In a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, the topic of life expectancy was placed in the spotlight. While the average life expectancy at birth currently in the United States is 79, the number is deceiving, and the statistic itself for the past few centuries is misunderstood as well. Why? It’s an average. An average that must take into account child mortality rates and every social economical situation into account that can drastically change or skew the number.
For example, as the article points out in Sweden during 1800, the average life expectancy was 32. Clearly this seems drastically low, but in reality, so long as one survived childbirth and early childhood, one could expect to live well beyond this number. However, it was the high child death rate that brought the number down.
Now, I don’t write this to frighten you – quite the contrary. What the article revealed was that the length of one’s life is acutely determined by the quality of one’s life. In other words, good and necessary healthcare, the reduction of stress, and other factors that create a life of peace, security and physical good health, ultimately determine the years in our life expectancy.
As I poured over this article yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but ask the question, so what exactly does a quality life look like? This is what I came up with:
1. Good Health
While we can’t change our genetic coding, we can control what we eat, how much we move, our thoughts and the environment we live in. We can also be preventative by scheduling regular well-patient visits with our primary physician to catch any abnormality that may show up in screenings.
2. Security – Financial and Physical
When we know we have money in the bank and a sound roof over our heads, our minds are able to relax. And by reducing our stress, we assist our bodies in being at optimum health. Unnecessary and excessive stress reduces our body’s ability to take care of itself, and when our body can’t take care of itself, it is less able to fight off viruses and diseases that it would normally be shielded from.
3. Ability to Regularly Use Innate Talents
Knowing you are contributing positively to society as well as tapping into your passion and natural talents is one of the most rewarding and enriching things you can do to create a life of quality and fulfillment. If you have found the profession, hobby or life’s work that melds these two worlds of talent and societal need, you know the extreme joy that can be felt. If you haven’t yet found your passion or an avenue in which it fits, keep searching. Eventually, you will find your niche and it will be worth the time spend seeking out the right path. (Click here to read about ideas on how to discover your purpose.)
4. Ability to Live Authentically
When you are able to be yourself, to not hide who you are and what you wish to contribute, a burden is lifted that reduces the unnecessary stress you were carrying. Seek out people who accept you for who you are and do your best to steer clear of those who laugh, berate or tease you for being someone different from what they understand or accept. They don’t deserve your gift.
5. Involved in Loving and Respectful Relationships
It’s not the number of friends and loved ones in your life but rather the quality relationships you have with those who you invite into your inner circle that create a fulfilling life. Knowing you have people who you can trust, lean on in times of trial and enjoy the beauty that life presents each and every day is something that must be created consciously. There will be many people who will want to be your friend, lover, confidante. Take the time to see if they indeed are worthy of what they seek. Your patience and diligence will save you much unnecessary heartbreak and pain.
6. Equal Rights, Freedoms and Protections
Living in a country, community and family that affords you a voice might seem unnecessary initially to creating a quality life. But when you know that you can speak up when you’ve been wronged and justice can be served, when you know that the life you’ve created can’t be demolished for unjust reasons, and when you know that qualities that you have no control over can’t limit your rights, then less sleep is lost and less stress on the body is felt.
7. Adequate Rest and Rejuvenation
Even if you have all of the other items on this list, if you are not able to slow down every once in awhile and rest, your health and your ability to appreciate and enjoy the life you’re working so hard to create will be diminished. Saying no, going on regular vacations, not leaving town each weekend, are just a few pleasurable must-dos for a life of quality.
8. Time to be Still and Savor the Present Moment
In finding time to rest and recharge, being able to regularly be still and simply bask in the beauty that is the life you’ve created is a wonderful way to remind yourself that you have an amazing life. When you can savor the moment, you can be clear about what you truly need and what is only a craving that will soon pass. But if you are never able to slow down, bad decisions are more likely to occur, causing unnecessary stress that could have easily been avoided.
9. Opportunities to Learn and Grow
A life of quality is one that involves continual growth. For when we choose to perpetually be learning, we can never be truly “old”. Because as we learn, we shed our selves from yesterday, the ignorance of the past and move forward toward a life that is more in tune with our values and lived with more appreciation.
As you see, it is not that we live, it is how we live that creates a life of quality and not only improves the life in our years, but the years in our life.
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