Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 7 2014: Writing, health, happiness—and lifestyle (we’re crazy).

“People find themselves in ruts all the time. You're in a complacent lifestyle where you work 9 to 5 and then you add a mortgage and kids. You feel trapped, but guess what, brother? You constructed that life. If you're OK with it, there's nothing wrong with that. But if you've got unease, then you've got to make a change.”

Jeremy Renner

Photo by my talented sister, Lucy Ayettey

HEALTH EQUALS MIND + BODY. I was going to write: “Writing is not a healthy activity,” but then realized that I was missing out on the decidedly positive effects of writing on the mind (at least as far as I am concerned). So, if you regard your health in a holistic way—which you certainly should—then writing has many positive aspects even if you ignore the negative physical aspects. It’s a great and wonderful thing to love what you do and to look forward to each waking day. Research indicates that is not the case where most of us are concerned.

Bluntly, most of us don’t enjoy our jobs—and don’t buy into what we do. We are not engaged—which means we don’t work nearly as well as we might. That’s quite an indictment of our current corporate way of life—but that’s a topic for another day.

But reflect on that thought. To quote the title of a recent book on the matter, THE WAY WE’RE WORKING ISN’T WORKING. It’s by Tony Schwarz—and I cannot recommend it too highly.

EXCESSIVE SITTING IS NOT A GOOD THING. Back to writing and health. Here, what I’m trying to say is that any job, which means that you are sitting in front of a computer for eight to twelve hour a day (which I do voluntarily), has to be regarded as physically something one should be concerned about. That raises the question as to what one should do about it.

DAILY EXERCISE IS NOT ENOUGH. Until relatively recently, I thought one could work all day, but compensate by exercising in the evening. However, the latest information says that such exercise—while good in itself—fails to compensate for being sedentary for extended periods. Simply put, unless you move around relatively frequently—for some minutes every hour—you are still putting your health at risk.

Corporate line dancing every hour on the hour? The mind boggles—but we’ve got to do something. Maybe sex in the office is a good idea after all. It is certainly exercise—and could do wonders for morale. Add in the number of extra sex workers you would need, and it would do wonders for unemployment. .

DEATH MEANS NO WRITING—WHO KNEW? “Health at risk” sounds sobering, but since one’s health is always at risk  from something or other (life is goddam dangerous) it also sound like the kind of issue one can compartmentalize and procrastinate about. However, if re-thought as: “A sedentary life will do you in prematurely—and writing when dead is problematic”—even an ace compartmentalizer, such as myself, starts to pay serious attention.

Hell is not being able to write.

To my deep regret, I have never consciously paid great attention to my health, but I have still done a few things which have served me well.

  • I have walked a great deal throughout my life—and have driven as little as possible. You see less when you walk, but the intensity of the experience is vastly superior.
  • I don’t smoke.
  • I steer clear of the medical profession as far as possible—except when there is no other choice.
  • I don’t do illegal drugs. I’m not being noble here. I just haven’t been tempted.
  • I rarely take legal drugs (meds) unless in considerable pain—and then minimally.
  • I work at something I love.
  • I eat in moderation—and very little meat.
  • I don’t snack.

On the negative side:

  • I have drunk wine every day—pretty much for the last fifty plus years. Whether that has been negative or not is a moot point. It certainly is if I drink it to excess, but I believe there are considerable benefits from wine if drunk in relative moderation. That said, I don’t regard a glass of wine a day as moderation. I regard it as ridiculous.
  • Like many creative people, whose income is both uncertain and irregular, I lead an extremely stressful life.
  • Leaving aside the stress resulting from financial uncertainty, I have a tendency to undertake projects which are innately stressful in themselves. Why do I do that? It’s my nature. I am an adventurer and iconoclast at heart.

But what do I do about my sedentary lifestyle? Not as much as I should yet—but I’m making progress.

  • I now get up as often as I think about it—multiple times an hour—and do something physical. This can be as simple as standing and stretching—or spending ten minutes taking a short walk or doing some chore. Such behavior makes me feel much better and has not affected my output (somewhat to my surprise).
  • I used light weights before to resolve a hand-cramp issue—with great success—so now I’m using them as an exercise aid.
  • I now eat only one meal a day—which works wonders.
  • I have started juicing again. I can’t praise juicing too highly.
  • I make a point of sitting very upright. It is all too easy to slump when writing. Posture is extraordinarily important.
  • I have a new chair with good back support.
  • I’m planning a treadclimber.

Consider me a work in progress. However, the success of what little I have done really makes me think that the way many of us work at present is crazy—and, along with many other lifestyle choices, explains why Americans live three years or so less than the citizens of other developed nations—and while we live, we are sicker.

We need to think about this stuff. It is all of a piece.


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