As we start another year, it’s always good to strive for certain goals for better, healthier and more fulfilled lives—physically, mentally and spiritually.
There are three basic goals, which are actually timeless, and which we should try to achieve at any point in our lives. They may look too simple that we generally take them for granted. But unless we make a conscious effort to achieve them, we’ll never get to reap their benefits.
Healthy lifestyle practices
Even if we’re already seniors or nearing the sunset years, it’s never too late to develop healthy lifestyle habits. Some elderly patients who are smokers tell me, “Just prescribe me medicines and let me go on with my smoking. I’m quite old already and it probably won’t help anymore even if I quit.”
Such a belief is incorrect. It’s never too late to quit smoking. The “quitter” will immediately feel the benefits with clearer airways, less coughing and less phlegm in the throat upon waking up. His or her quality of life will improve, and the people around him will be most grateful.
The spouse of a chain smoker used to have frequent coughs and colds. I told her it might be because of the husband’s heavy smoking. “But he smokes only outside the house,” she argued. Nicotine and other harmful elements of tobacco can adhere to one’s clothing and mix with the smoker’s saliva. It may still be considered indirect secondhand smoking.
From time to time we encounter wives developing lung cancer though they never smoked. The common denominator is that they had husbands who were heavy smokers.
Starting to exercise after being a couch potato is another ideal lifestyle change one can adapt. It may be hard at first, but as soon as you start, even with just light exercises, and persists, it becomes a habit.
Some behavioral scientists say that once you consistently do something daily for three weeks, it becomes a habit, and maintaining it won’t be a big challenge anymore.
Same thing goes for healthy eating. If you are overweight or obese, losing just 10 percent of your weight can have a tremendous impact.
Some get overwhelmed with the excess poundage, which may be more than 50 percent of one’s ideal weight. Aiming for an ideal weight in several months is frustrating.
It’s better to do it one step at a time, and losing 10 percent of your weight is a good initial goal.
For many, doing away with too much carbs in the diet, including soda and sugary drinks, will help lose the first 10 percent of one’s weight.
Everyone knows what a positive mind-set can do, but only a few really strive hard to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
It is said that our mind is like a garden. A garden grows weeds if nothing is planted in it and if the gardener does not do anything about it.
Same thing with our mind—it harbors negative thoughts such as fear, anger, envy, hopelessness, despair.
We should be like the good gardener who regularly pulls out weeds (negative thoughts), cultivates the soil (our mind) and plants the seeds of flowery and fruit-bearing plants and trees (positive thoughts). These “seeds” consist of positive thoughts and feelings such as love, compassion, forgiveness, ideals, generosity, good wishes for others, realistic ambitions and aspirations.
Like the gardener who takes care of his garden every day, we should fill our minds with positive thoughts and feelings daily by positive affirmations. We should praise ourselves for every small victory or accomplishment we achieve.
Unfortunately, many of us are our own worst critics. We should never use such expressions as “how stupid of me” or “I never get things right” whenever we commit a mistake. If we keep on saying these, our mind believes them and behaves accordingly.
Parents and teachers don’t realize the impact of these negative, careless remarks on children or students. Calling them stupid or idiots if they don’t do their tasks right can easily convince their gullible minds that they’re indeed stupid.
It’s always sad whenever we encounter elderly patients on their death beds, whose children abroad or those in the country don’t bother to visit them. These patients regret not having had enough time to spend with their family.
I have yet to hear a dying patient say that he wishes he had spent more time at work, or had more businesses, or gained more titles of distinction.
This is something we frequently overlook when we’re still strong. We spend long hours at work, missing important occasions at home, and not having enough bonding time with family and friends.
A long-term study in Harvard, ongoing for more than 75 years now, has been tracking the lives of several thousand adults and their offspring. The objective of the study is to find out the dominant factors that determine one’s longevity.
Of course, one’s health condition, including one’s blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, lifestyle habits all contribute to a longer, healthier life. What surprised the researchers was that these were not the most dominant factors determining life span. The No. 1 factor was the quality of one’s relationships.
Those who had strong, healthy relationships with family and friends, and maintained an active social life outlived everyone else.
And when we speak of relationships, none is more important than our relationship with God. It doesn’t necessarily equate to being religious in the literal sense. A strong personal relationship with God goes beyond simply going to church and participating in church activities. I think it can be seen more in one’s way of life.
I’ve also seen countless times that those who have a healthy spiritual life are the least stressed individuals I’ve ever met. They surrender their lives to God, and remain confident that, come what may, God will always be there to lift them up from dangers, miseries and failures. So, they have nothing to worry at all.
Here’s wishing everyone a blessed, peaceful and truly abundant new year.