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8 healthy habits to help you live longer

Last updated on: October 02, 2013 15:38 IST

8 healthy habits to help you live longer

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Shameem Akhtar

These habits assure a healthier life and being.

Today there is a lot more concern and interest in revamping our existing lifestyles, and to introduce changes, that will make us live a healthier life. The flood of information in this field is powered by multi-million dollar business of health fads. The volume of information that we receive is so overwhelming we are often not sure if what we do today may be overtaken by a better fad.

Or maybe we will find out that what we were told was right, was actually very wrong. The flush of information, instead of clarifying our thinking, actually makes us confused.

But healthy living may be very simple. It may even mean just going back to our roots, the way our grandparents lived, just a few generations ago.

Shameem Akthar offers you eight assured ways towards a healthier life.

1. Wake up with the sun

To wake up early could mean a big difference between feeling sluggish or upbeat. The pineal gland is associated with our sleep patterns; the hormone it releases, melatonin is what affects our sleep. The gland's activity is strongly linked to the presence of sunlight. So, though we may have psychological reasons for not wanting to wake up early, if we rise up with the sun we actually set our biological clocks so things move smoothly inside us and all our systems work in tandem instead of in confused chaos, as happens when the movement of the clock hands are haywire.

Also, the melatonin or growth hormone is linked with aging, and some time, later on, you will find that the habit of waking up early, and having your biological clock in order, could mean a big difference in how you age inside. Waking up early also means your elimination system works on time.

According to the biological clock, elimination time is before 10 am. If your excretory system has thrown out the body's wastes before this time, it will make you feel lighter and more energetic. If the wastes are allowed to stay in the colon longer, the water from it will get reabsorbed back into the body before it gets eliminated.

On a long term basis, this is simply slow poisoning of your system.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, leads you through five simple yogic practices that are pain-relievers.


Photographs: Stringer Thailand/Reuters

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2. Physical exercise

Some physical activity, that is oriented towards keeping you healthy, is important. Many people whose jobs involve physical activity believe that their jobs are enough as exercise and they spend the other part of their day resting. Actually, even in such case, you must have an activity where the body is used joyously -- as in a game, or some exercise, or social activity, such as dancing. The message of joy in movement seems very vital in keeping one healthy. Also, even if your job involves physical activity, you must ensure that your fun activity helps relieve the body of aches it accumulates during the day.

For instance, if you are a surgeon, or a make-up artist, or computer profession, or a chef, there is more pressure on the neck and upper back. So, the activity you engage in later must help relieve it, instead of adding to it. For instance, yoga would be a better outlet.

Joy in movement is also a celebration of life. It is believed that a sedentary lifestyle can cause as much harm as smoking! And is one of the causes behind heart problems and high blood pressure.


Photographs: Danish Ishmail/Reuters
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3. Sleep early

Sleeping early has the same benefit as waking up early. It sets your biological clock around which the rest of your body systems are geared to function efficiently. Again,there is the link between the pineal gland, your sleep patterns, and the rest of your body. Sleeping early and memory retention have also been linked.

But equally interestingly, how you look may well depend on how early you sleep. Cosmetic companies have discovered that 8 to 11 pm is the time when the body hydrates. So, if you wish to look younger, going to bed early may do the trick. After all, looking younger is a good sign to how healthy you are, as you age.


Photographs: Mark J. Sebastian/Creative Commons
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4. Early dinner

Is one of the golden rules towards living longer. It adds up, that to wake up early, you need to sleep early. And for the latter, obviously you need to eat your dinner early since you also need to factor in a gap between the meal time and your bed time. There has to be a gap of two hours or so, after you eat and your bed time. If you sleep as soon as you eat, as many late-sleepers do, the food will just rest in your digestive system, which has wound down.

And we all know what happens to food that is allowed to "sit" for long -- it will begin to rot. Having things rotting in your gut is not just toxic, but affects all the other systems as well -- because we are, ultimately, only what we eat.

The ideal dinner time? According to traditional rules on eating, it is between 6 to 8 pm.


Photographs: A still from Ghanchakkar
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5. Eat light

Hundreds of researches have claimed this: that the less we eat, the longer we live. Some researches have studied traditional cultural habits where eating less is advocated; and it is found that not only do sparse eaters live longer, they also live very well. The reason is not so difficult to understand: our digestive tract is around 32 feet long. It has several departments engaged with several duties related to the food we eat -- from mastication, digestion, assimilation.

Constantly stuffing the system, under the fond hope that we are helping it,actually strains it. Traditional cultures knew of this, which is why they introduced the idea of regular fasting, to allow this overworked system to rest. To eat less means less work for the system, which will be more efficiently able to aborb the food.

Eating sparsely can make you feel lighter, help you think with more clarity and, as they say, help you live longer and healthier lives.



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6. Engage the mind

Several celebrated and well-known researches with groups and communities that live longer have found that apart from the overall quaility of food, the determining factor was that these communities found itself occupied with meaningful and challenging tasks that engaged the mind. Helping the less fortunate, playing mind or word games, reading books, learning new skills continuously and throughout our lives helps us live longer and with a spry mind.

It could mean something as simple as cracking the word puzzle in your newspaper, or getting a daily high from solving the crossword. Learning new languages or skills such as dancing could mean that extra mile walked with pleasure, in the journey of your life.


Photographs: Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters
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7. Have a social life

That includes all age groups. Living in isolation, amongst only people of your age group, could lead to depression. Just a few generation ago, that is not how societies lived: all age groups had a social role to play in the group's overall health. Large sprawling families invested and invited contribution in terms of skill, experiences and creative input from different age groups. This kept the engagement of the whole group lively. These days, the older you grow, the less relevant you are made to feel.

Avoid getting sucked up in that trap, and find opportunities and spaces where you can mix with people from different walks of life. You could contribute to help in local communities, work with NGOs, offer your skills in institutes, to ensure you are interacting in a lively fashion. A lively social life is seen as very important to the sense of self-worth. And this could be more important than the food you eat!


Photographs: A still from the film Easy A
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8. Keep abreast of the latest news and technologies

One way to avoid feeling irrelevant, and upbeat and healthy, is to keep abreast of news and innovations. This may not seem to have anything to do with a healthy lifestyle -- but in fact, it is a symptom of a healthy lifestyle, as well as a reason for it, because it contributes to keeping the mind lively, prevents a spiral of depression, helps make relevant connections between your health and habits related to that, helps you reach a comfort zone with all age groups, makes you confident.

Most importantly, it makes you self-sufficient. Finally, it helps keep your brain wired to brilliance, keeps it young and smart. If that is not healthy, what is?


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