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8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but we may not be aware of the many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day. Here are eight to watch out for:

1. Wearing a ‘Worrywart’ Badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our tendency to worry. Worrying not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, (not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest), but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do: Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or do a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help, as does setting aside a regular ‘worry time.’ The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

2. Being a Sunscreen Slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger-looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

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What you can do: Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel-size dollop for the face and an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save you years of prematurely leathery skin.

3. Having a Sweet Spot’ for Sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle-prone skin. This process, known as glycation, also causes dark circles and puffiness, both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about age 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the “British Journal of Dermatology.”

What you can do: Let’s face it, sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories derived from sugar and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

4. You Think Exercise is Only for Weight Loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise—even something as simple as a daily 30-minute walk—can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone, and best of all, significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

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What you can do: Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

5. You Hold a Grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger is not only damaging to your mental health, but can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your life. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the “Journal of Behavioral Medicine” showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress-causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar, resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do: Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer … not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway!

6. You’re Too Busy for Your Friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression and deal with mental stress, as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions, all of which age us prematurely.

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What can you do: Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in-person is best, communicating via email or Facebook counts too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating long-term relationships that nurture and support.

7. You Love the Remote

A “British Journal of Sports Medicine” study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. And while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do: The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, buy one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

8. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Had Sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy. Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the “Journal of the American Medical Association” now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and other immune and mood-boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

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What you can do: Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra ‘love time.’ Your body…and your partner will thank you.

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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Royale Scuderi

A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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