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Life Lessons from a Queen

photo from BBC News

On September 8, 2022, the world was shaken with the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death at the age of 96. Since the beginning of her reign with her coronation in 1952, Her Majesty ruled over a commonwealth that changed throughout time. And yet, she remained a steadfast monarch who we all know put the crown and the duties it commanded first.

Throughout her 96 years of life, we could not help but wonder what it is that she does to stay calm, collected, and vibrant amidst decades of numerous pressures and responsibilities. British culturalist Bryan Kozlowski, through his book “Long Live the Queen,” explored how Her Majesty ate, stayed on top of royal duties, spent her leisure time, and navigated both her family duties and professional endeavor all gracefully throughout her life.

According to Kozlowski, her success as a monarch stemmed from her inner, not outer, choices – from food, exercise, work, and leisure time. Additionally, this is what made her a down-to-earth woman who managed to keep her composure amidst shifting times.

Below are twelve life lessons we can learn from Her Majesty’s extraordinary life:

1. Keep Your Brain Working by Learning

After succeeding her father, the late King George VI, in 1952, Elizabeth II maintained quite a hefty workload that included numerous public engagements yearly and hours of daily tasks. But this displayed her enthusiasm and how she never ceased embracing and learning from new experiences.

Normally, people would stick to an eight-hour workday and retire by their early or mid-60s. However, Elizabeth II was never off duty. Whether through personal hobbies or professional tasks, keeping your brain active is essential throughout life. Because when you rest, you might rust.

2. Most Productivity Advice is Not Worth Paying Attention To

Nowadays, we find productivity advice, and advice for multitasking and balancing work and home, almost everywhere. The Queen took a different approach to the way she worked by completely concentrating on one task at a time. According to Stanford University researchers, multitasking actually does not for most people, and completing one task at a time enhances memory control and attention.

Rather than worrying about balancing personal and professional matters or productivity levels, emphasize the integration of work, home, and leisure activities. According to Dr. Annette Medina-Walpole, president of the American Geriatrics Society and chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Aging at the University of Rochester Medical Center, it is a matter of finding your happy place. Figure out what makes you happy and what gives you a sense of purpose as you grow older. Additionally, make sure those activities can be done without reaching the point of exhaustion.

3. Create a Strong Sense of Purpose

From a young age, the value of meaningful work and a sense of purpose was instilled in Elizabeth II, especially due to her father’s excellent leadership. Up until her death, those qualities became an integral element of her identity. She has supported numerous philanthropic organizations and worthwhile causes over the years, displaying compassion and tenderness.

You do not need to be sitting on a pile of cash to make a difference, though, according to Kozlowski. Simply living with a strong sense of purpose and helping others in even the smallest ways is good for your health. A study published by the Journal of Social Psychology in 2018 found that one becomes happier the more they perform random acts of kindness. More studies show a connection between volunteering and increased physical activity, overall health, and a reduction in depression. They also show that those with a stronger sense of purpose had higher household incomes and net worth.

4. Spare Some Time for Play

Even as a monarch, Elizabeth II’s life did not solely revolve around work and royal duties. She recognized the importance of having fun, whether it is spending time at her Scottish residence of Balmoral Castle, spending time with her corgis, or visiting her horse stables. The Queen also found other ways to amuse herself. According to Kozlowski’s book, one of the Queen’s favorite games to play was “catching out the minister,” where she over-preps herself for her weekly meetings with the prime minister and tries to surprise them with government news they had not noticed yet.

Making time for recreation in your hectic schedule helps you mentally relax after facing difficulties in life. According to research reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, even basic pastimes like gardening and a sense of purpose in life might increase longevity and life expectancy as we age. According to other research, engaging in hobbies like reading, going to plays or art exhibits, doing crafts, joining clubs, and engaging in physical activity may help lower the chance of developing dementia.

5.Keep Some Constants in Your Life

One of the hallmarks of the Queen’s reign was her routines and rituals. According to Kozlowski, the Queen’s routine consisted of:

  • A wake-up cup of Earl Grey tea at 07:30 A.M

  • A pre-breakfast bath in the morning

  • Multiple newspaper reads at breakfast

  • Meetings and sifting through red boxes containing paperwork (parliamentary reports, intelligence documents, and other related documents)

  • Afternoon visits outside the Palace, back in time for tea, and more paperwork reading

  • Either a public dinner or possible cocktail reception

  • Bedtime by 11:00 P.M with her journal or a book

“The comfort of the expected” is a concept that not everyone subscribes to. But keeping some constants in your life, like a tight-knit group of family members and friends or regular habits may be comforting and even good for you. Northwestern Health claims that being entirely adrift without any sort of regularity results in increased stress, irregular sleeping patterns, bad eating patterns, and poor time management abilities.

6. Enjoy Treats, but in Moderation

While royal duties may call for Her Majesty to eat off of gold plates from time to time, most of the time she was not a picky eater, preferring to dine on simple comfort foods. She also had no qualms about indulging in sweets; some of her favorites included shortbread, scones, little raspberry jam sandwiches, and a slice of chocolate biscuit cake. Alcohol is another indulgence, along with gin cocktails and wine. She indulges in all of her vices, including alcohol and sweets, in moderation.

According to Harvard Medical School, nutrient-dense diets high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats are best for us as we age. Depriving yourself of sweets or other unhealthy favorites, though, might backfire by making you anxious and prompting you to consume more of the items you're trying to avoid.

7. Move Your Body by Choosing the Exercises You Enjoy the Most

Even though Her Majesty didn't have a particular workout routine, she made sure to move around every day. She also continued doing the things she loved most: Going for regular walks and riding horses. She strolled across the gardens at Buckingham Palace in the late afternoon with her corgis too.

According to Dr. Medina-Walpole, staying active, both physically and mentally, helps you in daily activities. Exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive functions and help with conditions like arthritis. Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, combined with strength training twice a week, according to the American Heart Association.

8. Do Not Worry About Impressing Others

If you have watched “The Crown,” you may have noticed the many times when the Queen put crown and country first, even at the cost of angering some of her family members. Because of her position as a monarch, she is required to make difficult decisions that do not always sit well with some people. However, she learned not to worry so much about being liked.

It is natural to want to please other people and fit in. But according to some research, people who constantly worry about being judged by others incorrectly believe that the judgement is harsher than it actually is. To improve self-worth and get over your fear of other people's opinions, Harvard Business Review recommends developing a personal philosophy, or finding a word or phrase that embodies your core beliefs and values.

9. Embrace Aging

Throughout her 70-reign, Queen Elizabeth II embraced herself at every age. She was never one to give into vanity, and not given a care to emerging wrinkles or minor changes in her health. “Aging naturally has ensured that her iconic image has become a record, a living archive of accumulated experience and vast wisdom, not an artificial rewind of lessons hard-won," Kozlowski writes in his book.

Aging happens to every individual, and Queen Elizabeth II has become “lighter and fuller of life” as her life went on, according to Kozlowski. Changes in health are an inevitable, natural aspect of getting older, but that shouldn't stop you from living life to the fullest at every stage. Healthy aging is a factor of physical, mental, and social well-being, but that does not mean it does not come with disease or infirmary, and confronting a health ailment does not mean you are not aging successfully.

10. Take a Break, As You’ve Earned It

Queen Elizabeth II played hard just as much as she worked hard, taking time to rest and recharge at country getaways like Balmoral Castle. She also takes regular daytime breaks and sets aside time for tea.

As both our personal and professional obligations begin to blend more and more today, taking a few minutes for yourself has never been more important. Self-care is not only synonymous with lavish activities, but also the small, meaningful ones – whether it is baking, binge-watching a new favorite show, meditating, exercising, or anything that makes you happy. These small but joyful moments improve your mood, reduce stress, and make you even more productive.

11. Don’t Let Life’s Dramas Get to You

The Queen has had her fair share of royal scandals throughout her 70-year reign. But, outwardly at least, she conveys a composed, reliable, and steady persona. Some people see Her Majesty as showing too little emotion, but you have to understand that her level of composure is a learned trait that helps her weather through the challenges and responsibilities of a highly public life.

Understanding and applying methods of coping with stress and the drama of life can sometimes help reduce anxiety and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Queen Elizabeth II is the embodiment of resilience. And resilience is depicted when one is able to manage and adapt to the sources of adversity and stress, and recover in a healthy way. With motivation, optimism, self-advocacy, self-esteem, and social skills can make you more resilient.

12. Show Kindness to Everyone

The British Royal Family may give you the idea that they have a stiff upper lip. But Her Majesty continually showed empathy, kindness, modesty, and respect towards other people, regardless of who they were or where they came from. Seeking the good in other people and listening to them more than speaking likely led to her longevity as both a monarch and person of resilience.

After all, kindness is contagious, and it is also good for your physical and emotional health. Based on research that was published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when people show kindness to others, their stress hormones drop, and emotions such as depression, loneliness, and unhappiness improve. Cardiovascular health and longer life span are also linked to showing kindness.

As you read these twelve life lessons, you might realize that despite being the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was just like everyone else. Throughout her life, she valued country, family, and above all, duty. So, while we may not have a crown on our hands, we can follow these twelve life-changing lessons to perform our personal and professional duties with the same diligence and respect Her Majesty had.

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