by Leon Altman
Can having your own online business really save
your life and help you live longer?
Indeed it can and I’ll prove it to you.
If you’re in your twenties or thirties and working crazy hours in some exciting startup you’re probably not too concerned about your health. Nothing can stop you, right?
But once you get in your late forties you may be feeling the consequences of a demanding job.
You might have high blood pressure.
Maybe a checkup reveals you have pre-diabetes.
Or your doctor takes more time than usual looking at your charts and then suggests you make some lifestyle changes.
You suddenly realize that while your job provides all sorts of benefits, it may also be killing you.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows you are more likely to have a heart attack in a stressful job. And also more likely to have a second one if you continue in a stressful job.
As far as I know there are no studies that correlate health and long life with having your own online business. However, there are plenty of studies showing that better health, more resistance to all kinds of diseases, and longer life correlates with a lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and managed stress.
Typical jobs, especially high level jobs, are not conducive to this kind of lifestyle. They simply do not offer the flexibility of time to live this way.
However, having your own online business, particularly the kind I call a freedom business, gives you the opportunity to take advantage of a flexible lifestyle. By an online freedom business, I mean a business where you can pretty much work where, and when you want, such as a coach, consultant, freelancer or creator of online courses.
Let’s take a look at the main risk factors for disease and see how a more flexible lifestyle business can help prevent them and keep you healthy.
Sauté broccoli in a law office?
If you can work where and when you want you have more time and opportunity to prepare and eat meals the way you want. That’s not the case in most jobs. You don’t see many people sauté fresh broccoli in a law firm or ad agency.
But you can do it in a home office. Instead of a quick sandwich by your desk, you can prepare and enjoy a full Mediterranean style lunch, which studies show promote health and long life. With a flexible, freedom business lifestyle you also have the time to prepare a healthy dinner.
It’s a different story after 8, 9 or 10 hours at an office job and then a long commute home. That is, if you get to go home for dinner. In many competitive jobs work stretches far into the night.
I remember many times at ad agencies working into the night on a pitch, a new campaign, or an all-out effort to save an account. The agency would spring for dinner which usually consisted of pizza for everyone in the conference room.
I recall gobbling up pizza and a coke at around 8:00 pm to fuel up and get back to work. Later on when I tried to get to sleep, I would toss and turn in bed as the pepperoni pizza churned in my stomach.
That can work when you’re in your twenties. But there are only so many years of late night work and pepperoni pizza sessions you can do before you need to put your gastroenterologist on speed dial.
The difference in having the time to eat healthy is, frankly, the difference between life and death. A major study headed by researcher Walter C. Willet, concluded that a modified diet could prevent most cases of coronary arterial disease, stroke, diabetes, and many cancers.
How to reduce your chances of getting any of two dozen physical and mental illnesses while slowing your ageing process
Exercise. You know you should do it, but who has the time? Research warns you should make the time if you want to stay healthy.
“Regular exercise can reduce around two dozen physical and mental health conditions and slow down how quickly the body ages,” according to a research review summarizing the key findings of 40 papers published between 2006 and 2010.”
Health conditions covered by the review include: cancer, heart disease, dementia, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, obesity and high blood pressure.
It comes down to having control over your time and work conditions. Yes, I know there are some hardy souls who get up at the crack of dawn every morning to make sure they get their workout. But that’s not for most people.
Most people with jobs will attempt to work out after work. But let’s be real. I remember coming home after a long day at the ad agency. By that time I was famished and wanted to have dinner. And by the time I finished dinner and started to relax, my usual response was, “I’ll work out tomorrow.” I hear the same story from many busy career people, especially those with families.
If you work where and when you want you can arrange your day so you can work out when it suits you. Want to avoid the after-work crowd at the gym? Then head to the gym around 3:00 in the afternoon and get an energy boost for the rest of the day.
Will stress kill you?
According to Dr. Jay Winner, MD, director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, California, stress can “exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” Those diseases and conditions include: heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, anxiety and depression, and gastro-intestinal problems.
Stress has also been linked to the six leading causes of death: “disease, accidents, cancer, liver disease, lung ailments, suicide. There are even studies that suggest that stress can accelerate ageing 9-17 years.”
For most well-paying jobs, stress comes with the territory. Clashes with a supervisor, changing deadlines, last minute pitches, a shaky account that could mean the loss of a job, or even an entire department. That kind of stress has a cumulative effect on the heart, arteries, and gastro-intestinal system.
The Journal of the American Medical Association says you’re more likely to have a second heart attack if you work in a stressful job. Other studies have shown you’re also more likely to have that first heart attack if your work is stressful.
I remember my colleague, Sanjay. An elegant man of British and Indian descent in his mid-forties. He was the head account manager of a large pharmaceutical account at the agency I worked at. In a sea of creatives wearing blue jeans and tee shirts, Sanjay always wore crisp, tailored, white shirts with colorful silk ties always perfectly knotted.
The pharmaceutical company had recently merged. One of the merged companies was based in Europe, the other in California. We were working on some videos for healthcare professionals and Sanjay would get conflicting directions from the European and California headquarters.
He told me he’d get urgent calls at 3:00 in the morning. Directions changed constantly. And the agency hammered him to keep costs down.
Sanjay never seemed to lose his cool. He kept it all in. But I could see the pressure in his face, even as his silk tie remained perfectly knotted. Then one morning at one of the scheduled meetings, Sanjay’s chair was empty.
Someone announced he had had a major heart attack. After everyone expressed their shock, Sanjay’s assistant took over his role.
The videos? They were scrapped. The client said they had changed strategy.
Stress is a killer when it comes from things outside your control. When you feel trapped by circumstances.
Actually there is a kind of stress that can be good for you, but you won’t find it in most competitive jobs. Psychologists refer to good stress as “eustress.” This can occur when you have a sense of control over your work, when you feel you can determine your destiny and you are excited and engaged about reaching your goal.
In other words, when you have your own business and are engaged and excited about where it’s heading.
Stressed but excited about an upcoming product launch for your online business? That’s eustress. That’s good.
What does your work mean to you?
The last risk factor is a bit more abstract, but just as important as any other factor. And it becomes a bigger issue once people enter their late forties. That is the growing importance of a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.
When you build your own online freedom business you have the opportunity to create it around something you are passionate about. Something you really care about. A topic or mission that means something to you and you feel will make a difference to others.
And that sense of meaning and purpose can make a big difference in your health and your life. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that a sense of meaning trumps mere happiness in terms of health and preventing disease. They defined a sense of meaning as doing something you feel is larger than yourself.
UCLA researchers, in collaboration with University of North Carolina scientists, came to a similar conclusion. According to the researchers, happiness derived from a purpose in life has a healthier genetic effect than mere pleasure-seeking.
Think about the book by Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It tells the story of Frankl’s experience in a concentration camp during WWII. Death was all around him every day. Frankl managed to survive and then had a long career as a psychiatrist after the war.
He says what kept him alive was a sense of purpose as he imagined what he would do after the war when he was free. This was an intentional mindset he created and managed to maintain amidst the most difficult of circumstances.
According to Frankl: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
Can a job provide a sense of meaning and purpose? For many in their twenties and thirties, just earning a living and supporting a growing family can be a driving force and purpose.
But by the time someone reaches their late forties, they want their work to be more fulfilling. They want it to be something more than just making a living.
Working for someone else answers the call of making a living but it rarely satisfies a deeper call of a sense of purpose and meaning.
The longer that call isn’t answered, the more it gets pushed down until it becomes a strangled whisper that wakes you in the middle of the night.
So if you are feeling stuck or trapped or losing your enthusiasm for your work, think about a dream you’ve kept inside you.
Buy a domain related to that dream. It’ll cost you about $9.00.
And it could save your life.
To find out the 5 Key steps to having your own freedom business, click 5 Keys to Having Your Own Freedom Business