of seven health habits:
In addition to these seven healthy habits, we recommend reducing caffeine intake (it stimulates the heart and brain and can cause sleep disturbances as well as dehydration – best avoid having any after 12-noon), and getting out into nature regularly (the colour green is associated with calm, and the randomness and unpredictability of the wide outdoors helps our pattern-seeking brain eventually to calm down).
Successful lifestyle changes take time to become habits. Don’t try to change drastically what you are already doing: we are creatures of habit and there is reward to be had from carrying out your habitual behaviours (i.e. comfort from something pleasurable, or reassurance from avoiding something unpleasant). Take it one step at a time and be easy on yourself.
In the next and final post, we’ll look at how you can reframe your challenges and manage anxiety for the long term.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.