Saturday 1 October 2022

Self-discipline is the way to survive, even enjoy old age!

I am sorry but (1) this is not about cats although I mention them in passing and (2) you don't want to hear the dreaded word 'self-discipline'. But it is vital during all of one's life but particularly so in old age when every day is about maintaining oneself, the home, the garden, the car and the cat.

Self-discipline is the way to survive old age!
Self-discipline is the way to survive old age! Image: MikeB

And maintenance includes maintaining mental health which can only be achieved by exercising the mind while staying as much as possible in the present. Exercising the mind does force the mind to stay in the present in any case.

In old age (70+) you have to have purpose. Often there is no need to work. That immediately undermines purpose. You have to find some other way to create purpose. You might generate it artificially. You might give yourself projects. You need to place demands on your body physically and mentally. The body needs to be worked just like an old car. And all this requires self-discipline.

And when the mind is challenged it automatically stays in the present. This blocks out negative thoughts through looking back into the past and forward into the future.

Nowadays, it is very easy to generate negative thoughts because the future looks a little bit bleak in the UK because of a dysfunctional government plus the war in Ukraine and an economic crisis. And it is just post-Covid. And it is very easy for an old person to be nostalgic. Beware of nostalgia as it can become a depressive.

Another important aspect of life which requires self-discipline is structure. I believe it is vital that an old person lives their days with structure. This can mean doing similar things each day which sounds boring, but it injects a framework into the life of a person who might become a little bit distracted and whose mind might wonder distractedly which can lead to mental upset and depression.

There is another benefit to a structure in the life of an elderly person. If they have a cat which is quite likely, then the cat will also enjoy that structure. Almost above all else, domestic cats like to know what's going to happen. It provides them with reassurance. I believe that all domestic cats need reassurance, and it should be given freely.

But all these aspects of life when retired require self-discipline. For example, you need self-discipline not to eat too much. You need self-discipline to finish eating when you are still a little bit hungry and would love some more because it is food therapy. Enjoy eating but don't do food therapy. And the less you eat the less you feel you need. It controls appetite. The opposite: eat more and the stomach demands more.

You need self-discipline to eat the right foods in order to ensure that the body functions at least reasonably well at a time when it will start malfunctioning.

For example, I go for a walk twice a day. I think every retired individual should walk for at least 45 minutes per day, preferably one hour. And it should be reasonably vigorous walking ideally in nature. Nature - trees particularly - are healing. They pour balm over the troubled mind.

 Perhaps you might do something else while walking such as discussing topics with a companion or doing photography. Both of which stimulate the mind.

But there has to be some physicality in life in order to keep the body functioning. There's nothing worse than sitting down for two hours watching television which of itself is bad for the digestion and bad for health generally.

And when you get older the body requires maintenance in terms of medications which should be taken daily, religiously but minimised. This is a proactive step in order to keep oneself in reasonable condition and functioning.

Personally, I stopped drinking alcohol about seven or eight years ago. Alcohol is calorie rich, and it is not a great food. You can put on weight very easily drinking alcohol and of course it makes you feel better for a while until the downside clicks in and you feel worse. There is always a price for artificial highs.

The problem is you put on weight, number one, and secondly you can more easily become depressed drinking alcohol because it is a depressive drug.

In addition, alcohol makes it harder to function normally both during drinking and afterwards. I would recommend employing self-discipline to entirely eliminate alcohol, but it can't be eliminated it should be minimised right down to the barest minimum.

The right foods need to be eaten and you can look that up on the Internet. It requires self-discipline to do all these things. I completely changed my diet about six years ago in order to shed some weight because the extra weight had increased my blood pressure to the point where medication was considered. 

I avoided medication because I lost weight almost immediately with a radical diet. I have modified that diet over many years and maintained it. It was hard.

Perhaps the greatest task for an elderly person is to keep their weight down and to achieve a good BMI. Excess weight brings many health problems. It is not the fat that you see but the fat that is around the organs inside the body which prevents them working such as the pancreas (creating insulin) where the damage is done. 

Incidentally, pancreatitis can be caused by an excess of alcohol which can cause temporary type 2 diabetes.

"Fatty pancreas is associated with abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, T2DM, dyslipidemia, arterial hypertension and metabolic syndrome" - National Library of Medicine USA
It took me about eight years to completely and radically change my diet to where it is now and where my weight is stable with a good or very good BMI level and my blood pressure is below 120/75. Like I said it took a lot of time and a lot of self-discipline to achieve that and it is an ongoing and never-ending challenge. Every day has the same challenge and every day that challenge must be met and surmounted.

Here is a bit more about Type II diabetes. I would expect that you have read about it. What is so shocking is that it is nearly always caused by excess weight and therefore a person suffering from type II diabetes due to obesity can self-cure themselves by losing weight, but it seems to me that very few people do this. It appears that they are addicted to food and food therapy.

My immediate neighbours are both obese and they both suffer from type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is a slow killer. You end up losing feeling in your feet because it kills the nerve endings at the extremities of the body which can lead to ulcers in the legs, which can lead to amputation. 

It damages the kidneys and liver. It damages the retina of the eyes. It can cause blindness. It is a slow insidious death and yet people can't stop eating to cure themselves. I find it astonishing, and I have to say it demonstrates a complete lack of self-discipline which is the point of this article.

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