I do weird stuff. I spend the first two weeks of each year eating a vegan diet. I buy organic foods, and try not to eat out too much. I ran 5 miles this morning, without being chased. I do Yoga. I don’t turn on the TV in the daytime. (Wouldn’t turn it on at night, but my lover is a TV addict.) I’m learning to do a handstand.
Why do I do all these weird things? Because 6 years ago, I decided that my life was half over, and I’d be living another 45 years, so I wanted it to be a good 45 years. I do it so I’ll be strong, flexible and healthy. I do it because, after I had a stroke, I asked my doctor what to say when everyone told me, “See, you do all that healthy stuff, and you still had a stroke. Why do you do it?” he said, “Tell them the only reason you walked out of the hospital after only 2 days was because you do all that stuff.”
I do it to have a strong, flexible, healthy body, because I’ve seen getting old, and it is not easy. If your body is out of shape already, everything is harder and sometimes more effort than it seems worth. And it’s much more difficult to get it into better shape when you’re older. If you’ve never even worked at being in shape, you may have no idea how to do it, or even that it’s possible for you. Having a strong, well-fueled, active body makes everything you do easier, including staving off maladies thought of as just “part of growing older.”
Even more importantly, I do it to have a strong, flexible, healthy brain. Eating well and being active creates a healthy brain in and of itself, but doing all of these things also creates a brain that knows the difference between challenge, adversity, and impossibility.
When I have aches and pains, instead of believing that it’s just part of getting older, so I need to slow down, my strong brain tells me to investigate what is causing these pains, do something to take care of it, and stay active. When I have insurmountable physical ailments (like a stroke), my flexible brain helps me develop new ways to cope with my world. When I have nagging illness, instead of pumping my body full of drugs that just hide the condition while it continues to get worse, my healthy brain tells me how to take care of myself through examining my recent diet, sleep habits, and other natural ways that I can increase my health and immunity.
It’s rarely too late to start adopting habits that make you a strong, flexible, healthy body and brain. You can always incrementally influence your quality of life. All you need is desire, determination, and the belief that you can have a positive effect on your future, however long that is. We’ve all heard the saying that, on their deathbed, no one says, “I wish I’d spent more time working.” Well, I bet no one has ever said, “I wish I’d eaten more stuff that gave me diarrhea, or made me constipated, or gave me cancer. And I’m glad I didn’t stay active so that the last few years of my life I was confined to a wheelchair. And I’m so glad I kept smoking cigarettes so that I can miss the birth of my first grandchild.”
Three miles into my run this morning, my body said to my mind, “Hey, I’m tired, I want to stop. I don’t think I can do this for two more miles.” And my brain replied, “Yes, you can. I know you can. You did it last week, you’ll do it today and you’ll do it next week. And when you get done, you’ll feel amazing.” And you know what? My strong, flexible, healthy brain was right! And it will continue to question my body about what is possible, and what is likely.
Believe in a healthier life for yourself, my friends, and you can have it!