The NHS has its five-a-day (the five servings of fruit and vegetables that form the basis of a healthy diet and good health) but I ask women to live by my new five-a-day, to ensure we create and live the lives we want to live. Your new five-a-day will help you to fix the things that make you feel less than you are, and help to overcome the feelings that the best years of your life are behind you. Here they are:
1. Stay connected to family and friends. Figure out how to be helpful to the people who matter most to you. Make socialising your second job. When you say, “I love you”, mean it and say it often. Don’t let a little dispute harm a great friendship, so when you make a mistake take immediate steps to correct it. Being isolated may cause you to worry more, as you have no one to share problems with. A problem shared really is a problem halved.
2. Cultivate a passion. Explore and find the things that bring you joy. Read the books you always wanted to, join or start a book or theatre group, learn a language and then travel to a country where it’s spoken, take tennis or golf lessons and play for your local club, learn how to play bridge, join your local choir, take a gardening course, make jewellery, or play competitive ping-pong.
New activities fire up your brain. Most activities that create new connections, meaning and friendships in this part of our life cost very little money or none at all.
3. Find a purpose greater than yourself. Dedicate part of every day to something you are committed to and truly care about. Give your time and energy to help others in any way you can. Get involved with a cause or a charity that matters to you: the arts, local politics, sports, a hospital, school or simply helping an elderly neighbour.
Finding purpose can involve going back to college to fulfil a childhood dream, or starting the business you always wanted. Look beyond yourself and your immediate world. If you live with purpose, you will live a life that not only gives meaning to those around you but to yourself as well.
4. Exercise almost every day. This will change how you age, feel about yourself and the world around you. The key to exercise (and getting back on the wagon, should you fall off) is to find an exercise routine you love doing. Whether it is Pilates, spinning, playing tennis or golf, ballroom or salsa dancing, find a class and get moving.
Regular exercise and connecting with your body for at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week, will give you increased vitality and the chance to feel ten to 30 years younger than your chronological age, while improving your self-esteem, vitality, and how you feel about yourself.
5. Eat well. This does not involve a magical mystery tour of supermarkets, health food stores and other niche shops. Eat primarily foods that come from the ground (fresh fruits and vegetables), good carbohydrates (wholewheat breads, brown rice and pulses) and for your protein, eat lean poultry and fish. Stay away from junk food, processed foods and fizzy drinks.
By giving your body many of the essential nutrients it needs through the foods you eat, you are giving yourself the best chance to fight disease and avoid other major health problems. It is finally your time to rediscover the best in yourself, reconnect with the world and make a difference. The choices you make will determine if you simply survive or thrive in the decades following menopause.
How we age is not a matter of luck. It is not about the cards you have been dealt. It is about making a few small changes so that you can embrace and celebrate the years after menopause for what they are, a prolific new state of life. Your brain is asking you to do this. For once, it really is about you.
The Second Half of Your Life (Vermilion, £12.99): TheSecondHalfofYourLife.com
The Second Half of Your Life Foundation is a registered charity (number 1141988). To find out more about its centre and how you may be able to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read World Menopause Day? Not for us!, the first extract from Jill’s book