Ah…time, the great humbler of egos and shatterer of illusions of human immortality. As we age, we often come to certain realizations about our beliefs, ideals, and expectations that perhaps don’t fall in line with the reality of the ticking clock. Not a bad thing, just a reminder that the activities we might have been putting off for so long are not going to just happen on their own, without our taking purposeful action to make those dreams a reality.
Responsibilities also change with time. We go from self-serving, newly independent young women and men, to contributing members of a workforce and community, to matriarchs and patriarchs of families, to grandparents and leaders of community organizations and institutions—our various responsibilities changing repeatedly along the way. It has been said that nothing in life is permanent except change, and this is never more true than in our evolving responsibilities throughout our lifetime.
The Power of Practicing Good Habits while Healthy
I am a sports chiropractor. Part of my job is to help people recover from chronic pain and injury. I also work very closely with people on an educational level. It is my inspired mission to help people understand the magnificence of their bodies, and how, by nurturing the greatest gift that nature has bestowed upon them, they can do the most to ensure that they will have the time and energy to complete the dreams and goals they have set as their legacy.
My observation is that many people neglect health-nurturing until they actually start to experience physical symptoms. Although it is never too late to begin loving and caring for one’s body, waiting to do so has some distinct disadvantages.
To begin with, waiting for physical symptoms to arise before attending to your health makes it much more difficult to maintain wellbeing than by practicing good habits while healthy. This is just a fact I wish to point out here. Next, some symptoms are late in their expression, which means that damage to your body can already be done by the time symptoms arise (think heart attack, as one extreme example), and sometimes that damage is irreversible. Finally, habits can be tough to break, so the earlier you begin, the easier they are to maintain. My point here is that it is fairly common for people to drift from one health challenge to the next, attending to each malady as it comes along, by treating symptoms and not the cause, in a cyclical pattern, until the overall health and function of the body collapses. Not a good strategy in my opinion.
The Impact of Changing Responsibilities
That brings me to changing responsibilities. When we are young, in that age when the probability of developing disease is quite low (usually between our 20s-40s), it is easy to ignore our health with very little consequence. You know what I mean—frequent pizza dinners, regular and (sometimes) heavy drinking, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and so on—we often treat our bodies as if we can handle any insult, and that we might just live forever; which is not so grave to our minds, since, for the most part, we only have ourselves to think about.
That is, until our bodies tell us otherwise. This usually happens as people reach their forties. The bad foods we eat start to catch up to us then, digestive discomforts telling us of our indiscretions. Having even one drink (at least for me) can lead to a day of mental sluggishness and fatigue not conducive to carrying out one’s responsibilities. And getting inadequate rest?…ugh, forget about it…It can lead to poor performance at work, unnecessary accidents and poor relations with family members, friends and co-workers. Many of us (not all unfortunately) eventually come to the awareness that our health and wellbeing actually affect everybody we come into contact with; which becomes an especially weighty realization if we have children.
When it hits us that we have more to think about than just ourselves, many people make the commitment to change their relationship to their bodies. They decide to finally start that exercise program they have been putting off; they visit the doctor more often; they might even take up meditation, and watch what they eat; and this is a good thing. It is never too late to start adopting healthy habits. In fact, studies show that people who pick up healthy habits in middle age, and do it consistently, can reach the same levels of health as people who have done so their entire lives. Pretty inspiring, isn’t it?
My question to you, however, is…why wait?
It is much more difficult, although not impossible, to create new health habits the older we get. Let’s face it—we get set in our ways! So by starting now, no matter what your age, it will be much easier to make healthy behaviors a part of your lifestyle than if you begin a decade from now. Hate to say it, but you might not even have another decade if you neglect your health for long enough. Sorry to be the grim voice of reality here.
So how about initiating a change in responsibility today? Your responsibility to your health, your loved ones, and those who rely on you, all depend on your conscious decision to change things now! Most importantly, your responsibility to accomplishing your dreams, what you’ve set out to do, can only be realized if you have the health to do so. So take responsibility for your health today, and you’ll have the greatest chance of making your dreams come true.