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1. Manage Your Stress

2. Get Enough Sleep

3. Prepare Your Own Food (aka Learn to Cook)

4. Move Your Body

5. Get Involved in Community

6. Eat Your Vegetables

7. Cut Down on Sugar

8. Adopt a Pet

9. Practice Gratitude

What does everything on the list above have in common? Each of these habits has been shown to improve quality and quantity of life. Americans today are running on too much stress, too little sleep, fast food, lack of exercise, too much sugar, and disconnection. These deficiencies promote inflammation in your life and in your body. Inflammation increases your risk of dying prematurely, experiencing chronic pain, being overweight or obese, and can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Here are some specific strategies to turn this around and help you take charge of your life.

1. Stress Management – Doesn't have to mean 30 minutes of meditation every morning and every evening (although wouldn't that be great!). Managing stress may be simply taking 5 minutes out of every hour to sit quietly with eyes closed and just focusing on your breath. It could also mean getting outside for a 5- or 10- minute walk around the block. You may prefer an hour-long yoga class, biofeedback, or guided meditation. Whatever you prefer, make it happen. Stress is a modern day killer. Be proactive and take charge of your stress by making time in your day to decompress.

2. Adequate Sleep - There isn't necessarily a magic number when it comes to how much sleep everyone needs, but experts generally agree that somewhere between 7 and 9 hours serves most adults very well. And this is uninterrupted sleep in a peaceful environment (as much as is possible). If you live in a noisy place, consider earplugs or a white noise machine to help you drift off. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature if possible. When your room becomes either too hot or too cold, it can disrupt your sleep.

3. Make Your Food – When we cook our own food, we take greater responsibility for what we are eating and are more likely to make wiser choices. If you are someone who uses the "hate to cook" or "don't know how to cook" excuse, it's time to begin to turn that around. Even if you begin with crafting a simple salad with some store-bought roasted (natural) chicken, nuts, and/or seeds with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper, you'll be off to a great start. We understand that eating often comes down to convenience and the perception is that preparing your own food takes too long. If lack of information or knowledge on how to cook is your issue then you'll find an endless array of videos, articles, and books online that can help you get started. If apathy and a true lack of motivation what keeps you from cooking then suck it up and just start with preparing things you can handle. Hard boil a half dozen eggs on a day your not working. Wash and chop vegetables so they will be ready when you need them. Soak some steel cut oats overnight and they'll cook up in no time the next morning. Keep plenty of raw nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit on hand when you want a healthy snack and begin to act like a person who enjoys cooking. You've got everything to gain from this experience.

4. Exercise – Get your head in the game. No more excuses. You are no longer someone who "just doesn't exercise." Begin anytime, anywhere. Go for a walk. Take a swim. Hop on a bike. Give Stand Up Paddle (SUP) a try. If you fail to move your body regularly, your body will fail to thrive. Move daily, no excuses.

5. Community Involvement – People who volunteer, people who attend spiritual community (church, synagogue) on a regular basis, are shown, on average, to live longer compared to those who do not get involved. Shared connections, selfless service and a sense of belonging extends our lives and our happiness.

6. Veggie Time – Make vegetables the center of your meal. We call this plant-based and we prefer vegetables over fruit because vegetables tend to be lower in sugar and a bit higher in nutritional value (more antioxidants, fiber, minerals, for example). Aim for 7 servings daily. Write down throughout the day what you've had and you'll be more likely to achieve your goal.

7. Sugar Needs to Go – The average sugar consumption per person has increased by a ridiculous amount over the last fifty years. Today the average American consumes approximately 25 to 50 teaspoons (=100 to 200 grams) of sugar daily. The recommended consumption is no more than 6 teaspoons (about 25 grams daily). Increased sugar increases inflammation in the body, which is responsible for premature aging and premature death.

8. Pet Ownership – Tends to increase longevity. Pets provide unconditional love, companionship, and give owners a sense of purpose, which has also been tied to greater longevity.

9. Gratitude – and positivity encourage greater health and longevity. We recommend the practice of keeping a gratitude journal in which you record at least 5 things that you are grateful for every single day (we like to do it at night before going to bed).

Practice these 9 strategies and you'll be well on your way to a life well lived - a long, healthy, happy life!

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