Look 10 years younger
Words by Sam Bentall
Have you ever been to a school reunion and noticed that some of your contemporaries have aged far more that you expected? Or perhaps one or two appear to look exactly the same as they did on the day they left school?
Most people put the speed of aging down to a person’s genetic make-up. And genes do certainly play a part, but one of the major factors in the aging process is stress.
We all have stress in our lives, and in fact, we couldn’t live without it. Positive stress is what gets us out of bed in the mornings. There’s stress involved in meeting deadlines and achieving goals – even achieving the things that we want in life involves a degree of stress.
If your dream is to write a book, or reach the finish line in a triathlon, there’s stress involved. Completing projects at work or at home involve stress. Having the boss (or the wife!) looking over your shoulder and asking how much longer this is going to take is incredibly stressful – but you may well be delighted with the results and have a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction in a job well done.
In fact, a shot of short-term stress is good for us. It’s what helps us get things done. It’s the chronic long-term stress that creates the negative effect on our bodies that ages us faster than you can say Grecian 2000!
If you think of stress in terms of a violin strings, too much tension over time causes the string to snap. But too little tension and the string can’t be played so there’s no music.
For many men in their fifties and upwards, stress levels can be at an all time high. Work stress can be at a peak, children are growing up and going to university which can lead to extra financial demands and many men also find they have elderly parents to worry about. It’s also a peak time for divorce which is one of the most stressful life events you can experience. And to top it all, we’re living through a global pandemic which could possibly be affecting our health and our work.
So, what’s to be done about all of this? Well the good news is that we do have some control over how stress affects us. Stress can be managed, and its effect of our health can be mitigated.
In order to do this, it helps to understand what’s happening to our bodies at a cellular level. Scientists discovered that on the ends of our chromosomes we have little tags called telomeres which prevent our cells from unravelling. As we age, these telomeres wear out and stress shortens them faster than anything else, meaning that the more stressed you’re feeling, the shorter your telomeres and the faster you are aging.
The good news is that you can reverse the process and help your cells and your telomeres to lengthen in order to provide more protection for your cells.
This is obviously a simplification of the process but trust me, it’s a bit like being able to use a computer without having to understand exactly how the computer works. If we take the advice of the experts and put them into practice, we’ll get the results we require which lead to good health and longevity.
The best ways of achieving these goals are,
Stress Management through meditation and mindfulness
Good diet, (plenty of vegetables and fruit with far fewer processed foods).
Sleep, good quality 7 to 8 hours a night
Exercise that you enjoy
Mindset – having a positive attitude
Oh… and more sex! It’s really good for you apparently! (Who knew?)
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The thing about meditation is that it’s a really simple practice and it doesn’t take up very much time and yet many of us find it fiendishly difficult to do. Why is sitting still for ten minutes (without a phone in your hand or the telly on) so damned hard? My recommendation is to build it into your day as you would with any other commitment. Put it in your diary, write it on your calendar, treat it as you would treat a doctor’s appointment. 8am – 8.10am Meditation.
After a few weeks, it will become a habit and you will no longer need to diarise it. And don’t expect to be good at it straight away. The clue is in the description that regular meditators use – they ‘practice’ meditation. Even the Dalai Lama had to learn how to do at first!
Meditation helps you to gain a new perspective on stressful situations, reduce negative emotions and increase your levels of patience and tolerance. Meditation can improve your concentration levels and reduce age related memory loss.
A good diet is also key to managing stress. The majority of the happy hormone serotonin is manufactured in your gut and good gut health comes from a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Try to include an extra vegetable with every meal and go plant-based two or three times a week.
People who sleep soundly have longer telomeres. It’s crucial to have a good bedtime routine and to try to go to sleep and rise at the same time every day. Avoid scrolling through your phone just before bed and opt for a book instead. Keep the bedroom cool use a blackout eye-mask if you have trouble nodding off.
Exercise that you enjoy
The reason I say you should only do exercise that you enjoy is because forcing yourself to endure exercise that you hate will only cause you additional stress, and that, of course, defeats the object! If you love going to the gym that’s fine, but if not, try walking, jogging, cycling or golf. Being outdoors is especially good for stress management. Outdoor swimming is becoming increasingly popular and many people report a highly beneficial effect on their mood and stress levels.
One interesting fact about telomere length is that it is influenced by a positive frame of mind. It turns out that the way you feel when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night has a profound effect on your mitochondrial health and your telomere length.
If you find yourself worrying about things first thing in the morning, try to establish a habit of curiosity for the day to come. Ask yourself, “I wonder what exciting and wonderful things are coming my way today?” It might feel weird at first but stick with it. Your cells are listening to you!
And finally, well, a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Why? Because it stimulates the production of dopamine and oxytocin, the body’s feel-good hormones, which lower stress and anxiety levels. Sex also lowers blood pressure, improves your immune system, boosts your self-esteem, can help you to look and feel younger and is good exercise.
If you would like to find out more about how you could transform your health in 90 days, without drastic diets or excess exercise – and no matter what your starting point - drop me a line or give me a call to book a free 30-minute discovery call. firstname.lastname@example.org