Turning 18 is one of those milestones everybody makes a big deal over. I did too! I could legally drink alcohol, I could drive, do anything I wanted without my parent’s consent, I could apply for any job, I could stay up late, go to work or not, go to uni or stay in bed, it was all up to me. I had become a grown-up. Pretty big deal I thought…
Then time goes by, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and another huge milestone for me was turning 50.
This one had a completely different meaning or connotation to me. All the things that made my 18th birthday so special and important, had become meaningless and almost boring.
This mid-life milestone was more of a worrying one, a time of reflection, on what I had achieved until now, on the opportunities that I had let slip through my fingers, on the present but more so on the uncertain future that lay ahead. Turning 50 in our modern society has never been regarded as a joyful, happy and enriching stage but more like a slow decline in cognitive ability, in our health, in our capacity to travel far and be adventurous, a time where you have to rely on limited funds to survive for the rest of your days. My 50th birthday had left me with a mild disenchantment in some aspects of life and a deep sense of worry for the future.
So that’s it, I am done with the bad part…. the good news is that it is totally within our power to change our mindset and chase these evil thoughts away or, at least, diminish their hold on us.
Let me introduce you to my plan. Think of it as a cake, all the ingredients are good on their own, but it is their combination in the right amounts that produce the best results ( or cake…)
1- Exercise or Move as much as possible!
You don’t see people in Blue zones ( areas in the world with a high number of centenarians) going to the gym. However if you do live in town or have limited time to exercise, gyms, cross-fit boxes, swimming pools and other modern activities centres offer an amazing alternative to satisfy our primal urge to move. If used in moderation they can add years, if not decades, to our lives. In the blue zones, the natural way to be strong is to be outside all day.. building fences, lifting rocks, working the land, walking for miles to another village, feeding the animals, dealing with cold or heat, and any other activity that demands a continuous body adaptation.
Our modern lives are far from this model, however, we can incorporate some low-level activity in our daily routine. If you are working at a computer all day, try a standing workstation, carry around your office something weighty like a 5-litre bottle of water, a barbel, a kettlebell, maybe you can even fit a pull-up bar, take frequent breaks outside, stretch, etc. In fact, anything that will get you up and make you move. Before and after work, walk as much as you can, to the office, to the supermarket, walk with the dog or with your friends.
Regular activity is necessary to stay healthy and will prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and will also encourage strong muscles, joints and bones. If you have never exercised before, start slow by walking 30 mins a day, be constant, come rain or shine. It’s important to add at least 2 strength training routines a week. I used to go to the gym, but now I prefer to workout at home whenever suits me, with my kettlebells. My home gym equipment is very simple, it’s composed of 2 kettlebells, a barbell set and a total of 40 kg in plates, an agility ladder, a TRX, several elastics, a pull-up bar, a yoga mat, a sandbag and an ab roller. No matter what you pick, try a vast array of activities until you find one or more that stick, vary your workouts, mix endurance training (running, swimming, cycling) with strength training and flexibility exercises, be constant, warm up well, and most importantly enjoy it. Muscle strength is linked to just about every physiological system, so strength training is critical to well-being. This is not a quick fix to shed a few extra pounds, but more a lifetime way of life, for you to be healthy, move better, give you more energy and keep up with your kids or grandkids.
In other words, structure your life to be moving as much as possible!!
“A Man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life. ”
2- Always keep learning!
Memory lapses occur at any age. Somehow we get more upset with those lapses as we get older because we fear they could be early signs of Alzheimer’s or loss of intellectual function. So forgetting where you left your keys, or why you went into the kitchen in the first place, is totally normal. As we age normal changes in structure and function of the brain occur, and these may be the reason why we have those annoying memory lapses and also why learning new things becomes a bit harder or even daunting. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
Here are a few suggestions,
- enjoy a daily puzzle, the crossword or sudoku
- opt for mental arithmetic rather than use the calculator
- engage in more reading, paperback, on a kindle, on your phone or tablet or perhaps by joining or starting a book club. If you are very busy some apps like audible or Blinkist can make it easier for you to go through books in less time.
- play mind-stretching games, like bingo, bridge, chess or computer games. You can also play chess on your mobile device or use some brain training apps, like Peak Performance or Luminosity
- stay socially active – join a local choir or gardening club (although more challenging after COVID 19), or start a Facebook group or Twitter account so that you can stay in touch with long-distance friends and relatives
- take up a new interest – learn to cook or to do some basic DIY, gardening, photography, self-defence, even juggling is good for the brain.
- Start learning Spanish in preparation for your next holiday.
- start a day or evening class, or an online course that can easily fit with your daily schedule.
- go out more with a friend ( while social distancing) – enjoy the cinema, theatre, galleries etc
- continue working or do voluntary work – social contact helps your memory and concentration and gives you a sense of purpose.
- learn how to play a new instrument, one you always wanted to play but never found the time.
- even trying out a new physical activity will stimulate the brain…
All these activities ( and this list is non-exhaustive) are good to activate the process that helps maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
During this lockdown period, many people around the globe have turned to online learning. It is the future of our general learning process, as entire industries are being affected by this COVID 19 pandemic and many of us have lost our jobs. Hence why continuing to learn after you leave school is as much about growing as it is about acquiring facts and skills. So whether you pick up a book, watch a Tedx talk, start an online course, listen to a podcast or join a self-defence class, it’s important to never stop learning.
I started learning about how to start an online business from home only last year, with very little to no computer experience, and I have to say I am glad I did as I learnt how to build a website and about affiliate marketing, I found my passion and with time will generate an income. Find out here, and receive for FREE the same video series that got me started.
3- Low-stress levels.
When it comes to destressing, we rely too much on external tools such as relaxation music, binaural beats, meditation apps, etc. Although these tools are great and will provide some good results in time, we have a must quicker way of regaining a state of calmness. In less than a minute calmness can be restored with our breath! With these next three techniques, you can regain almost instant control over your levels of stress.
Box breathing is the first one – slowly breathe in, to the count of 4, hold that breath to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 4 and then repeat until your feel yourself calmer and your heartbeat slows down.
Alternate nostril breathing is our second hack to control stress, long and slow breath in through the right nostril, long and slow breath out through the left one. Then in again through the left nostril and long exhale through the right, and so on.
Finally in third position the 4, 7, 8 technique. Breathing in, to the count of 4, 7 count hold and 8 count exhale. And repeat.
So if you practice these techniques you will find it to be second nature and you will be able to take control of your stress levels in an instant !!
Although these breathing techniques work a treat, I would recommend introducing some kind of breathwork in your daily routine. The one I have been practising for the past 2 and half years is the Wim Hof Method. The 3 pillars of this method are breathwork, adaptation to the cold and concentration/ focus.
I find Meditation and yoga also work for me, and assist me in my daily stress management.
“By the time we hit 50, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important. We have learned to take life seriously, but never ourselves”.
4- Look after your diet!
The older we get, the more likely we are to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) because our blood vessels become less elastic as we age. Having high blood pressure puts us at risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease and early death.
When researchers looked at the populations in the blue zones, they noticed these individuals shared a few common themes in their lives. The most prevalent commonality was their consumption of a Mediterranean diet. A 2000 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a diet that adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet (which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, moderate wine consumption and olive oil) was associated with longer survival. Further, a 2004 study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with lower risks of cancer and heart disease. And a 2010 review of studies in the American Journal of Clinical Research affirmed the diet’s powers to protect against major chronic diseases.
Changing just a few of our food habits can go a long way toward enhancing vitality and longevity.
- Opt for a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes olive oil, fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains.(about 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day for men; 1,600 to 1,800 per day for women)
- Try intermittent fasting or fasting.
- Limiting foods high in added sugar, including sweetened beverages, candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, sweetened yoghurts, and sugary cereals. This is critical for weight loss at any age. Look for “added sugars” on the nutrition facts label or search the ingredient list for common sweeteners such as cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and agave.
- Look after your gut microbiome, learn more here.
- B12 is primarily found in fish and meat. It is needed to make DNA and support healthy nerve and blood cells. Older adults are at a greater risk for B12 deficiency, but it can be added to your diet in a supplemental form (either by pill or shot).
- It’s also a good strategy to supplement in calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin E, Q10, Ginkgo biloba, fish oils, curcumin, coconut oil, green tea, resveratrol (found in the skin of purple and red fruits and also in red wine, chocolate and peanuts. Fabulously delicious sources of calcium include sardines (a double dose of omega 3 through the fish and calcium through the bones), spinach, broccoli, kale, and low-fat or fat-free milk and yoghurt.
5- Start securing your financial future now!
Many are counting on their ability to continue to work well into older age, yet they will need to sustain good health and secure employment despite the known difficulties of landing a job after the age of 50.
Planning your financial future has never been an easy task, and the spread of COVID-19 has made it even more difficult. Finance professionals are used to accuracy, consistency and relative predictability, not the uncertain economic horizons that lie ahead. However, even in these difficult times, it is particularly important to adapt and modify our behaviour when it comes to money.
In the beginning, it is important to make savings a habit. The amount is not very important as once you have acquired this habit you will be able to apply this principle to any of your expenses. A couple of years ago I discovered intermittent fasting and I decided to skip breakfast. It’s healthy and it saves me 3 to 5 euros per day. I’ll let you do the maths but over a year it is a lot of money. If this Lockdown has taught me one thing, it is that you can live on very little money when you are forced to stay at home.
Aim at saving at least 10% of your monthly income. As the economic effects of lockdown become more real, many have come to realise the value of performing a review of their finances, especially when it comes to cost-cutting. So go through all your expenses, check your telephone, electricity and water consumption and reduce them, review your gym membership, monthly subscriptions or insurances, sell your car, car share, or cycle to work, downsize housing, etc. Anything you manage to save, place it in a retirement fund or other savings account.
Pay off remaining debts as fast as possible and don’t acquire any new debt if at all possible. Debt is expensive and paying the interest on the debt could be money that’s saved instead. So aim to pay off expensive debts like credit cards, store cards, car loans and overdrafts before you start to save.
If at all possible weigh up whether or not you should make extra payments on your mortgage.
Invest properly. Properly means that you have the appropriate asset mix depending on your anticipated retirement date. How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play an important role in how much you’ll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan are invested. Put your savings in different types of investments. By diversifying this way, you are more likely to reduce risk and improve return. Your investment mix may change over time depending on a number of factors such as your age, goals, financial circumstances and future pandemics. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand. So it’s time to get informed.
Run a calculation to figure out how much money you’ll need to retire. Keep doing this calculation as time goes by, because your idea of a comfortable retirement may evolve over the years.
Inform yourself about medical health options. Medical bills could be one of your biggest expenses, so check out all the various health insurances available in your country and be prepared.
Check out your private and public pension. In many European countries, the state pensions are struggling and are on the decline but it is still a sizable amount to be checked. This will also give you a good estimate of how much money you need from your private pension to reach your monthly expenses.
Leave your retirement savings untouched. If you cash in your retirement savings before time you may have to pay withdrawal penalties, lose tax benefits, and lose accumulated interests.
My Take on turning 50
If you are turning 50 this year, well “ Happy birthday “. Remember how excited you are when you turned 5 years old. You should be 10 times that excited.
If you have children, they have probably left the house and are beginning the long process of building their own lives. Maybe you are thinking about your retirement, or perhaps on a deeper level, you are thinking of your present purpose in life. What do you dream of and what will your legacy be? For me, turning 50 has become an opportunity. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but it has taken me several years to come to this conclusion and it’s only now at the age of 54 that I am fully embracing my midlife turning point with passion, energy and hope. This revelation, this light bulb moment, came to me after celebrating my wife’s grandmother’s 100th birthday. Granny Owen had reached 100 years of age, with amazing health, a good sense of humour and an impeccable sense of style. On that day I decided I could live to 100 too… And just like that, all the sombre views about turning 50 that society had drummed into my brain, all the fears I carried from my charismatic father (who tragically passed away at the age of 49), they all vanished in an instant. My mindset was now turned towards the future and no longer the past. So I started thinking of all the beautiful adventures still to come… with my darling wife Jane, with my two amazing kids Yannick and Matilda, and hopefully one day, with my future grandchildren.
This has become a passion of mine, I have started a website to share with others how we can live to 100 in a happy, healthy and fulfilling way. So if you are interested in living to 100, join me on this wonderful journey and I would love to know what turning 50 means or meant to you. Thanks for leaving your comments below.
Take care my friends
Smart Living to 100
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.