“Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.” No one wants regrets.
As we get older, we realize the importance of the basics: daily exercise, a diet abundant with fruits and veggies, etc. But that’s not all we need to be in prime living condition. Consider this a wake-up call from your future self. Here are seven things you’re doing now that will ruin your health later.
1. Not getting enough physical touch
Got hugs? If not, consider the positive effects of physical contact and affection: lowered heart rates, raised oxytocin levels, and heck — it feels good!
Game plan: Get a full body massage. Pet your dog. Frequently hold your spouse’s and children’s hands. Hug your loved ones. Cuddle on the couch. Be intimate with your spouse.
2. Not stretching
Flexibility isn’t just for yoga gurus. Stretching brings blood to your muscles and increases joint flexibility. And stretching warmed muscles a couple times a week may help ward off injury. Your future self wants you to remain active lifelong, and stretching may prevent injuries from repetitive activities such as typing, texting and even walking.
Game plan: Since improper stretching can do more harm than good, talk to your health provider about how to incorporate stretching into your life.
3. Not forgiving
You were wronged. You know it. God knows it. But not forgiving those who have offended you can be as hazardous to your health as a major stressful event.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened to you is OK. Forgiveness says that you are letting go of any power that the hurt has in your life. “Future you” needs less stress — and so do you.
Game plan: Decide to forgive one person today. Pray for him or her. Let go of resentment.
4. Not getting your 7 hours
Lack of sleep isn’t a sign of endurance. It isn’t an indicator of good genetics. Losing sleep because of family obligations isn’t a sign of love for your family. Not getting enough ZZZ’s is just not taking care of yourself. Future you wants you to know that the long-term effects of sleep deprivation aren’t pretty, including an impaired immune system, being more accident prone and weight gain (like any of us want any of that).
Game plan: Determine when you need to get up in the morning and then go to bed at least 7-8 hours beforehand. And go ahead and take that nap!
5. Not connecting with others
Emotional connection is a super-vitamin. It heals. It creates positive energy. And it is physiologically necessary. The connection found on your smart phone isn’t going to cut it. We’re talking in person, eye-to-eye contact. In fact, healthy connection decreases the overall pain we experience in our lives. The research is convincing; loving relationships really are the answer. For those of us who are starting to feel the creaks in our bodies, being with those who love us can help us age better.
Game plan: To refuel, schedule time daily to spend time with loved ones.
6. Not scheduling preventive visits
We’ve heard it before: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Though you may be consistent with your annual physicals and bi-annual dental exams, consider the extra ounce of prevention offered by specialized screenings. For most women, mammograms should begin by age 40. For men, prostate cancer exams should begin at age 50. And for all, colorectal cancer screenings should begin no later than age 50.
Game plan: Talk to your health provider about your family’s health history. Ask your doctor about screenings for cardiovascular disease, bone mass measurements, diabetes and glaucoma. Don’t overlook symptoms of depression.
7. Not teasing your mind
Crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, playing a musical instrument, learning a language or picking up a new skill — these are things that can help challenge and maintain communication between the cells in your mind. Daily mind stimulation keeps your brain strong. Future you wants you to become a lifelong learner, bringing novelties to your synapses.
Game plan: Try something new! Challenge your mind.
Don’t forget: significant changes happen when you start small — but you’ve got to be consistent. Your future self will thank you!