If we assume we will inhabit planet Earth for an average of 80 years that equates to a little over 29,000 days. I still remember how I felt when I first heard this on The Winning Edge programme (gobsmacked), especially when I realised that almost half of my 29,000 days had ‘gone’ (freaked out).
Fast forward to 2019 and well past the other side of the half way mark, the question that is most important to me now is not ‘how long am I going to live?’ but ‘how well am I going to live?’. My chronological age is much less important to me nowadays than my biological age (how alive and well I feel) and the quality of my life, or how I choose to spend my time. As the Winning Edge Programme informs us, ‘the quality of your life is a direct result of the quality of your thinking’, so I know if I want a better quality of life, I need to get my noggin on straight and take charge of driving my own bus. Simple, but not always easy.
What motivates me to put the effort in to making the kind of choices and decisions that will help me live a good life – and stay healthy to live it fully, is knowing that negative stress can not only limit my enjoyment of life, it can shorten it. Simply explained, in each of our cells we have 46 strands of DNA coiled into chromosomes. At the tip of each chromosome there is a tiny cap called a telomere, which keeps our DNA from unravelling and fraying. (Imagine the plastic tip on the end of a shoelace). Telomeres are considered our life “fuse” and shorten as we age. When our cells divide, for example, due to chronic disease, a bit of the cap is lost. When they are completely gone so are we.
Stress can increase the rate at which the fuses ‘burn’. Our biological age can be years shorter than our chronological age, especially if we are habitually in the fight-or-flight response, drowning in cortisol, which will impact the extent to which we are able to fully engage in life.
Over the years, and with the help of principles from The Winning Edge programme, I have learned to recognise when I have a ‘short fuse’ and be more conscious about how I am managing my emotional responses to other people and situations in which I find myself. I have learned there are certain self-destructive behavioural patterns and traits that can literally bring on dis-ease, for example, being a workaholic, supporting others’ needs while ignoring our own (“people-pleaser”), suppressing or habitually denying negative emotions (e.g. fear, sadness, anxiety), raging to express anger or frustration, social isolation, avoiding asking for help, not setting boundaries, not being assertive.
Being armed with strategies for managing my mindset has helped me to have a different relationship with stress, one that protects rather than destroys my health and hopefully rewards me with more joy-ful days. Acknowledging that my life is what I choose to make it has encouraged me to be more deliberate in my thinking and conscious in my decision-making. Simple, but not easy.
A life-threatening health condition six years ago triggered an interest in how to use food as medicine, in particular to reduce stress in the body and slow cellular ageing. Studies show that alongside a healthy lifestyle, a diet rich in whole plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, balanced carbohydrates and omega 3 fats is associated with longer, protective telomeres, as cells need nutrients to communicate. In contrast, refined grains, sodas, meat, dairy and processed foods have been linked to shortened telomeres. So, it seems we can eat, as well as think, our way to a longer, well-lived life. Simple, but not easy. I’m a work in progress, much like many others, but the opportunity to live long and prosper seems well worth the effort.
By Hazel Morley
About the Author: Hazel has worked as a Trainer, Facilitator and Coach for over 25 years, a number of which were spent as an Associate for Mancroft International. She believes in an inside-out approach to personal development and change and thrives on helping others who are ready to exercise their response-ability for being the best version of themselves. Her mantra is ‘always do what you think you might regret not doing’.
Hazel transformed her lifestyle in 2009, when she relocated to beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She gives credit to the Winning Edge principles for the nudge to move to the mountains. Since living in Canada, Hazel has expanded her portfolio of enabling others to achieve their career goals to include ways to create optimal health and live with vitality. She is fascinated by the power of the mind-body-lifestyle connection and the body’s innate ability to protect and heal us from disease.