Well-Being – Overview
The term “Well-being” has been used more and more in recent years; yet how it is best defined remains unclear. Many attempts at expressing its nature have focused purely on aspects of well-being, rather than on its broad definition.
An extensive study by the “international journal of well-being” concluded that it would best be defined as “a state of equilibrium or balance that can be affected by life events or challenges.
The list below contains some of the key elements of well-being for older people:
- Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- Improve your Close Relationships
- Personal Development
- Spiritual growth,
- Meditation and relaxation,
- Sleeping well as you age,
- Hobbies and interests
I have provided an overview of each of these topics below.
Research has now proven conclusively that in addition to our physical health, our overall state of well-being is equally important to aging healthily and attaining a longer healthier life.
The importance to health of “lifestyle factors” is well documented, but what is less understood is that our thought processes and how we view the world and our place in it can also have a significant impact on our longevity. For example, optimists, who tend to expect more positive outcomes and interpret their life situations in ways that are more uplifting, have been found to live longer, recover faster from surgery, have lower mortality from cancer, and fewer chronic illnesses than pessimists.
Having a supportive social network is also predictive of lower mortality, faster recovery from heart attacks and a lower incidence of age related diseases. Chronic loneliness, like stress, may trigger inflammatory and hormonal changes that promote disease and reduced longevity.
Stress, anxiety and depression
Your body responds to events that cause stress and anxiety by activating your nervous system and specific hormones to speed up your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism. These physical changes prepare you to handle an immediate threat or danger. This natural reaction is known as the stress response. Once the immediate danger has passed, the body automatically switches off the hormones that create this response and the body returns to its normal state.
Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time, so that the nervous system does not have a chance to activate it’s “off switch”. As a result the body remains in a constant state of arousal. We were designed to handle short term stress, but not this chronic (ongoing) stress, which has unfortunately become common in our modern society and lifestyle.
This ongoing chronic stress can wear down our bodies, causing us to become ill, either physically or emotionally. This has become so serious that it has been estimated that up to 90% of doctor’s visits are for stress related conditions.
Improve your close relationships
Research has shown that in general, older people who have healthy intimate relationships, strong family ties and close friends, live longer and are healthier and happier life than those who don’t; that the more you stay connected, the longer you will live.
A happy and intimate relationship with your beloved is a truly wonderful gift, and will promote a long and healthy life. But if your relationship is not happy, it may be better in the long run for both you and your partner to consider addressing the situation. You will know if this may apply to you; as with everything else in life, you are never too old to change.
Close friendships also contribute significantly to your well being. But as you grow older, you need to become very discerning about the people you choose to maintain close relationships with. Numerous studies on social behaviour have confirmed that on average you tend to become the average of the five people you hang out with the most.
So who you spend time with, and their mindset and attitude to aging will tend to determine your own mindset, state of health and longevity. There will almost certainly be some amongst your social groups and even family members with a negative or pessimistic attitude, and if you spend too much time with them they will gradually undermine your own state of mind. Chances are, you know exactly who those people are, so if you feel you are being dragged down, or in an environment where making healthy lifestyle changes is resisted or even ridiculed by those around you, take steps to move away from those negative influences as quickly as possible.
The good news is that if you associate with positive, health-conscious people, their traits tend to rub off on you and stimulate your own wellbeing.
If you have read my article on “Future Life Expectancy and the Longevity Revolution” you would be aware that the rate of positive change already happening in biotechnology and medical science is expected to significantly increase life expectancy in developed countries over the next 10 years.
So if that becomes a reality, the most significant change, assuming we retired at 60-65 and lived the projected average 100 years, is that we would have 30 to 35 years of potentially active and productive life ahead of us. Now that’s a long time and what a fantastic opportunity for you to do something completely different. Maybe something you have always been interested in, but have to some extent neglected in your busy working life? Maybe if, like me, you were in accounting and finance, you might decide to go back to college and retrain for something in the health and well being field; a totally different field in which you could make a real difference in the lives of other people.
Whatever you decide to do, you will undoubtedly need to learn new skills, so personal growth and self development will almost certainly become a key consideration for you. Many men over 50 are going back to college to learn completely new skills, to update their own existing skills or to learn additional skills that they will require, for instance, to run their own businesses.
Maybe you have particular skills, knowledge, talents and experience which would enable you to work for yourself? This will probably require you to learn new skills, not only in the niche you choose but also to learn the skills involved in running a business of your own.
But whatever you decide to do, the great news is that in this new era “Retiring” is not the end, it’s actually a new beginning, and what you make of that new beginning is completely, 100% in your hands. I think that exciting, don’t you?
As you now have a real prospect of living longer, will your savings be enough? That’s a consideration, but I believe the overriding issue for men is that we need a real sense of purpose to maintain our passion for life, our sense of identity and meaning. See my article “Why you need a purpose in life”. So working, in some form, is a way we can maintain our sense of purpose and our passion for life, as well as keeping additional income flowing in. The good news is that the internet revolution means we now have many more options available to choose from. The internet has increased our potential market size exponentially; it has given us the means to communicate and do business directly with the 34% of the world’s 7 million people that use the internet.
But personal growth is more than learning new work skills. As we age and gain more life experience and wisdom, we also tend to become more aware of and interested in our overall well being, in growing our spiritual understanding, acquiring meditation and relaxation skills. Personal growth is also about becoming more compassionate and developing a strong desire to give; to help other people in any way we can. I believe that all of the above are elements of what is perhaps one of the most important reasons we are here on this human journey; the recognition that all human beings are equal and at the deepest level all the same.
Ok, this is tricky territory. Many people have long held beliefs about religion and spirituality and are not open to debating them.
Paraphrasing Wikipedia: Spirituality has emerged as a distinct social construct since the 1980s. With the emergence of spirituality as a distinct concept from religion, a tension has arisen between the two constructs. One interpretation of this differentiation is to view religion as primarily a social phenomenon while understanding spirituality is on a more individual level.
A study of the differences between those self-identified as spiritual and those self-identified as religious found that the former have a loving, forgiving, and nonjudgmental view of the numinous (i.e. the indication or suggestion of the presence of a divinity), while those identifying themselves as religious see their god as more judgmental. The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed.
I have been interested in “spirituality” for many years and have read many books on the subject and I have also tried to get an understanding of the basic tenets of the world’s most followed religions. My simplistic view is that followers of religions, Buddhism excepted, believe in a Divinity or Divine Being, and that the rules that humanity has attributed to each Divinity must be followed or face the consequences; whereas people that would consider themselves to be spiritual, generally believe that there is a Universal Force, or Mind that created the Universe and that all life is basically part of that force. This being so, as we are all part of that force, any form of retribution would be pointless. In other words, religion sees the Divinity as external to our bodies, whereas spirituality sees it as within every living thing.
That said, it seems to me that having religious faith and being part of a religious social community can have a very positive impact on a person’s well being.
Why Meditation is Important for Good Health and Well-Being
Meditation is a practice which will help you to have a more disciplined mind. There are many different techniques, but the core aim of most of them is the same: to go within, to create awareness of what is going on in your mind and to take control: to stop the constant chatter that goes on in your head and to just “be” to experience an awareness of the present moment; what world famous author Eckhart Tolle in his book of the same name has called “The Power of Now”
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as an element of most religious traditions and cultures all over the world, and recorded evidence confirms that it has been in existence for at least 4,600 years, probably longer.
Most practices we call meditation are designed to help the practitioner (i.e. you if you are doing it) to develop concentration, clarity, and a calm awareness of the true nature of the mind; and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being.
There are various techniques that the numerous practices use to focus your attention. It can be as simple as just looking at a flower, without naming it – just seeing it for what it is, it could be watching the flame of a candle, listening to a sound, repeating a mantra or observing your breath. All of these are designed to settle your mind, to focus on one thing and to stop the constant chatter of your mind.
There are also many proven health benefits that have been attributed to meditation. It reduces stress, which stabilises blood pressure, slows your heart rate and improves your immune function; these and other benefits will result in a longer, healthier life with improved focus and concentration and harmonious relationships.
I have practiced a number of different techniques myself for many years and I believe that this has had a very positive impact in my own life and helped me to successfully tackle a number of my life challenges and achieve positive outcomes.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate and one size definitely does not fit all. I suggest trying a number of different techniques to see which one nest suits you. Read more about meditation here
Sleeping well as you age
Sleep deprivation has been shown to contribute to many of the diseases associated with aging, and can definitely accelerate your aging process. Without enough quality sleep your brain function declines and your brain ages faster. The average person needs seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night. If you’re sick or experiencing excessive stress you may need more sleep.
In researching sleep for this overview article, I have come across some really interesting information, and I will write a more in depth article just on “the importance of sleep” soon. I have taken much of this introduction from a website I found – “sleepwarrior.com” and an eBook they have published called “40 Sleep Hacks -The geek’s guide to optimizing sleep.” In case this subject is of particular interest for you or someone you know, I have provided links to this website and to download the ebook free of charge at the end of this article.
I have included a few of the tips that particularly caught my eye here:-
Keep wake-up times consistent and sleep quality will improve dramatically, giving you more energy and decreased sleep need. Eat light in the evening.
One of the greatest expenditures of energy in the body is from digestion of food. Large amounts of blood flow are directed toward the digestive system after a big meal. This means less blood flow, thus less energy, available for the brain. Low blood flow in the brain during sleep means poor sleep quality, since the brain conducts all sleep processes.
Drink caffeine in the morning, not in the evening. Caffeine in the system reduces the amount of deep sleep that occurs at night.
Master the art of napping. We’re neurologically wired for the afternoon nap. The “afternoon dip” occurs between the 6th and 8th hour after waking up – that’s 1pm-3pm if you rise at 7am (sound familiar?). But there’s no hard and fast rule on when you should nap; listen to your body.
Sleep in the cold. Cool temperature will give you higher quality sleep. Keep the room as cool as possible without making it uncomfortably cold; too cold and you’ll wake up in the middle of the night.
Maintain a positive attitude to life. One study compared short sleepers to long sleepers. The study found that “The short-sleepers tended to be efficient, energetic, and ambitious…The long-sleepers, as a group, showed more doubts about their career choices and life situations.” A positive attitude toward life appears to improve sleep quality and reduce sleep need.
Hobbies and interests
We can also maintain our sense of purpose by taking our lifelong hobbies and interests to a new level. Many of us will have neglected these interests, which for some of us will be the thing we are most passionate about in our life. Perhaps we could take them to a whole new level by creating our own web based business devoted to those interests; what a great life, doing what you love, sharing your knowledge with a worldwide audience and getting paid for it. Hard to believe?, well it’s a fact, and thousands of people are doing it around the world, using the new communication channel the internet has created.
The reality is that if you are passionate about anything, you have knowledge that thousands of people all over the world would be interested in, and almost certainly be prepared to pay to get. It’s amazing what people are making a fortune doing on the internet. Don’t be afraid, just have a go, it’s really not that hard and even if you don’t make much money you will have some fun doing something you love. It may take a while but if you are really passionate and patient, chances are it will happen for you.
If you have not already done so, you can download your personal copy of my new Free Special Report “How to Design a Long, Healthy and Wealthy Retirement Life” Click Here For Instant Access. This report explains what you need to know to design your very own long, healthy and wealthy Retirement Life.
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Resources for sleeping well as you age www.sleepwarrior.com is the website and the eBook they have published called “40 Sleep Hacks -The geek’s guide to optimizing sleep.” is www.sleepwarrior.com/sleep-hacks-ebook