5 Lifestyle choices that can help you live longer, but more importantly, improve the quality of your experience…and isn’t that what life is really about?
Just a couple of decades ago, living beyond 100 would have seemed something of a long shot. While the average life expectancy in the US is still just under 80 years old, thanks to medical advances and research into the lives of retirees, it is now more likely than ever before that you’ll live a full, rich life as a centenarian.
We know that death is a fact of life. We also know that at some point we all have to take care of practicalities such as wills, funeral preferences and expenses, ceremonial wishes, cremation memorial costs, etc. But based on scientific and anecdotal evidence, there are 5 positive steps you can take now to improve your chances of a lengthy lifespan, and improve your quality of life along the way:
When it comes to a lengthy lifespan, kindness is king. Most of us know that exercising some empathy and considering others can certainly make life more pleasant. However scientific research suggests that there is also a notable decrease in mortality rates among people who have a tendency to exercise selflessness. The reasons for this can be attributed to the concept of the ‘helper’s high’ — the boost we get whenever we help a fellow human being. Regular hits of that endorphin release, coupled with the accompanying sense of self-worth, is believed to contribute to stress reduction, well-being promotion, and even a boost to our immune system. No wonder kindness helps us live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
2. Sense of Purpose
Not surprisingly, many people struggle with life post-retirement. Without an occupation to drive us, our quality of life, as well as our health, can rapidly decline. But a 2014 study published by the Lancet, suggests that those who feel a sense of purpose tend to live longer.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that our actions all have to be greatly significant; we just need to have something greater we are acting for on a regular basis.
This can be something relatively simple, such as a hobby or dedicated pet walking routine, or perhaps occasions together with friends or family. The idea is to find a pastime you enjoy which provides you with a sense of control and autonomy.
3. Physical Activity
It is no secret that keeping active can improve your health. Yet, as we get older, this can become more difficult. As much as we’d like to think we’ll be sprinting at 90, the fact is our bodies age, and we aren’t always quite up to strenuous activity. This is why it’s important to plan physical activities that are in line with your aging capabilities.
Walking is an excellent moderate exercise, especially when combined with some resistance exercises, such as carrying lightweight dumbbells as you walk, and adding a few minutes of stretching afterwards. Getting outside and nurturing the land by gardening is another moderate physical activity that can have a huge impact on both your physical and mental health.
4. Healthy Diet
While ‘blue zones’ — those regions that statistically have the most centenarians per capita — are spread far and wide across our planet, their diets, while varied, have certain commonalities.
Most notably, their diets are largely plant-based.
This doesn’t mean they are strictly vegetarian or vegan, but meats and dairy play a secondary role to vegetables, fruits and legumes, and in some areas, grains. Further, people in blue zones consume very little processed foods, instead opting for fresh foods that are locally available. They also tend to avoid large portions and overeating in favor of eating smaller portions that leave them satisfied, but not overly full. As for alcohol, it is usually consumed in moderation, if at all.
5. Community Connections
When it comes to longevity, avoiding loneliness is an important aspect for the maintenance of your well-being since making connections with other people helps to relieve stress. This is vital to your continued mental wellness, as well as helping stave off myriad other issues such as coronary heart disease and adrenal fatigue. Studies show that your physical health is also impacted by the quality of your relationships with others. That is why it is vital to look beyond marriage and family life to find and strengthen your ‘tribe’ — those people with whom you have many things in common and can undertake regular, beneficial activities together. Whether it’s a book club, a creative writing or painting circle, or a group of aging mechanics tinkering with old vehicles, social engagement and a sense of community is a core tenet of living a long and happy life.
You may also enjoy reading The Joy of Aging: Why and How to Embrace Getting Older by Elizabeth Torres