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As we age, we come to a realization that life isn’t just about what the world perceives as “success”, but rather it should be made up of things that truly satisfy us. Although it is not bad to indulge and sneak in a few ‘bad habits’ here and there, it is not definitely wise to put in energy in things that won’t benefit us in the future.
What is quality of life?
To put simply, quality of life refers to the degree of health, comfort, and satisfaction that one gets out of living. People who have a high quality of life describe their ways of living to be happy, fulfilling, comfortable, and free from illness or danger.
When we think of one’s life quality, we can also refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In his pyramid diagram, he illustrated the five areas of needs that need to be fulfilled in order to improve one’s quality of life. The most basic ones involve the physical need (food, shelter, clothing) and security (the need to feel safe, free from danger and uncertainty). As we go above the hierarchy, we see that other areas such as social need (belongingness, inclusion, interaction), ego (self-esteem and recognition), and self-actualization (development and creativity) contributes to one’s quality of life.
Like a bank, our lives can have better outcomes if we put the work into considering our quality of life in the future. If you are someone in your productive years, what are some factors to consider to achieve health, happiness and satisfaction in your older ages?
10 things to look out for in improving one’s quality of life
Needless to say, diet plays an important role in our overall health and wellness. When it comes to physical health, diet is one controllable factor that can help us avoid or acquire many diseases. “You are what you eat” is still a relevant motto when looking out for our future quality of life.
Recent studies show that the 10% increase in consumption of highly processed foods can heighten the risk of cancer by 12%. In contrast, consuming whole foods with fiber, lean protein, and nutrients is linked to controlled blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of obesity, and can even reverse the effects of degenerative diseases.
If you are looking to improve your quality of life, start by improving your eating habits. Instead of consuming highly processed sweets and pastries, replace it with fruits. Packaged high-fructose cereals can be replaced with whole grains instead. These healthy swaps can make a whole lot of difference with your overall health as you age.
2. Physical activity
Along with diet, physical activity is one factor that we should never neglect. Those who built a habit of being physically active at least 3-5 times a day are less likely to develop coronary heart disease, stroke, and can even mitigate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
If you don’t know where to start, ask your doctor about the beginner’s exercises you can follow. Some of the best beginner’s exercises are walking, indoor cycling, and low-impact aerobics. Allot at least 20-30 minutes a day and 3-5 times a week of physical activity on a specific time of your day to establish a habit. As you progress and your tolerance improves, you can proceed to other advanced types of workout such as weight training, sports, or even martial arts.
3. Substance use
Yes, youthful days may be filled with moments of experimentation, fun with friends, and “high” times. However, these joyful escapades might quickly turn negative consequences as you age when substance use transforms into unwanted addictions.
Smoking, drinking alcohol and using illicit drugs can cause addictions, and they often rear their ugly heads when health consequences start to develop. Alcoholism can lead to liver disease, as smoking can lead to lung complications such as emphysema. Drug-related health issues can involve psychosis, Alzheimer’s, and even the fatal threat of overdose.
If you are suffering from substance use or abuse, try to get help as soon as you can. There are programs dedicated to detox from alcohol, drug rehabilitation, and even medicated procedures to help you stop smoking. The earlier you quit on substances, the more it benefits your future quality of life in dividends.
4. Healthy relationships
Another important factor to consider as we age is not the amount, rather the quality of relationships we have in our lives. It doesn’t matter what relationship status we are in–whether single, married, or separated–all that matters is we have built our lives around people whom we can have mutual understanding and compassion.
Research suggests that quality relationships improve the overall quality of life. We can have the best physical health, but having troublesome social interactions can bring in unnecessary stress, which causes a multitude of physical and mental illnesses. To avoid this, break free from toxic relationships. Learn to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Seek out groups of people that enrich your life.
5. Job satisfaction
Just like relationships, we find satisfaction in the occupations we choose. However, not all people can choose what field they want to work in, hence affecting their job satisfaction.
If you are young and may not be financially established, it is best to have a clear goal in mind about how you want to see yourself in the future. You may be in a place where you don’t want to be, but if you set clear goals, you can take small steps to reach your dream. This not only helps you get closer to self-fulfillment, but also keeps you satisfied in what you can work on now.
6. Mental health
Our minds are the control centers of our body. We use it to make daily decisions, to form relationships, and to establish the things we want out of life. And so, just like psychical health, mental health is just as important in our future quality of life.
The stress from life’s circumstances and daily responsibilities can take a toll not just in our bodies but also in our minds. It is important to practice strategies to reduce stress. Having a clear mind decreases the risk of mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and degenerative brain conditions.
Security can be described in many ways. It can involve physical, emotional, or even financial security. One of the wisest ways to help improve the quality of your life in the future is thinking of “what if’s” and making sure that you have a back-up plan for unexpected circumstances in your life.
Some people want to invest in insurance. Others would want to build up their savings. Whichever path you choose, any action to secure your future will help you in the long run.
It is funny that when we are younger, we always like to think of what we are supposed to do in the following days, weeks, or months. However, many older people live life in retrospect to remember their past experiences and accomplishments.
Your younger years may be a time filled with opportunities to succeed–yet you may find yourself failing. At this point, it is important to develop a growth mindset. Use your failures as an agent of change to help you accomplish the things you want in life. So that when you look back from the future, you’ll have no regrets.
When it comes to securing your future quality of life, it is important to find time for things that give you happiness. Whether it’s pursuing a hobby that has been on your mind, a weekly leisure that you want to spend time on–it is better to invest on it now.
Do not postpone your enjoyment because it also affects your mental and physical health. Start your art project, watch a movie, go to that dinner, take that vacation that has been in your mind for months! It will bring you great memories that you can keep for a lifetime. Just make sure that it is a hobby or past time that does not compromise your health, safety, or relationships. Remember, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Balance is key.
It is pretty daunting to live a life with no purpose or direction. When you ask yourself, “What is my mission? What am I living for?” Do you truly know the answer?
Some people find their purpose by serving others. In many ways, they find that this is a consequence of a spiritual awakening, such as learning more about God, or discovering a cause that they have a passion for. During our productive years, it is helpful to contemplate the things we deeply care for so that we can understand our purpose.
Your path to a high quality of life starts now
As you contemplate on these factors, always remember that the choices you take today will ultimately affect you in the years to come. Consider the things that deeply matter to you and work on it when you still have the time.
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