We have all heard stories from our parents about how they walked five miles to school, uphill both ways. Some of these stories are prone to embellishment or, I dare say, fabrication. The fact is however, that many of our predecessors had much more physical lives than us; the difference was, in many cases, activity was due to necessity. Today many individuals have far less physical demands put upon them and, therefore, much of our physical activity is a result of desire. The negative aspect is that desire is optional. You can always find an excuse or “legitimate” reason why the timing is just not right. We have to re-frame our thinking to make it a necessity. The truth is from a health perspective, it usually is. So the next time you’re finding that great excuse not to go for a run, a bike ride, or even a short walk, tell yourself, “I have to, it’s a necessity”.

Over the last year my life has been touched in too many ways by individuals having to struggle with personal health battles. Some are in the early stages of a battle, others are fighting gallantly on the front lines of an illness, and others, most recently, have lost their battles. A short time ago, I received an email story about a nurse who shared the five life lessons she discovered by having these intimate conversations with patients fighting their battles. The stories, however, are for anyone who really wants to live life to the fullest regardless of their health. For those of us blessed with good health it should not be about fearing death, it should be about having a fear of not really living. These five recollections are inspiring, thought provoking, and a necessary read for all of us who sometimes get caught on the treadmill of life and don’t take enough time to enjoy our surroundings.

  1. Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

  1. Don’t work so hard or so often.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

  1. Have the courage to express your feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

  1. Stay in touch with friends.

“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

  1. Let yourself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.