American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson summed up one of life’s timeless truths succinctly: “The first wealth is health.” While health and wellness has long been a major consideration for many high net worth individuals (HNWIs), many acknowledge it as their most valuable asset.
In its annual TrendLens 2020 report published at the beginning of this year, global consultancy firm Agility Research & Strategy found that for Asian HNWIs, living a healthy lifestyle is their top overall priority in life. The events of 2020 and the global pandemic have only reinforced this sentiment.
A recent whitepaper by leading provider of corporate, trust and fund administration services, Hawksford, on how COVID-19 has impacted Chinese HNWIs, found that for many of these wealthy individuals, health is “the real wealth”. Add to that the fact that we are living longer than ever, healthy living is now crucial to being able to enjoy our golden years meaningfully.
As we look forward to fresh beginnings and moving forward with positivity in 2021, consider these three areas of health and wellness as you recommit to being your best self.
Be proactive about your health and practise positive habits you can pass on to the next generation
A report by U.S. Trust, a branch of the Bank of America Private Wealth Management, found that nearly one in three respondents believe that their wealth comes at the expense of their health. However, local active ageing specialist Dr Caroline Tan stresses that when it comes to our health, prevention is always better than cure. “It’s a lot cheaper, on top of being less painful for patients to go through treatment, which can impact all aspects of life,” she says.
On this note, this time of the year offers a good window to schedule health screenings to better understand your baseline, and for early detection. Being proactive about your health includes knowing your personal medical history and familial risk factors — so take the time to gain this knowledge, to help inform whether you need to increase the frequency of your health screenings.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, getting adequate rest plays a crucial part. Why? Kenny Pang, an ear, nose and throat consultant at Singapore’s Asia Sleep Centre puts it simply: “sleep is a restorative process that rejuvenates your mind and your body.”
In particular, sleep allows for several critical biological functions to occur, including the clearing out of built-up toxins in our brain. A study by researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center found that this process of waste removal, and the quality of sleep or sleep deprivation, can predict the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia. Sleep also allows us to properly process our memories so that we can store and recall them in a positive manner.
That’s why it’s crucial to be intentional about rest. “If you want to make just one lifestyle change, get better sleep,” advises Dr Caroline Low, a preventative medicine expert in Singapore. Her personal rule is to go to bed before midnight and always get seven hours of sleep each night. This magic number has also been highlighted by the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine and American Cancer Society in an ambitious study of the sleep habits of a million adults. Those who slept for seven hours a night, researchers found, had a longer lifespan.
To boost your chances of peaceful respite, experts from Singapore General Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Clinic share easy tips for better sleep that you can immediately weave into your daily routine. This includes avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol before bed, exercising regularly and starting a sleep ritual.
Beyond a good night’s sleep, getting sufficient rest during your waking hours is equally important. Being strategic about your recovery is key to unlocking sustained performance, human performance scientist James Hewitt shares with Opus by Prudential. He recommends tackling complex, creative or problem-solving tasks for 25 minutes, followed by a short walk to refocus and reset.
Finally, a healthy lifestyle is not complete without the mental and emotional nourishment we derive from our relationships. The renowned 80-year-long Harvard Study of Adult Development, which explored this very subject, found that those who were happier throughout their lives had one thing in common: close relationships. This sentiment was echoed in Prudential’s “Ready For 100 — Preparing for longevity in Singapore” report, where 92 percent of respondents said they were happy in their familial relationships.
While it can be challenging to connect with others under the current circumstances, COVID-19 has taught us that it’s possible to nurture relationships even when you’re far apart, thanks to technology. Traditions, such as having a family meal together or reading stories to a grandchild, can be taken online and across borders through video calls.
If you wish to widen your circle, consider joining a members’ club, or explore ways to give back to the community through volunteer work. This can help you connect with likeminded individuals and those who live around you, or expand your sense of purpose, which cultural anthropologist Dr Ad Maulod found was key in keeping centenarians — those 100 years and older — going.
As we reflect on the passing of a challenging year and what matters most, a renewed commitment to your purpose and personal wellbeing will set the tone for what lies ahead.