16 Keys to Living Healthy In Your Old Age

Old couple on a morning walk
Keys to living healthy in our old age

I had a good friend who thought she was living a healthy life because she was vegan.  Yet she smoked tobacco, drank alcohol, and consumed a variety of legal and illegal drugs. Thus, her physical health quickly went downhill.   Another friend made physical fitness the goal of his life, and he succeeded in developing a "perfect" body.  Yet his mind was very unhealthy in the sense that he constantly criticized others, compared them to himself, and often became envious of those he considered his equal or superior.  A third person I knew was exceptionally gifted in body and intellect, but often complained about feelings of emptiness and purposelessness.  Even though it appeared that he had the perfect life, he regularly talked of ending it.  At the time, I was baffled as to how someone with so much had so little appreciation for it. But now I understand that he suffered from a spiritual void.  The point that I'm trying to make is that living a healthy life is not one dimensional.  A healthy life must take into consideration not only the body, but also the mind, and spirit.  If we are diseased in any one of these areas, then there can be serious consequences.

So what are the keys to living healthy in your old age?  Believe it or not, they are basically the same as they were in your younger years.   The main difference is that the consequences for not applying these keys will be much greater now than they were in your youth.

1. Start Early

Don't think you can live an unhealthy, out of control, life for 50 years, then suddenly flick the switch and go healthy for the remainder of your years.  Bad habits and addictions form after a number of years and it is very difficult to turn them around.  So, the earlier you start adopting healthy habits, the easier it will be to continue in old age.  That being said, it's never too late to begin living healthy.

2. Clean Up Your Act

Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, unrestricted sex, gambling and other forms of extreme or excessive behavior have a negative effect on our immediate and long term physical and mental health.  If your attachment to these substances or behaviors is so strong that you don't think you could ever give them up, then cut back on them.  Better yet, substitute them with something healthy.  For example, drink Kombucha instead of alcohol, breathe deeply using pranayama techniques instead of sucking on cigarettes and chant mantras instead of consuming drugs, etc.

3. Eat Healthy Vegetarian Foods

Load up on high fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats like coconut, olive and flax seed oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.  The Vedas also tell us that dairy products made from healthy, protected and loved cows is an excellent source of protein and the perfect brain food.  These foods are called "sattvic", or in the mode of goodness.  They are very conducive for the health of body, mind and spirit.

On the other hand, according to the Vedas, meat, fish and eggs are in the modes of "tamas" (Ignorance) or "rajas" (passion).  They create an internal environment where disease can thrive and they have a tendency to cloud up the mind's clarity.  They also have the unhealthy effect of bad karma.

So, next time you go shopping, look for those sattvic, health-giving foods.

4. Do Hatha Yoga and/or other forms of exercise

Traditional forms of Outdoor ExerciseThe various stretches, constrictions, breathing and relaxation techniques of hatha yoga have a long litany of health benefits.  Yoga asanas are reputed to relieve pain, loosen stiff muscles, increase mobility, reduce arthritis, improve chronic disorders, create mental balance, energize and vitalize, boost immunity, drop blood pressure, prevent IBS and digestive disorders, reduce tension, stimulate the glands, induce weight loss, improve blood flow and lower blood sugar, build muscle strength, maintain the nervous system, regulate the adrenal glands, promote sound sleep, increase confidence and creativity, improve focus, and give a sense of peace of mind.  And, most importantly, yoga makes you a happier person.

Other exercise disciplines with similar effects include Tai Chi and QiGong.  These Chinese disciplines have a wide variety of practices.  Some internal forms are very simple and easy for the elderly to practice and benefit from.  As your skills improve, there are more complex and challenging external styles to learn.  In other words, the appeal of QiGong and Tai Chi is that anyone can benefit from them regardless of their age or ability.

As great as these eastern disciplines are, don't forget hiking, swimming, biking, tennis, golf and other traditional forms of outdoors exercise.  Make it a habit to get out into nature, and get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and clean water.

5. Meditate

In the truest sense of the word, meditation means to fix one's mind and entire being on the Supreme.  Therefore, one needs to believe in a Supreme Being, or at least have a desire to know if the Supreme exists or not.  If successful, the greatest benefit of such meditation is pure, unalloyed love for the Supreme and for all other living entities.  Any other form of "meditation" should technically be called Pre-meditation.

Examples of Pre-meditation are fixing one's mind upon a beautiful sunset, or on a candle flame, or on the tip of your nose, etc.  The benefits of Pre-meditation are numerous, but we'll just mention a few here:  it normalizes the blood pressure, relieves stress, clears the mind, improves the thought process, increases creativity, makes it easier to give up bad habits like smoking, drinking and drugs, helps gain self-control, improves the immune system, creates a road to forgiveness, and leads to a happier, more satisfying life.

So, whether you're a person of faith, an agnostic, or an atheist, meditation and/or pre-meditation can be of immense value.

6. Add the Healing Effects of Transcendental Sound to Your Life

The Transcendental SoundChanting using beads is also known as mantra.  “Man” means the mind, and “tra” means to transcend or free.  So a mantra not only frees the mind of worldly troubles, but also helps us transcend, or go beyond, the realm of the mind.  A mantra can be repeated in several different ways:

  1. Silently while meditating
  2. Quietly while using a mala, or set of beads, to count the number of repetitions you chant (Japa)
  3. Out loud in coordination with breathing exercises (Mantra Breathing)
  4. Congregationally with a group of people, usually singing with melodies and musical instruments (Kirtan).

Mantras are very powerful and have many of the healing benefits listed in the yoga and meditation sections, plus a lot more.  Personally, I have filled an ipod with 24 hours of various kirtans.  At home, instead of listening to the radio or to materialistic songs, I always have the transcendental sounds playing in the background 24/7.  These transcendental sounds have a tremendously uplifting effect on my life, and they will on yours too.

7. Cleansing Techniques

Practically everyone knows that their automobile needs to be maintained on a regular basis.  The oil, the oil filter, the air filter and the fuel filter need to be changed every few months, according to use and abuse.  Likewise, the radiator needs an occasional flushing, the brake pads and fluid need to be changed when worn down, and the transmission fluid needs to be changed before it gets too dirty and gritty, and so on. Similarly, the body's internal organs need to be cleansed or flushed out on a semi regular basis.  If we don't consciously cleanse these organs, then Mother Nature will do the job for us in the form of colds, fevers and other sicknesses which are simply nature's way of cleansing the body.  However, if we use drugs and medications to suppress Mother Nature’s cleansing attempts; then, sooner or later, we will quite likely end up on the surgeon's operating table with one severely diseased organ or another.

More advanced hatha yoga processes, such as neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, kapalbhati, etc. have been designed to vitalize the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems of the body. They also have a cleansing effect upon the internal organs such as the stomach, intestines, colon, liver, kidneys, gall bladder, lungs, nasal passages, eyes and ears.  In short, it could be said that these yoga processes have a purifying effect upon the body which brings about an increased energy flow.   As such, one's ability to work, think, taste, feel and digest increases, as does one's awareness.

The problem is that most of these yoga techniques are rather advanced, and one should only attempt them under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.  Such persons are rather rare nowadays.

However, if you can't find a yoga instructor skilled in these processes, no worries.  There are plenty of cleansing protocols which you can take up on your own, or more preferably, under the guidance of a naturopath or similar health practitioner.

8. Fast

While yogis and other transcendentalists have always incorporated fasting into their lifestyle for spiritual, as well as physical and mental reasons, fasting has now become increasingly popular with those in the health community.  Sensible and regulated fasting, perhaps 2 to 4 days a month, is very beneficial for your health.

Fasting helps with weight loss, as it allows the body to burn fat, rather than sugar as its primary source of energy.  It speeds up the metabolism, improves insulin sensitivity, promotes longevity, helps regulate eating patterns, improves brain function, and builds up the immune system.  It is also said to clear up the skin and prevent acne.

More importantly, fasting is conducive to self-awareness and spiritual enlightenment.  A great deal of our energy is spent trying to digest our food.  When the body is relieved of that duty, it can redirect that energy towards spiritual awakening or enlightenment.

In the Vedic system, there are two days a month set aside for fasting.  These days are called ekadasi. Ekadasi days are specifically designed as a time where we decrease our material activities and increase our spiritual activities.   Thus, we are spiritually and mentally nourished, as well as bodily.

9. Read Uplifting Literature

The most uplifting literatures are the scriptures:  the Bible, Torah, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, etc.; and those literatures which support the scriptures.  They provide us encouragement and teach us about healing, faith, forgiveness, prayer, charity, our identity, love and much more.  For a healthy and happy life, it is highly recommended that we daily bath our intellect in the profound revelations of these holy books.

10. Know the Purpose of Your Life

Know who you are and why you are here.  A life with purpose is full of joyfulness and vigor, whereas an unenlightened life is often plagued with boredom, purposelessness, addictions and depression.

11. Get Regulated

Try to regulate your life in an organized manner.  Wake up, evacuate, eat, work, recreate and go to bed at specific times.  The rhythms of the universe, such as the rising and setting of the sun, are very consistent.  Therefore, we know when the sun will rise from one day to another, and we can positively count on it.  Similarly, if we regulate our daily activities, then the body's various internal systems come to know what to expect.  Thus they shift into a consistent rhythmic flow, similar to tuning up an automobile, syncing the timing, and getting it to run on all cylinders.  This is very beneficial for our health.  In contrast, if we have unregulated, uncontrolled habits, then the body's natural rhythms get out of sync and we'll start feeling and functioning like an vehicle running on 2 or 3 cylinders.

You also want to follow the path of moderation.  Don't eat too much, and don't eat too little.  Don't sleep too much, and don't sleep too little. Don't exercise too much and don't exercise too little.

12. Keep connected with Family and Friends

Love and close friendships are the greatest rewards in life.  Put efforts to improve social harmony, nourish the relationships you have, and go out into the community and make more friends.

13. Serve Others

The world is full of people and other living beings who need material and spiritual help.  Figure out where you can be of some service to them.

Nearly every community has stray or abandoned animals, battered women, abused children, the poor and homeless, the disabled, the elderly, people hoping for a better way of life, and the spiritually deprived.   How can you help at least one of these people?  Look deeply into your personal assets, and then figure out how you can help others, either on your own, with a group of people, or by volunteering with an organization.

Do you have skills that someone would appreciate learning?  Perhaps you could be an assistant teacher at the local school, or start up a yoga class, a cooking class, a music class, and a community garden, teach people entrepreneur skills or simply donate money or time to those who are already helping others in one way or another?

The point is, use your time and energy in the service of others.  They may not be the only ones to benefit.

14. Respect the Earth and Do Something to Improve It

For better or worse, the earth is our home and will be the home for many generations to come.  Try to make it a better place than it was when you arrived.  If there are some barren plots near you, think about planting some trees, or turning it into a community garden.  Garbage strewn along the sides of the roadways in your community?  Volunteer to clean it up.

Be A Force For Good In The World | Science of Identity Foundation

Get involved in knowing the possible reasons and its actions with respect to sustaining the local and global environmental issues of the day, and do what you can to make the earth a better place to live.

15. Give up Trying To Be The Controller

We all want to be in total control, to have things done our way, and have people act as we wish them to act,  have governments pass laws and regulations which we deem necessary and rescind ones we think useless.  In other words, we are all thinking how much better this world would be if everyone would conform to our will.  And, we spend a lot of psychic energy trying to make it happen our way, or worrying about things which we have absolutely no control over.

Sorry, but you and I are not in control.  We can do what we can do; but ultimately, the results are out of our control.  So, let go.  Don't drain your mental energy worrying about that which is beyond your control.  As the old saying goes: "Be the change you want to see in the world."  This is something we can achieve, and it’s a much healthier way to live.

16. Love and Serve the Supreme Being

The awakening of pure love of God is the ultimate perfection of all religions and religious principles, and of life itself. In fact, love of God is life, itself. "Life" without love of God, is not really Life, in the truest sense of the word.   "Life" without love of God, is life in the sense that one exists, is sentient, is capable of growing and reproducing, etc., but is lacking in those qualities which intrinsically exist  with real life, i.e. a heightened awareness of one's eternality, encompassed with full and absolute knowledge,  and overwhelming blissfulness.  In other words, this apparent, or shadow of, "life" in comparison with the real thing, is basically just a sad version of "Dead Men Walking."

Love: The Religion Of The Soul | Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa Chris Butler

Service cannot be separated from Love.  Service is love in action.  For instance, if a mother loves her child, she will serve that child.  She will change his dirty diapers, prepare nice foodstuffs for him to eat, hold and nurture him during times of distress, etc.  On the other hand, if she claims she loves her child, but refuses to change his dirty diapers, neglects to feed him, and locks him in a sound proof room where she won't be bothered by his constant whining, instead of nurturing him or trying to find the cause of his distress, does she really love him?   I would venture to say no.  Certainly not as much as the mother who is willing to sacrifice her own comfort and peace of mind for the welfare of her beloved child.

When trying to develop our love for the Supreme Being, there are two kinds of instructions:  General and Specific.  General instructions can be found in the scriptures and in the teachings of previous saintly persons.  For instance, Jesus' first commandment, "Love the Father with all your heart, your mind and your entire being,” is considered a general instruction.  Read the scriptures, pray, sing the names of God, and engage in selfless service are also examples of general instructions.

Specific instructions are given by a living saint, or representative of God, also known as an Acharya, or a teacher by example.  The Acharya considers our psychic makeup, then gives us specific instructions which are tailor-made for each individual and meant to bring us to a deeper level of love and surrender to the Supreme Being.

Love is ever expanding, so there is never a time when we can say, "That's it.  I've reached the apex of life and now I can kick back and rest on my laurels."  When preparing sweet rice or condensed milk, the longer you cook it, the thicker and sweeter it gets.  Similarly, as our love continues to grow and expand, the sweeter and more intense it becomes.  However, with the milk preparations, there does come a time when you must pull them off the stove or they will burn.  That's where the analogy fails to measure up.  Pure love is ever expanding, ever fresh, and forever getting sweeter and sweeter.  But even in its infant stages, when pure love awakens in our hearts, we can be assured that we are nearing the end of our quest for perfect health.

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