Wisdom Made Simple For You
Today, 90,000 centenarians are living and laughing in the United States. By the year 2060 there will be 603,000. Will you be among them?
Maybe you’ll go even longer.
A new study from the University of Washington concludes that your odds of living past age 110—becoming a “supercentenarian— are growing. The oldest person ever, France’s Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at 122 ½. While that’s amazing, using mathematical modeling, study authors put the odds of someone reaching 127 in this century at 68%. They even think 130 is possible.
If you aim to live as long as possible, you’re probably heeding your doctor’s advice to exercise and eat a healthy (often plant-based) diet. Your health providers are also leaning on you to lose a few pounds, avoid smoking and excess alcohol, and get healthy sleep. Yadda yadda yadda...but we genuinely hope you are following these oft-repeated guidelines.
As informed as doctors are, it’s fun to explore advice from another group of experts: the centenarians themselves. The following tips for living a long life may not appear in scientific journals, but the wisdom of these words has been gleaned from decades of firsthand experience, and time-spent living a long life counts for a lot.
1. Be Social
“Be social. Have many friends and spend time with them. My father never knew a stranger and invited everyone that pulled up in their horse and buggy to come in for dinner. I like to be social by playing double bridge because it keeps the mind sharp.” - Lucille Flemming, 100 years and 6 months, Bedford, Texas
Socialization provides many benefits to your physical and mental health. Research shows it:
- Boosts your immune system - helping you fight off colds, flus, cancers, and more
- Strengthens your mental health which in turn supports your physical health
- Provides overall improved life satisfaction which diminishes the organ-damaging stress response
And we’re not just talking about any type of socializing either. Nowadays, many people socialize on their phones or computers. But online socializing has its drawbacks, namely:
- Nonverbal cues like emojis are harder to distinguish in the online world, impeding satisfying communication
- Texting tends to keep conversations shallow leaving participants dissatisfied
- Social media allows people to hide their identities, creating false connections that are ultimately disappointing, even shocking
Heavy social media use is also correlated with decreased social skills and mental health. Centenarians like Lucille who socialize face-to-face enjoy the most satisfying and health-promoting, age-defying relationships.
2. Do a lot of Reading
“I believe that the more you read to keep your mind active, the more you learn, because you learn by reading how some other people live.” -Helen Cayloe, 100 years, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Reading has a myriad of benefits. Research shows it:
- Makes your more empathetic, especially if you read literary fiction where characters are explored in depth
- Helps you relax. Researchers from Sussex University found that reading can help you relax as much by 68%.
- Combats Alzheimer’s disease by providing stimulation.
3. Be Kind to Others
“I try to live a kindness-filled life, focused on others.” -Anne Beversluis, 103 years old, Oceanside, California
Everyday kindness does far more than win friends. It also:
- Releases feel-good hormones like serotonins and endorphins that ease circulation and organ function
- Helps you cultivate the social networks proven to limit disease and prolong life
- Reduces organ-damaging stress
4. Have a Sense of Humor
“Sense of humor: I laugh at myself all of the time, especially around family and friends. I also like to make witty remarks.” - Julia Bethea, 105 years, Toney, Alabama
The heck with plump lips, luxurious real estate, or big biceps. 90% of men and 81% of women report a sense of humor as the most attractive feature in their partner. A sense of humor and lots of laughter not only extends your years, it makes every year better!
Researchers have documented that a healthy sense of humor:
- Helps you understand yourself and others, limiting stress
- Improves memory - experiences accompanied by laughter remain accessible longer
- Improves sleep and immunity - laughing increases the effectiveness of T-cells, the white blood cells that find and destroy harmful viral and bacterial invaders
Laughing with friends or even by yourself at a movie or podcast not only improves your mood, it keeps you healthy and strong.
5. Have a Busy Day
“Keep your days full: Every day I have something I need to do. Being busy keeps your mind sharp.” -Helen Cayloe, 100 years, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
While excessive busy-ness can create health-damaging stress, having a meaningful routine gives your mood and physiology something to depend on. Staying busy at a reasonable rate has these benefits:
- Increased mental alertness - activities can delay the onset of dementia
- Improved creative abilities - your most creative moments often come in the midst of a busy day.
- Increased optimism - staying busy keeps you from ruminating over troubling possibilities that may never even occur.
6. Forgive Others
“Forgiveness keeps you well and connected.” -Lucille Fleming, 100 years and 6 months, Bedford, Texas
Harboring resentment and thoughts of revenge can be like “taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness, on the other hand, releases a flood of positive emotions and neurotransmitters. Studies have concluded that forgiveness also results in positive physiological and mood changes like:
- Reduced anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved self-esteem
7. Keep Yourself Looking Nice
“Keep yourself looking nice. I lay my clothes out the night before. I always have my makeup on, a flower on my lapel and nice ribbon to finish it off.” -Anne Beversluis, 103 years old, Oceanside, California
Attention to appearance isn’t all vanity. The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that well-dressed, well-groom employees enjoy:
- 5-10% higher salary
- More credibility among peers
- Increased self-confidence
8. Finding and Cultivating a Spiritual Life
“Lead a prayer-filled life: I petition the Lord in prayer and give thanksgiving and praise.” -Julia Bethea, 105 years, Toney, Alabama
Whether in the form of organized religion, meditation, or personal reflection, spirituality confers these benefits:
- Greater optimism
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater fulfillment of potential
9. Don’t Criticize Others
“Don’t criticize others: Always have a pleasant way about you - never an attitude that you’re smarter than or know more than other people do.” -Helen Cayloe, 100 years, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Renowned couples counselor Dr. John Gottman pinpoints regular criticism as “one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” In other words, it’s one of the four key causes of relationship breakdown. He explains that criticism just doesn’t work. It devalues people because the critique forces the other into a submissive stance where he or she is forced to accept the critic’s vision.
Gottman encourages couples to pivot to feedback instead. Feedback works better because the critic focuses on his or her feelings and responses to behaviors. To deliver constructive feedback, here’s what you can do:
- Make the feedback specific
- Focus on your own responses
- Rather than ambush your partner, ask him or her if it’s a good time to talk
- Start by complimenting your partner before suggesting how he or she can improve
10. Give Others a Helping Hand
“Help others: If I make something and I’m going to donate it to somebody, I don’t expect to be paid back for it - because God will reward me in some other way, often more than whatever I gave.” -Helen Cayloe, 100 years, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Studies show that donating your time, talent and money significantly impacts your physical and mental health.
Health benefits associated with giving can include:
- Longer life
- Lower blood pressure
- Higher self-esteem
- Less depression
- Lower stress levels
- Greater happiness and life satisfaction
How about it? Will you aim to be the first 127 year-old predicted above?
If so, our new book Age to Perfection provides some robust guidelines to reaching this goal. Learn how to eat, exercise, and live better than ever before. Don’t wait. Start living better today.
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