Live With Vitality
I want to share with you my 5 steps on how to live with vitality. However, first I’ll tell you a story. In February as I stepped off a plane the lady in front of me struggled to get seated into the waiting wheelchair. When she finally got herself turned around and sat down she looked up at me and, with a heavy sigh, said, “Don’t get old. Die young!” I tried to tell her that my intention was to live well, strong and vital until 100 (maybe even longer). She responded with, “That’s what I thought.” The thing is, she didn’t look that old. I don’t think she was more than ten years my senior, but I can assume that her choices have been different.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to avoid her pain and despair if we choose to live with vitality. Follow my 5 steps to living with vitality and let’s see what happens. Are you in?
Looking out over the Grand Canyon.
Several years ago I became intrigued with the Blue Zones while watching an episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dan Buettner was on the show sharing the research behind his new book, Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He studied five areas in the world with higher than average centenarians, areas unrelated geographically. Buettner concluded that there are nine common themes that contribute to longer lives, regardless of where one lived. As you can see these five Blue Zones are located in four different continents.
Becoming A Centenarian
Each region has several lifestyle components in common that Buettner has identified as contributing factors to longevity. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least ten good years to our life and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely. These lifestyle choices include what the inhabitants choose to eat, how much physical activity they get, how they socialize, how they handle stress, their connection to a community and their purpose in life, all of which influences their quality of life and wellness. As a result of his research he identified nine lessons for longevity:
- Move Naturally; be active without having to think about it.
- Hara Hachi Bu; painlessly cut calories by 20%.
- Plant Slant; avoid meat and processed foods.
- Grapes of Life; drink red wine (in moderation).
- Purpose Now; take time to see the big picture
- Down Shift; take Time to relieve stress.
- Belong; participate in a spiritual community.
- Loved Ones First; make family a priority
- Right Tribe; be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values
A trail marker keeps us on course during a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
5 Steps on How to Live With Vitality
After reading Buettner’s book Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, I consolidated the lessons into 5 steps on how to live with vitality.
Focus, Nourish, Energize, Recharge & Relax, and Regroup
First, find your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates or inspires you. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have a “why”, a destination, or ambition to your life. You can’t live with vitality without happiness.
For 18 years my “why” was to take care of my family. From making breakfast, packing lunches, planning menus, buying groceries and other necessaries, laundry, house cleaning, carpooling, doctors’ appointments, managing schedules and the list goes on. My purpose was to be a stay at home mom. I loved it and I am so thankful that I was able to focus my energy and time to this role. Since both children are now in college I am finding a new purpose with my blog and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Juniper tree at Guano Point in the Grand Canyon West
Secondly, eat to live. Replenish your body with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of fresh vegetables. Cut out the heavily processed foods. Michael Polan, author of Food Rules, calls those products “edible food-like substances.” Polan’s advice is “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
I like to think that with every meal I have the opportunity to nourish my mind, heart, and body or deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive. Sharing this knowledge with others motivates me to continue to learn and experiment.
Thirdly, make room for activity each day. It can be a 30 minute brisk walk, taking the stairs a little faster, a yoga session…something that makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you break a sweat. To have more energy you need to energize with exercise. For many of the Blue Zone inhabitants exercise is part of their daily life. They don’t spend an hour at the gym or train for marathons. They tend gardens, herd goats, or go on nature hikes.
For me, exercise includes trail running, hiking, skiing, yoga, and walking my dog. I also know that as soon as I become sedentary I have more headaches, shoulder and neck pain. Without exercise, I get the blues and brain fog. My goals for leading an active lifestyle are not just to keep my body in shape now. It’s so I will maintain my mobility, balance and strength as I age.
mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon
4. Re-CHARGE AND RELAX
Next, take time to unwind and have fun. Most of us live with some degree of stress in our lives. Stress causes inflammation which is a contributor to many diseases. For that reason it is important to find healthy ways to de-stress. This is done by taking time for yourself. Find things that you enjoy doing that help you unwind like reading, engaging in a hobby, or taking a bath.
I’ve been exploring meditation. There is a lot research that credits meditation with a number of health benefits from reducing inflammation and curbing pain to improving mood and dropping blood pressure. I’m still in the exploration and learning phases of meditation. Finding a quiet distraction free space is a challenge as I’m living with three dogs right now. This morning as I tried to find my zen one dog was barking at cars, another wanted to sit in my lap and the third nudged in close begging for a scratch behind the ears.
Brown Mountain and Lake of the Woods; Southern Oregon
Finally, connect with others and cultivate relationships. This final step encompasses family, friends and community. Love, support and social activity are vital to our emotional health. They also help to reduce stress and therefore health problems associated with high stress levels. Stress can trigger migraines, body aches, and weaken the immune system. Persistent stress, when untreated, can lead to heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes according to an article written by Jancee Dunn in a special edition of TIME called MINDFULNESS the new science of health and happiness.
With our move to Bend I will need to stay connected to my friends while building new friendships. In the past our boys were a forcing function in meeting new people and being connected to a community. We established friendships under umbrellas on the sidelines of soccer games, in the bleachers at lacrosse games, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, playdates and school programs. I will need to find other ways to meet people through joining similar interest groups. It won’t be easy for this introvert. I will have to face the challenge and step outside of my comfort zone.
Grand Canyon West Arizona
You now know that my intention is to live with vitality until I’m 100 years old. Or, at least live as close to 100 as I can feeling strong, well, and happy. In other words, vital. I won’t get there by accident. It is a challenge I have embraced, and I must live every day with the intention of taking care of myself. T
Consequently, this means making choices that support my current health and will provide me with long-term health benefits. Following my 5 steps on how to live with vitality will help guide me along this path. My hope is that it will help you as well.
What are you doing to stay healthy and strong? Which of these steps are part of your life? Is there something that you struggle with? Please leave a comment below.
Of all the things I’ve saved through the years memorabilia has to be my downfall. It’s a crazy obsession I have and one my husband will never understand. Memorabilia includes souvenirs I collected on trips, boarding passes, brochures, rocks, shells, foreign coins, postcards etc… My memorabilia was also programs, awards, report cards, certificates, team rosters and schedules, calendars, birthday cards, Christmas cards, art work, school work, more cards… it’s endless. It takes up a lot of space and during all of our downsizing, packing and moving it has created way more stress than it’s worth. Carting all the memorabilia from one place to the next is a burden.
Packing up my home office for the second time. Notice, in the foreground, I’m still filling a bin with memorabilia to recycle.
On the Move Again
At the beginning of February Rob and I were presented with the opportunity to lease a condo in Bend, Oregon. It is in the exact location we’ve had our eyes on for a couple years. It’s near the river trail we love to run. We’ll have a view of six mountains, and it’s within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and breweries. Skiing on Mt. Bachelor is about a twenty minute drive away.
Bend is an active outdoor community that fits the lifestyle we want for our future. As empty nesters and with both of us working from home, moving away from Portland was possible. However, it wasn’t an easy decision. Portland has been our home for most of the past twenty-five years. Our friends and community connections are in Portland, therefore, leaving is emotionally difficult.
Change is an Opportunity
Ultimately, we decided that change is an opportunity for growth, and new experiences are exciting. This one year lease is a trial period for us. We will see if living in Bend provides us with more opportunities to live the active lifestyle we want and to experience life with a smaller footprint. At the end of the year we can reevaluate and decide if we want to make Bend our home, try another location, travel around the country in a Sprinter van, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or move back to Portland.
We spent February continuing to purge even more of our belongings including some furniture. With this move we truly are downsizing. I wrote about our move and the process of getting rid of things after Christmas in the post STEPS ALONG A PATH TOWARDS CHANGE from January 19, 2017.
At that time we only downsized by about 600 square feet, but this move to a condo will give us almost half of the space we are used to. To prepare for less space we sold furniture and decorations. We donated countless car loads of stuff we no longer need or have room for. I spent a weekend scanning and recycling twenty-two years worth of saved memorabilia from traveling, school, cards, awards, sports, and summer camps. Needless to say, moving twice within two months is exhausting. It consumed our time and energy in February.
These two bins were overflowing at the beginning of my beach weekend. What’s left are a few things to save and a little more to weed out.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Memorabilia
I have learned some important lessons while sorting through my mounds of memorabilia. I’m not kidding about the mounds. The amount of paper I saved over the years was astonishing. I’m a scrapbooker. In fact, I sold scrapbooking supplies as a home based business for twelve years. I saved everything from birth announcements to teeth (eww) and ticket stubs to Christmas wish lists. Anything that I thought would help me tell the story behind my pictures when it came to writing about all of our picture worthy experiences was stuck into a file. I realize that not everyone has this compulsion. If you are one of those people who doesn’t save and hang onto things then you might laugh at my lessons. You will have no use for them because you were blessed with the ability to live in the moment and not attempt to hang onto the past. Your job to downsize someday will be much easier and less emotional than mine has been. Now that I’ve lived through the storing, organizing, filing, moving, moving again, digitizing, tossing, etc, here’s an enlightened approach that I wish I had figured out 22 years ago.
1. Make a decision right away
Don’t file everything thinking you’ll weed it out when the time comes. There’s an old adage; “Out of sight out of mind”. I think I was out of my mind for saving some of the things I did! Teeth? Really? Oh, well I have a laughable picture of them now.
The problem was, I knew how full my files were. I knew I had piles tucked here and there. I knew there were some bins in the attic full of memorabilia. Just knowing they were there was stressful. Thinking about the time I needed to organize and put all of these memories into albums with the pictures made my heart race and my chest tighten. I almost needed a paper bag to keep me from hyperventilating. I could have saved myself a lot of angst and time had I just been more selective to begin with.
2. Weed It Out Every Year
At the end of a school year pick out a few pieces of your child’s work to show their academic progress, writing, and artistic style. Keep a couple of pieces that touch your heart and remind you of your child at that age. Take a picture of large items and get rid of everything else! I kept school lunch menus and the teacher’s weekly reports from Keaton’s entire first grade year! Yes, I kept too much.
3. Don’t Save Every Christmas Card You Receive
Send the Christmas cards to the recycling bin in January! The stack of all the Christmas cards I saved could quite possibly have reached three feet high. This goes for most other cards as well.
4. Scan and Take Pictures of the Important Things
A good scanner can be your friend. Set aside a few hours in January to go through everything you saved the previous year. If you follow 1-3 there won’t be so much. Thin it out even more and then scan what you can. Save the scans in the folder with your pictures from the year or the pictures from that event if you sort that way. As I said earlier, I spent a weekend with girlfriends at the beach scanning some “treasures” that I pulled out from two big bins. I love my scanner. It is an Epson flatbed scanner that scans photos, documents, negatives with a high enough resolution to make enlarged prints. It also allows me to make color fixes on faded pictures. You can take pictures of three dimensional items or those larger pieces of children’s art work.
5. Don’t Save for Some Day
Don’t save something just because you think you might do something with it some day. I can almost guarantee that “someday” will never come. When it came down to it I never had the time to get to all of those scrapbooks that I imagined in my head. I have many completed albums that we enjoy now and then. It is fun to reminisce and look back at the photos and stories that document the events and adventures of our family. However, in the grand scheme of things how important is it to remember the price of a movie and when you saw it? I think that time spent in the present is more valuable. The experiences we had as a family are a part of us and important memories are there without the pieces of paper that show what we did. When you save it all the decision to keep or toss has to be made all over again. Of course, it is easier when you realize you don’t have room to save those things and you are exhausted from sorting through it all. Toss it! You’ll feel a little lighter and a little less stressed and more capable of enjoying the present.
Why did I feel compelled to save it all?
Did I think I would forget without the memorabilia? Mostly, it came down to scrapbooking. I thought I could write a better story if I hung onto the details. My big life lesson here is that the time in our lives is precious and slips away much too quickly. Fill your time with what is truly important.
Are you a saver or a tosser? If you are a tosser I’d like to know your secret. If you are a saver what is the most embarrassing or ridiculous thing you have saved? For me it is my children’s teeth and school menus. Or, maybe it’s the bandaid from Rikley’s first shot and the sticks from the popsicles Keaton ate after his adenoid surgery. I told you I was a compulsive saver. One last take away, I don’t need the bandaid to remember how I cradled Rikley’s head and sang into his ear when he got shots.
Thank you for reading I would love it if you’d leave a comment.
Life happens and sometimes there are obstacles in our path that we must remove before continuing on our way. Or we must learn to work around the obstacles like the trees above that are finding a way to grow on and in between the boulders in the rockslide.
I knew that our empty nest would feel big with just the two of us living in it. For days after we returned from taking Keaton to college I expected him to come through the door after school and ask me, “What time is dinner?” I missed his usual question at breakfast, “What’s for dinner?” Without him here our home was big and empty. We love this home that holds eleven years of memories. It’s large size has allowed us to host extended family members at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have slept as many as 10 for four nights at Thanksgiving. We finally have the backyard we’ve been dreaming of. We have completed most of the updates we wanted. I knew at some point we would sell. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
One of the many great attributes of this house is its abundant storage. It has amazing built in storage throughout. The bad thing is that it has enabled me to put off making decisions on whether or not to discard things. I can always find a place to put whatever it is out of sight and not worry about it. This has made my downsizing job much more difficult. I have a friend who always had the rule in her home that if something new came in then something had to go out. I wish I had adopted her rule years ago. My husband really wishes that I had followed her rule.
I knew we wouldn’t stay in this home forever. I knew we would sell and move sooner than later. Our personal goals go beyond this house. I thought I would have a year or more to prepare. At a minimum I was thinking six months of paring down, going through everything and making decisions on what to keep. However, with the housing market in our favor, we decided to put the house up for sale in September.
With this target I had just shy of two weeks to go through every room, every closet, every cupboard, every drawer and an attic in our 4,000 foot house with the task of sorting, tossing and organizing. It was daunting; both physically and emotionally exhausting. When I work under pressure with a looming deadline I get focussed, put on blinders and everything else in life gets put on the back burner. This probably isn’t the best tactic because even running, the one thing that clears my head and controls stress, was put off.
A year or so ago I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My plan was to read the book and then start on a systematic process of purging. I thought I could learn how to emotionally detach from objects in my home that weren’t important. I knew I could part with many things, but I also knew that it would be difficult. The book sat untouched on a shelf, and I continued to save everything.
With no time to even start the book, I needed to find a way through this huge self-built barrier. I realized I had to throw perfection out the window. That’s not easy for a Virgo. Making the “right” decision for every item was unrealistic, especially since we didn’t have our next house lined up. I focused on job number one, getting the house ready for show.
First, we rented a 10×5’ storage space. This is where we put some things that we knew we wanted to keep but don’t need in the house right now. I also decided that after the house sells we will need to have a large estate sale. There were things I could box up now that we will sell later. I went through every room and removed all the personal photos and collections that were visible. Then I put out some of my autumn decorations. I decorated much more sparsely than my normal style.
When it came to closets I removed excess and had three categories; keep, sell, and garbage. I did this for linen closets, hall closets, and bedroom closets. From our master closet we removed this huge pile of clothes that became a fantastic Goodwill donation. We filled six medium sized packing boxes.
I love walking into our closet now. It is organized and void of clothes we weren’t wearing. About two years ago I started the practice of turning my hangers around on January 1st. Then at the end of the year I could tell what I hadn’t worn that year. This helped me weed out some clothes each year, but there were some pieces that I rationalized into keeping. They might be needed if the right occasion came. This year in January I put rubber bands on the hangers of pieces I hadn’t worn in 2015, but I still thought I should save most of what I hadn’t worn because the right occasion never came. Well this time I was ruthless. I decided to get rid of anything I didn’t truly enjoy wearing or wasn’t necessary. I told myself that if the “right” occasion hadn’t come for several years then it’s likely it won’t ever come, and if it does that piece of clothing will be dated and not something I will want to wear. I wish I had taken a before picture because my after picture is spectacularly different.
This morning I started to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and within the first 35 pages Marie Kondo explains why I am so thrilled about my decluttered closet, and why I am now taking a little time each day to keep it this way. She says that when we make a profound change it triggers a different mind-set and touches our emotions. There is relief in having less to keep tidy. The feeling of being overwhelmed dissipates. Have you ever made a huge change in a room, your pantry or garden where you just can’t stop looking at it? Do you keep going back because it brings you joy to see the transformation?
There is a lot more to do, but our first goal, to get the house ready to “show”, is done. Once the house sells the process of paring down our belongings to less than half of what we currently have will be another daunting task. I do believe that once the process of downsizing our empty nest is complete I will feel relief from owning less, have freedom to pursue a new purpose and time to focus on wellness.
Have you had to do something similar? What was your process? How did you decide what to keep and what to let go of?