Healthy Lifestyle in the 21st Century

By: Michael Hugo, MAPS, MSW, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, youth minister

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“Do we really need one more story on how to live healthy lives?”, you may be muttering as you see the title of this article. If there is one topic that the media spends gallons of ink and miles of video on is the topic of developing a healthy lifestyle.  Hopefully you will find in this piece something that the Quakers say, “Will speak to your condition.”  

From the beginning I would like to broaden the title of this article to this: “How to Find a Healthy and Meaningful Lifestyle in the 21st Century”. Victor Frankel, survivor of Auschwitz, wrote the monumental book “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  In it he stated that everything can be taken away from a person except the meaning he/she gives to what they do. There are plenty of healthy people with meaningless lives.  

I will suggest four practices that comprise a healthy/meaningful lifestyle in contemporary America.  

They are: 

  1. proper eating, 
  2. exercise, 
  3. mindfulness 
  4. and service to others.

“We are what we eat” has been an aphorism that has been around for years. It is both poetry and science.  We should never put anything into our mouth that is not intended to create health and wellness. Plenty of books spell out what nourishing food is.  White sugar and white flour are two basic substances to avoid. The closer we come to the source of the food, the better the choice. Be fond of fresh.

Exercise can consist of walking, running, biking—outside or indoors. The workout and not the venue matters most. Preferable places would be outside with fresh air. No excuses—discipline makes it happen. 

Mindfulness simply means doing one thing with full consciousness.  A Zen saying goes, “When you eat, eat. When you walk, walk”.  Make time each week to fast from your cell phone.  Keep it at home.  Weekends should not be spent reading business email. ”Be home.”  Eating in front of the TV/computer/cell phone or reading is a no-no.  Savor your food and conversation with others. Multitasking is out. 

The final ingredient of the lifestyle is doing something for others that is not expected of you. This is best done when it is “hidden” or “secret” so you don’t seek acclaim for your virtue. Opportunities abound daily. With the first three practices we establish the foundation. With service to others we create the meaning, the eternal meaning for our lives.