How to maintain a youthful mind and body even if you never encounter the title image: The Fountain of Youth by German Renaissance Painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1546
This topic would typically yield a listicle of 10 items, but I figure you already know them: eat well, get __ (you fill in the blank) hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly, wear sun block (for those of us who are melanin challenged), learn a new language, do crosswords (sudoku, kenken), take up a new hobby, and have friends of all ages. (This last is also the secret of a lively party: having a mix of guests from different age groups.) Such lists also include something like: care for a pet.
I certainly agree that doing all of the above will maintain a youthful mind and body, and there is much to say about all of them. However, I want to talk about three particular tips from my life.
Try this exercise: Think of a notable person who has been in the public eye for a long time. Then go to youtube and watch clips of him or her being interviewed at various ages. If you notice this individual’s sentence structure becoming less complex over time and word choice narrower, then it’s a good bet that person has not made a practice of reading.
The subject matter you choose doesn’t have to be high-falutin or profound. It matters only that the authors you read have a command of the language. I’m amazed that I still learn new words in English, and I’m a linguist at Duke University who loves learning foreign languages and who teaches a class called History of English.
2. Get rid of your car.
I haven’t owned a car in twelve years, and I’m sure this lack is a good reason why I don’t ever worry about my weight.
It’s a crummy day today in Durham, chilly, dripping, sloppy really. As I was walking home from yoga just now, the idea for this blog came to me when I realized that if I had a car I am sure I could have easily justified driving to the studio rather than make the 20-minute walk. I’m happy now that, in addition to my hour of yoga, I had 40 minutes of walking the round trip.
This tip is not practical for a lot of my readers. You have to organize your life so that you’re within walking distance of a grocery store, dry cleaner, dentist, hair salon, etc. So my suggestion is only something for you to think about. I can assure you that a carless life is a lot easier since the advent of Lyft.
Side notes to carlessness: first, I never run an impulse errand, so the planning I do to get what I need is an efficiency that has probably saved me tons of time over the years; and second, although I’ve never done the math, not owning a car has surely saved me tons of money. The savings on not paying automobile insurance alone has paid for at least two of my around-the-world business class airline tickets.
My absolute #1 tip is:
1. Have a flexible lower back.
Yup, that’s it.
I could have named this tip Do yoga. I do recommend yoga as the ultimate mind-body exercise. However, in this blog, I want to isolate my sense of the key to a youthful body (supporting a youthful mind), and I think it’s openness in the lower back. Ideally, you want to be able to do this:
No, this isn’t me. Here’s my version:
Still have a ways to go, but I’m working on it!
If yoga is not for you, then try doing V-stretch for 10 minutes, say, three or four times a week.
For V-stretch, you lie down on the floor and scoot your butt up against a wall and open your legs into a V. Your inner thighs may scream at first, but its a great hip opener, and opening the hips is the best way to get the low back to release.
We hold a lot of emotion in our hips and low back. The more you can let go of emotions bedeviling you, the more you can let go of the events/memories/hurts that age you and the more you will maintain a youthful mind and body.
See also: Health Tips for Writers
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen