Having spent 20+ years in academic and industrial research related to health and wellbeing, I began to realise the wealth of knowledge I has amassed on ‘healthy ageing’ had not touched me personally. I had spent years analysing data from thousands of participants of long term studies, finding out what healthy people had in common as they aged. I also spent the same amount of time as a psychologist identifying what made some people more likely to motivate themselves to make lifestyle changes that would last for ever.
Throughout this time, even with all my knowledge I felt like it all applied to other people but not to me. It was a bit like your doctor who tells you to stop smoking but smokes himself. One day I knew I had come to a crossroad in my life. Whilst I had helped many people change their lives for the better, I needed to take what I had learnt to the next level and feel the impact personally.
Having created the original Heart Age concept and working for many years on it with Holly, we knew that its power came from people not wanting to be older than their real age. This insight wasn't just relevant to heart health but in fact to everything spanning health, happiness and wellbeing. Why restrict ourselves to hearts?! The time had come to evolve what we knew into a much larger and overarching concept - Younger Lives.
We revisited earlier work we had done on ‘Healthy Ageing’ – the idea that people age at different rates and that the majority of that was due to their lifestyles. You could in fact look and ‘be’ younger than your birth date! We knew already that decades of research had shown us the factors that made some people age well or stay young and others not. We just needed to revisit that forgotten data and reconnect with the large network of friends we had in universities around the world to see if they were interested in helping us to bring all the pieces together again.
Most importantly, I began to realise that I also needed to implement these changes in my own life again, but this time FOR GOOD. I knew the research and I’d also developed programs that had worked for other people. People JUST LIKE ME! How could this be? How could I have helped others while not doing it myself. Previously I had tried to solve my health issues by just running more or going on a diet, but my efforts would be short lived. When things were difficult emotionally, I would slowly but surely increase my alcohol intake until I was drinking too much in the evenings without realising it, which made me snack more and then sleep badly, sabotaging my desire to run the next day. So on it went….until I admitted to myself and others that it was a problem.
After much soul searching I realised that I was at an age that I knew I need to make some changes. My father had developed type-2 diabetes in his late 50s. I’d seen his health suffer as a result and I wanted to live a happy and long life. But it wasn’t just this though. I had always noticed that when I ran (which was always my favourite exercise) I was happier and more ‘in control’ of my life. I wanted that and its helped me through a difficult period of my life with changes in my relationships, family and work life. I need that strength and energy, that happiness to make life worth living.
It’s not always easy. There are times that I slip back and when I’m stressed, I can lose my routine and back to old bad habits. However, what’s really important is how long it takes to get back to a good place. I get back quickly. My motivation is stronger and confidence is higher as I have strong set of enjoyable habits that I can get back to.
Finally, as we researched the link between happiness and health (which is the foundation of this Younger Lives program) I began to feel deep disappointment at the cynicism amongst many of my scientist peers about the field of ‘happiness’. Yes there’s a lot of ‘flaky’ self-appointed gurus out there that have no training or grounding in science, However…. isn’t it just obvious that everyone wants to be both healthy and happy? It’s not just about performing meditation or living a hedonistic lifestyle. It’s about helping us align our meaning in life with the motivation to look after ourselves so that we can be around for longer to fulfil our ambitions. It’s THIS message that helps me feel better today and I know it will help me maintain my health and happiness into the future.
At Younger Lives, we know that happiness leads to health, and health leads to more happiness, and therefore all these elements are important. The good news is that the science backs that up and for me the even better news is that finally I’m taking notice.
Co Founder of Younger Lives Ltd
BSc & PhD in Psychology
20 years + working in disease risk reduction, health and wellness
Research Fellow in the Framingham Heart Study/Boston University
Editorial Board, American Journal of Health Promotion
Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College London
Advisor to the Center for Health and Technology Initiative, American Heart Association
(Prev) CSO of Heart Age
(Prev) Developed the ‘Heart Age’ concept and patent holder for the underpinning algorithms
(Prev) Developed the first ‘peer reviewed’ digital weight management programs using activity monitors and body fat scales in 2000
Father of two amazing boys