If you missed the first part of the series, you can find that here. In this section we’ll continue exploring the top 20 factors that lead to a longer, happier life (from #15 to #11) and how technology might help us implement them.
15 – Exercise More
No prizes for guessing this would be included on the Top 20 list. But, perhaps like me you expected to see this higher up in the list? It turns out that while it’s important and provides many benefits to our physical and mental health, it’s not the number one thing we can do.
But what can it do? Exercise is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes as well as osteoporosis. It keeps us flexible, which is important for continued comfort and mobility. Exercise also leads to better sleep and contributes to mental health by helping treat depression, relieve anxiety and general stress. With so many benefits, who’s to quibble where it belongs on the list?
Better to just get moving. There are plenty of apps for your smartphone which will not only track your progress but encourage you onwards. Two free apps I’ve used are Couch to 5K (pretty much does as it reads) and RunKeeper. The latter not only lets you know your progress (time, distance, route and pace), but you’re also able to store and share the stats from each of your runs, if you’re into that sort of sharing…
14 – Get a Pet – Particularly a Dog
Along with “Eat Chocolate”, this has to be one of my favorite influences for living a longer, happier life. Granted, chocolate can be a lot easier and less expensive than caring for a pet, but they do bring so much joy. So what is it about pet, and especially dog ownership specifically, that helps us? Firstly, dog owners are more active. Rain or shine, dogs need that walk at least twice a day. I can say first hand, if not for my dog on heavy rain days, I probably wouldn’t leave the house. Animals are also known to reduce anxiety both from the actual physical comfort from petting them and because they serve as a distraction and amusement, making us laugh. Spoiler alert…we’ll see “Laughter” further up the list on what keeps us healthy and happy.
How can technology help us here? The obvious answer is that we can research online which type of dog might be best suited for our lifestyle; some breeds or mixes need more walking and other stimulation than others. And of course, you can search for an available pet online, but please do avoid the marketplace sites like Craigslist as they are known hotspots for scammers (who take your deposit and have no intention of supplying a pet) or unscrupulous breeders who do have dogs but overbreed and generally keep the poor creatures in inhumane conditions. Buying from them will not save a dog but just create more incentive to carry on mistreating female dogs and their litters. The Internet is also my first port of call whenever my dog is acting unusually or may be feeling ill. Often the answer is simple enough to avoid a visit to the vet (but always do opt for the vet when your pet is seriously ill). Personally I also find the dog walk a perfect time to catch up on my favorite podcasts. Here’s a post on how to find a perfect podcast for you.
13 – Relax
Being in a constant or near constant state of stress takes a terrible toll on our bodies and minds. Taking time during the day to relax reduces blood pressure and helps reduce stress-related conditions, such as depression. Practicing yoga or meditation as simple as a few minutes of focused breathing can help reduce our stress levels. And thanks to technology, we’ve now got an abundance of apps, many of them with free versions, that can guide us in stress-reducing activities like yoga, mindfulness and focused breathing.
12 – No Smoking
How much is needed to say for this one? Don’t you want to be in good health to enjoy your grandchildren? Apps can come to your rescue, and you even have a choice on how you prefer to quit. Here’s one overview of top apps.
11 – More Friends
Research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says that socializing with friends is beneficial and their presence can actually help you live longer. Not only that, but having friends around in our later years can do more for life expectancy even than having family members around. Friends may encourage us to look after our health, and having them around helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
A Harvard University study followed students for nearly 80 years to research longevity and happiness and found that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”
So how can technology help? It’s easy to stay in touch with existing friends using messaging apps. I get a lot of joy and support from a friend group Whatsapp chat, which was super easy to set up. And platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom allow us to “meet up” virtually when we can’t be together in person. And if you feel you could benefit from “topping up” your friendship circle, there are now apps which focus on forging friends rather than just romantic dating. These vary by area, so you may want to search “friendship app” to get ones local to you.
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