"Be at War with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better person." - Benjamin Franklin
So true when it comes to personal habits. Somehow fighting your own demons, your shortcomings and vices, seem to be your hardest, most intractable and private challenges in life, ones that no one else but you can fight and win.
Callery Pear trees in bloom on Witherspoon St. in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A. March, 2016
Since last August, I've been participating in a personalized gene sequencing project with Arivale, involving blood draws, and microbiome, saliva tests, physical activity and diet. Yes, I've been traveling across the United States to Seattle from New Jersey three times a year for the tests (although my health is fine) to participate as an Arivale Pioneer in Dr. Leroy Hood's 4Ps of medicine Arivale program: Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, and Participatory, and I can now recommend joining this excellent new program if possible. Some results from the program seem to distill down to everyday actionable habits that improve general health, longevity, and well-being.
These habits are concerned with the pillars of optimal health for longevity and long term wellness. Your genes support you when you do this, almost as if your ancestors are reminding you to do it, because that's what makes people healthy and strong in the long run: healthy food, sound sleep, lots of motion and exercise, not smoking, living at a healthy weight, keeping an active mind, avoiding stress by meditating or praying for spiritual and emotional health. Just common sense, really, and how common is that?
One of these pillars is sleep. It's very important not to be sleep-deprived, and so there is one excellent habit I've tried at the suggestion of my Arivale coach to improve my sleep. The main idea is to sleep the minimum while keeping efficient sleeping hours. This is a sleep experiment I've been doing lately, and it seems to work better than expected. Even being able to fall asleep on an empty stomach seems to happen, a useful skill. Maybe people with regular hours are already good at this, but my sleep hours tend to go haywire if I'm not vigilant.
Here's how this special experiment works. The idea is to avoid screens--all screens, televisions, phones, iPads, computers, etc.--between 10 and 11 p.m. at night, having low lights around the house, and then resting by reading anywhere but the bedroom for an hour. Then sleep in bed for seven hours and awaken with an alarm. This schedule has to be followed seven days a week to be effective and it really works. Lately, I've taken to snoozing for an extra ten minutes after six, and sometimes going to sleep half an hour earlier, and it seems to be working extremely well. I've been extending the "experiment" because it's so efficient.
In addition, I've been cutting back on my food intake to maintain a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and increasing my exercise to improve muscle tone to achieve my personal goal of 10,000 steps a day on my FitBit synced with my Arivale coach (often after two hours of Jazzercise, Latin or belly dancing). The Chinese have long taken to exercising in the morning for better health, so daily exercise is not exactly a new idea.
For the first time in years, surprisingly, I haven't caught the flu this spring despite not doing anything special to avoid germs, traveling, and spending a lot of time around other people in gyms every day (and after a good flu shot last fall). Touch wood. My health is good enough that I didn't need to see a doctor all last year, except for a yearly eye exam and my twice yearly dental appointments. In addition, I've been keeping my weight around my high school and college level, which helps me feel better by looking better. Do join Arivale if you are able. It's a fine program.
In conclusion, as I look around the world, for all of us, I hope for more of the healthy fruits of the soul: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galations 5:22)