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  • Writer's pictureJeannette Napoleon

Five Things to do Every Day to Live Longer for Yourself and The People You Love

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

A. Eat better

A diet of whole foods will often go a long way towards improving your overall health.

The more highly processed a food is, the fewer nutrients are left in it.

1. Learn to cook. Do you consider yourself a competent chef? I do consider myself such, but haven’t always. I didn’t grow up cooking. by the time I was cooking, four counting Mom. My memories of food prep began when only three of the five girls were still at home. We did have home-cooked meals routinely. Our stepdad, Russ, did some of the cooking. He had a terrible way with beef liver & onions. Mom often would do spaghetti & meatballs. During my last years at home, the sauce took on a very spicy flair as mom experimented with cayenne hot pepper.

I remember tasty pork pot roast with cabbage, delicious slices of homemade yeast bread as well as freshly-rolled and baked tortillas. There were puddings and strawberry shortcakes all made from scratch. I feel the older kids did these desserts and we younger ones never replicated those efforts. I think the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook got a heck of a workout. While I can recall the good flavors, I also recall that I had little, if anything to do with it all.

Once out on my own, there were many store-bought pizzas and Hamburger helper dishes to start. Later, I began using the BHG cookbook. About the same time, I began gardening. I could and did cook. The results were edible certainly. Yet, I don’t recall having a remarkable way with many dishes. Yeast breads were great, but little else was notable.

Then one year, I met Markele - My Kitchen Guru! Markele had been diagnosed with HIV decades earlier. To improve his health and boost his taxed immune system, Markele had acquired a strict dietary protocol. Few, if any processed foods, entered his kitchen. Using sound cooking techniques, high-quality ingredients, herbs, good equipment, Markele would turn out delicious, sampler plates for me to savor.

He taught me that using high-quality equipment and gadgets, fresh whole ingredients and taking care with procedure would usually turn out savory dishes. I kept an eye out for good-priced, second-hand gadgets. From stand mixers, to juicers, emulsion blenders and food processors and quality knives, I grew a nice assortment. I became familiar with their use. I began to really enjoy cooking, eating and serving good food.

I learned how to chop, dice, and mince various foods. Also, how to sauté vegetables, garlic and onions to create the base for many great soups and sauces. Searing meats was no longer an obstacle. I learned how to turn salvaged bones from poultry, pork and beef bone-in cuts for delicious broth. I learned how to use that broth to boost the flavor of many different dishes anytime a bit of extra moisture was needed.

As I grew older with many friends who also enjoyed good food, I became proud and happy to entertain. Cooking and seeing others enjoy it is very rewarding for me.

Yesterday, for a late lunch, I did just that. Having worked up a flour concoction meant to be a dough, I pulled a couple of chunks from the fridge and rolled them into rounds. Pizza sauce made up last week with leftover canned whole tomatoes inherited from my nephew, Tat, went on first. Then, there were sliced mushrooms, onions, pepperoni and three cheeses. That pizza was a good cold, quick breakfast this morning as I was on the run. It also proved good enough for lunch and my sister, Patty, was happy to have a few slices gifted for her own pleasure.

I do use a few convenience foods. Low-sodium, good-quality broths and soups prove a good start to a more complex offering. So, I have become a competent chef and one who enjoys it as well! When shopping, look at the ingredients label. Hopefully, it will not be very long and you will understand the simple terms. Regrettably, many of the labels have long lists of ingredients meant to enhance the flavor and preserving qualities of the food within the package. Also, the manufacturers design the labels so that it's not easy to read or see the words. Three typical labels shown here are common examples.

2. Grow an herb garden. Chives, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and marjoram can all be easy to grow. Oregano used sparingly is great in Mexican and Greek-inspired cooking. Garlic, thyme and marjoram are user-friendly and common in many dishes.

3. Grow other easy-care plants. Johnny's Seeds at is an excellent resource for novice growers. Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening YouTube, is another very helpful soul.

Red malabar spinach, kale, beets, cucumbers, Swiss chard, peas & beans are plants that don’t require lots of skill to grow. There’s something about gardening that is not only practical and calming, but actually energizing and invigorating. It can save a lot in grocery costs. The results are wonderful! Kale for my stew and/or smoothie. Garlic mixed into the olive oil spread over the pizza crust before the sauce gives a huge flavor bonus. Flowering plants not only add cheer in bouquets, but often deter plant pests. Roasted beets and fresh-cut okra add a depth of flavor to any salad. If you manage to grow your crops without the use of heavy pesticides, you have the added comfort in knowing your food is as pure as possible. Asparagus is another super easy crop to grow. Either plant seeds or crowns. The crowns give you a year jumpstart on harvest. I have 28 foot rows and this year was the crops third year. Regrettably, I was late with the harvest. Many had turned long, thick and tough. I should’ve had close to 25 pounds to eat and share.

B. Get moving.

Movement helps regulate blood sugars. It can help manage depression and anxiety. Getting your heart rate up also increases the endorphins in your blood.

I like to describe endorphins as feel-good drugs without potential side-effects. According to WebMD, when you exercise, your body releases these chemicals and they interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.

HIKING MOUNTAINS REQUIRE CARE & ADVANCE PLANNING! For instance when hiking the Grand Canyon, the following warning has been seen by some visitors. "Hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day is not recommended due to the long distance, a nearly-5000 foot elevation change, and extreme heat. If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely-strenuous hike, please seek advise from a park ranger at the Backcountry Information Center." Indeed, when my husband and I hiked, we were thankful that a park ranger gave us recommendations based on our skill level and the day's specific challenges.

Make your movement fun! Go for a hike. Be aware. Some hiking is physically challenging and strenuous enough that it requires careful advance planning. Note the strong wording used on this Hop on a bike. Swim. Dance to some lively music as you do mundane chores. Lift weights or do resistance training. Strong muscles can help prevent or lessen an injury during a fall. Yoga also can be a great way to build strength. Poses of various types force you to support your own body weight. Your time spent with each pose can add to the work.

Muscle tissue burns more calories. Strong, agile bodies can more easily avoid or minimize injury when they do happen.

C. Meditate. I discovered meditation sometime around the time that I also learned about SuperBetter. Jane at tells how she was moved to create and develop the health-improving game.

It is an interactive app developed to help overcome personal obstacles to individual goals. It is highly customizable. For me, the challenge was managing depression. You name your steps and methods of working towards your goals. You mark your wins, however small. There is accountability you also name your biggest stumbling blocks. My steps towards management included spending time with loved ones, gardening, exercising in enjoyable ways, and meditating. I heard a science-based discussion once on meditation. The speaker said that even 30 seconds was enough to interrupt flow of chatter coming from our brain. Meditation seems to clear the fog. I feel genuinely calmer and more focused with as well little as 30 seconds of meditation. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to say some specific phrase or word. You just quiet your mind acknowledging intrusion of thoughts while intentionally dismissing them. In today’s world, it’s hard to sort out the chaos. We’re pulled in one direction and then, another. So many matters that could be improved upon. So much work to do. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and meditating lets our brain stop the noise for a bit. Circuitry within the brain reset reading itself for new thoughts. Useless and repetitive refrains fade as fresh perspectives so often needed appear. Priorities and choices are more easily seen.

According to MayoClinic online, meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. You can also use it to relax and cope with stress by refocusing your attention on something calming. Meditation can help you learn to stay centered and keep inner peace.

And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day. And meditation may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.

WON'T you pick one of the suggestions to help with your own longevity?

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