New Year, New Promises, New Possibilities!

– So, do you have any New Year’s resolutions? More focus on the family, continue to affirm my health, take on more creative challenges and travel to several new destinations. Those are my promises for 2017 in a nutshell. Now, I’m sure a lot of folks think it’s plain silly to commit to anything just because it’s the beginning of a new year. But I see my annual list as an interesting and practical way to keep track of where and when I stood at the gate just before taking on my new, self-imposed challenges for the year. A fresh mindset to start 2017 with can’t be all wrong? Also: my New Year’s resolutions are linked. By connecting several different but closely related promises to each other, my reasoning is that the chain of commitments become more resilient.

– La Famiglia

The family is an integral link in my life and one that must always be given priority. With the family unit in reasonable harmony, all of us feel individually better and can withstand the shit that hits the fan – which it inevitably does periodically – mostly when you feel the least prepared. The emotional “airbag” and consolation package the family provides, makes it every year’s most important link in my chain of promises.

– Health, then?

Genes: 10% Lifestyle: 90%.

That’s the seemingly dire percentage proportions according to a plethora of research on why some achieve really old age while others do not. Perhaps it’s not that surprising. But on the other hand, with “lifestyle”, the researchers mean much more than just the usual parameters – ie, life habits; what you eat, how much you drink, if you smoke, sleeping habits and how often you exercise.

The latter, the exercise bit, was extra interesting, I thought. It turns out that the world’s oldest people, folks the researchers studied in, for example, Okinawa (Japan) and in highlands of Sardinia (Italy), do not exercise more than what is naturally achieved in their everyday life, either at work or while during mundane chores. These folks keep in constant motion throughout their day – which in turn contributes substantially to their health and longevity. No jogging routines, no gym membership or aerobics classes. They eat healthy, too. Most of their dietary intake consists of plant based, vegetarian food and though many drink alcohol in some form, it’s consumed very moderately. Turns out they also regularly meet with friends they’ve known since early childhood.

Socializing with your pals not only impacts on how you feel mentally and emotionally, according to the research, it can also have a direct impact on both the quality of life (health) and life expectancy. Social interaction, to be part of a life-long circle of friends, can apparently be an amazing booster for your mental and emotional health. And the diametrically opposite applies as well: if you just hang out with decadent friends who pursue an unhealthy, downward spinning lifestyle, where, for example, alcohol, drugs, or “bad” eating habits are central to all your get-togethers, it’s very likely you’ll make the transition and adopt similar habits and eventually suffer the same health related consequences as your buddies will endure – sooner or later.

On the other hand, if your pals are physically and intellectually active and aspire to live a positive and reasonably healthy life, you can count on the benefits increasing your chances of living a long, life with few ailments, considerably.

So, if you’re lucky and win on the gene lottery with a theoretical potential to live much longer than average, it still doesn’t grant you more than a 10% benefit, according to the aforementioned health and longevity studies. Even really good genes aren’t much to fall back on, in other words.

Personally, I see at least one dilemma pertaining to me achieving a healthy lifestyle with its hefty ninety percent impact on my ageing prognosis – quantitatively and qualitatively: Alcohol. For over ten years now, I’ve had an ambition to live a healthier life. I’ve tried hard to keep myself in reasonably good shape, I drink moderately and eat well. Just today, the very last day of 2016, I feel strong and healthier than in many years. I firmly believe this is in part thanks to the fact that I as of soon two years almost exclusively eat a pescatarian/vegetarian diet in portions that are suited to my particular age’s metabolism. In the last, say, five years, I’ve decreased my alcohol consumption considerably. If I drank myself at least a little woozy once every weekend a few years ago, it happens now max once every two months. Simply put; I just can’t handle the hangovers anymore.

But to live in Sweden, a country which at least is partly located along the so-called vodka-belt, makes it undeniably difficult to socialize without alcohol being present in some form or another. Just as in most families, I’ve seen several relatives lose their health – and unfortunately also shorten their lives – because of various forms of addiction. With a teenage daughter in the family and all the peer pressure she surely is more or less constantly exposed to, I can only hope that Elle has the strength to deflect temptations when the group pressure is turned on high.

My relationship with alcohol has always been complicated. Even as far back as during the 80s and 90s, while working professionally as a bartender at popular bars in L.A., Gothenburg, up in the ski resort, Riksgränsen (Lapland) and on the summer party island of Gotland. But also even  before that, during my high school years, when one of the most frequent topics after class, in the hallways and corridors was how to acquire the forthcoming weekend’s party booze.

I think fairly often about my relationship to alcohol and have considered quitting many, many times. Unfortunately, I don’t think a new year’s resolution would last more than a few days. Still, I am going to give it a shot…Sometimes though, just the thought of when the, “buzz” kicks in, just after the first couple of sips from a cocktail, a cold beer with a sidecar of bourbon or tequila – or just a glass of wine, seduces me and easily breaks down my (genetically weak?) resistance. It’s just plain hard to say no for me. What if just one single drink was enough? I mean, if you could be content after that initial tingling relaxes you socially and then just stop drinking anything stronger than a Perrier for the rest of the evening.

Alcohol consumption is such an integrated, insistent part of Swedish society – possibly as early as from the age of 12-13, even. Not drinking is an anomaly here. And being taunted by your peers for not drinking isn’t uncommon – regardless of how old you are. I’m impressed however, when someone with obviously better character than I can resist the temptation of induced euphoria and withstand the wave of group pressure. Our Christmas Eve dinner with friends here in Bangkok about a week ago, was more or less alcohol free and as pleasant as could be.

Family, Health, Challenges and Travel.

Challenges are usually not a problem for me. I have an extremely vivid imagination and rarely (maybe even a little too rarely) lack more or less noteworthy ideas. My ability to come up with new, challenging projects is about  filtering, siphoning and distilling (pun intended).

As for 2017…I already have a huge project that’ll take four of the new year’s first months to complete.

Travel, then?

2016 was filled with several amazing trips around the world. Our Kenyan safari and the lion prides we met and photographed there provided a lot of inspiration. As did our visits to Iceland, Italy, France and the Maldives.

Malmö is a relatively safe but also an undeniably small, provincial city that has admittedly worked well for us during our 20 years there. But I feel an increasing urgency to find creative inspiration elsewhere. Somewhere bigger, wider and higher. 2017 may therefore lead to an entirely new chapter in the family’s ongoing odyssey. So I should probably add, “new horizons” to this year’s New Year’s resolutions.

2016 was quite bumpy. Certainly the fall’s shocking results from the presidential election generated global uncertainty. These are definitely exciting times with reality show host and Putin pal, Donald J. Trump and his cohorts and family at the helm of, “Trumptanic”. And with Exxon Mobile’s CEO, Rex Tillerson as US secretary of state – if he is approved, will make things even more interesting.

Stay tuned …

– Wishing everyone who managed to read all the way down here a Happy New and Healthy 2017!