9 Simple Tips to Have a Happier and Healthier New Year (From a 105-Year-Old Doctor)
I was surfing the web yesterday when I came across a headline that instantly captured my attention.
“105-Year-Old Doctor Offers Life Advice on How to Live Longer and Be Happy Every day”
My first inclination was to roll my eyes and write off the article as click bait.
But something inside of me couldn’t resist the pull of potentially profound wisdom…
So–preparing myself to spend an entire afternoon scrubbing my computer of malware–I tentatively clicked the link and dove in. And I couldn’t be happier that I did.
The article in question was about a Japanese doctor by the name of Shigeaki Hinohara who–as you’ll see in a moment–was THE quintessential example of an Operator.
Born in 1911, Dr. Hinohara began working at St. Luke’s Hospital in Tokyo during 1941 and continued to do so until he died at the age of 105 in July of 2017.
But what I found so impressive about Dr. Hinohara wasn’t just his longevity or hustle (both of which were admittedly admirable).
What I found so impressive was his lifelong commitment to happiness.
The more I learned about Dr. Hinohara and the more I researched his life and legacy (including his more than 150 published works!) the more I was amazed by the joyful and playful attitude he maintained towards life DESPITE the massive adversity with which he was faced.
Here are the 9 lessons that I learned from the late great Dr. Hinohara about living longer, healthier, and happier.
1. Eat Clean and Stay Lean
“All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight.” ~ Dr. Hinohara
Dr. Hinohara’s first piece of advice is also his simplest.
Eat clean, eat small portions, and eat to live, don’t live to eat.
By fueling your body with healthy foods you will maintain high levels of energy and vitality throughout your life and have a competitive advantage over 60% of the population.
Although there are thousands of confusing fad diets filling the modern nutritional landscape, Dr. Hinohara and I like to keep things simple.
Before he passed away Dr. Hinohara shared his daily diet consisting of only one meal and a few snacks.
For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.
Personally, I like to take the “JERF” or “Just Eat Real Food” approach to dieting.
I try to eat meat only once a day (or every other day) and get the majority of my calories from fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods.
Try out different diets to see what works for you, but remember, eat clean and stay lean if you want to optimize your life for happiness and longevity.
There’s nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence, but ensure that 80% of your diet comes from healthy whole foods.
2. Take the Stairs (And Engage in Other Forms of Simple Exercise)
“To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.” ~Dr. Hinohara
Most people assume that being “healthy” and living a long happy life requires insane amounts of discipline, a rigorous training schedule, and a die-hard commitment to athletic performance.
In my own experience, this is rarely the case.
This sentiment was echoed by the late Doctor who simply recommended that more people take the stairs and carry their own belongings.
He didn’t prescribe a crazy strength training regimen or challenging bodybuilding program.
He kept it simple and you should too.
Before moving on to the next point in this article, ask yourself a simple question.
“How can I find small ways to be more physically active throughout the day.”
Can you ride your bike to work instead of driving? Can you walk in your local park while listening to audiobooks on your lunch break? Can you convince your manager to buy the office a set of standing desk extensions?
What are some small ways that you can inject more movement and vitality into your life, today?
3. Share Your Knowledge, Expertise, and Passions with the World
“I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong” ~Dr. Hinohara
An “expert” is simply someone who knows more about a specific subject than the people whom they are trying to teach.
For example, compared to most of my readers, I am an “Expert” on personal growth, freelancing, and writing.
However, when you compare me to Tony Robbins, Tai Lopez, or Dean Graziosi, I am far from the expert, and that’s ok!
One of the most important parts of the human experience is that it is a shared experience.
So start sharing more. Start a blog and build a tribe. Have coffee with friends to discuss new ideas. Sign up to speak at your local high school. Give seminars or lectures at local meetups.
You have a duty and obligation to share your passions, curiosity, and expertise with the world.
So start today.
4. Utilize Science but Don’t Depend on It
“Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.” ~Dr. Hinohara
It might surprise many of you to find that Dr. Hinohara was not a huge proponent of surgery.
Despite his years in the medical field and wealth of experience, he would often prescribe his patients with simple, painless, holistic (and free) cures to help them heal themselves without resorting to invasive procedures.
As you may have ascertained from his quote, he was a big fan of implementing music and animals into daily life as a method for reducing stress and increasing happiness.
However, the principle behind his practices is far more important than the practice or prescription itself.
We live in a society that seems obsessed with research and data. And that’s not a bad thing.
An attitude of staunch skepticism towards the myriad of hyperbolic claims and ridiculous pseudoscience that proliferates the mainstream media is not only healthy, but necessary.
However, when taken to an extreme, our data-driven decisions can serve to detriment our lives instead of improving them.
We present the latest findings and research as absolute truth instead of emerging evidence and we often ignore our own gut feelings and intuition in favor of incomplete and even statistically invalid data.
We follow restrictive diets that leave us feeling lethargic and unmotivated instead of listening to our bodies.
We attempt to mimic and imitate the schedules of other top performers instead of doing what works for us.
We pursue goals, achievements, and posessions not because they are congruent with who we are and who we want to become, but because that’s what society has told us we should do.
To live a happy and healthy life, you must remember the ancient words of wisdom: In Medio Stat Veritas.
The truth lies in the middle.
Pay attention to the data. Heed the warnings and advice of experts and innovators.
But do not become reliant on them.
Keep your ears open for the little voice inside of your head and always trust your gut.
5. Avoid Excessive Materialism
“Remember: You don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.” ~Dr. Hinohara
One of the biggest traps of modern society is, without a doubt, excessive materialism.
At times in my own life, I’ve fallen prey to this very trap and it’s cost me time, money, and energy that I shouldn’t have spent.
In recent years, I’ve developed a more minimalist approach to my life and focus the majority of my time and money on enjoying new experiences, socializing with amazing people, and contributing to worthwhile causes… not amassing more “stuff”.
My friend Noah Kagan (the “Taconator”) has a very similar attitude towards material possessions and happiness.
In fact, despite building multiple 7 and 8-figure businesses, Noah still lives in a relatively modest apartment in Austin, Texas, owns a scooter and a Mazda Miata (he returned his Jaguar), and the last time I spoke with him, he still hadn’t furnished his apartment.
But he’s one of the happiest people you will ever meet.
I challenge you to adopt a minimalist approach to your own life for six months.
If you hate it, cool, you can go back to your $2,000 Guicci bags and Restoration Hardware catalogs… I won’t judge.
But I can all but guarantee that you will never go back to a life fueled by “Things” vs. a life fueled by happiness.
6. Stay Busy and Plan Ahead
“Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full until 2014 [five years ahead at the time], with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I’ll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics!” ~Dr. Hinohara
One of the most important keys to staying youthful and living a long joy-filled life is to live an active life.
I don’t just mean that you exercise every day or take the stairs instead of the elevator (although that’s important too), I mean that you must live a life that is filled with challenging and exciting activities.
Boredom is a soul sucker.
Eliminate it anywhere and everywhere that you can and fill your life with fun and engaging activities that make you feel excited to get out of bed in the morning.
Travel more, work on new projects, explore your hometown, take Salsa lessons, pick up a new instrument.
I don’t care what you do, but do something!
Life is meant to be lived and experienced, not viewed on a television screen or scrolled away via social media.
7. Don’t Retire (Or Wait as Long as Possible)
“There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.” ~Dr. Hinohara
Did you know that people who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the 10 years following their retirement than their counterparts who retire at 65? (source)
Although it may seem counterintuitive (especially if you hate your current job) leaving the workforce too early can be a huge detriment to your health and longevity.
If you must retire, retire late and fill your days with even more activity than you did while working a 9-5.
Ideally, you want to find a career, business, or pursuit that you love so much the thought of retirement repels you.
If that doesn’t describe your current job then try to change it or, at the very least, commit to trying something new once you retire.
8. Find Ways to Contribute Your Unique Gifts to Society
“…In our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.” ~Dr. Hinohara
Humans are social creatures.
We are hardwired from a biological and evolutionary standpoint to connect and contribute to the lives of others.
Nearly all scholarly studies have found a strong correlation between high levels of volunteerism and high levels of life satisfaction, longevity, and mental health (especially in adults 65+).
If you want an easy and fun way to inject more joy and fulfillment into your life then put down the TV remote and pick up an apron or a hammer.
9. Find a Role Model and Draw Inspiration from Their Actions
“Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at Duke University in North Carolina. He was a pioneer and one of my heroes. Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem.” ~Dr. Hinohara
Drawing inspiration from role models and mimicking their actions has been one of the “Secret Weapons” in my happiness and success arsenal.
Anytime I am struggling to solve a problem or overcome some type of adversity, I will always look at the actions and mindsets of the people that I admire most and ask myself, “What would they do?”.
In your life, it’s important to have strong role models whom you admire and want to be more like.
You don’t need to idolize people or put them on some sort of pedestal either. Simply having people that you admire in your life will help you to live your life to the fullest and eek the most out of your potential and abilities.
Bonus Tip: Just Have Fun!
“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it” ~Dr. Hinohara
At the end of the day, everything in this article can be summed up in one sentence.
Just have fun.
When you focus on fun, everything else comes naturally.
Life is more fun when you are fit and athletic. It’s more fun when you eat well and feel great about your body. It’s more fun when you spend time with people that you love and less time worrying about materialistic nonsense.
Life is more fun when you make fun a priority.
Stop working so darn hard and enjoy your life for once!
Spend more time with your family, go hang out with friends, build a business that you enjoy instead of struggling to make it through the day at a high paying corporate gig.
You only get one life so have fun while you can.
No one looks back on their life and wishes that they’d spent more time in the office.
They wish they’d spent more time with people that they loved doing things that they loved.
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