If you've ever gotten tired of tracking the latest superfood or exercise fad, and longed for something more aligned with daily living, then Marta Saraska, science journalist published in the Washington Post, Scientific American, the Atlantic, Discover and author of "Growing Young" is speaking your language. In a recent conversation, she shares how friendship, optimism, and kindness can help you live to 100. Sound good?
Here are some takeaways:
Optimism can prolong life by as much as ten years, if you want to live longer and have a stronger immune system, don't beat yourself up about what didn't quite work out in the past.
A committed romantic relationship may reduce your mortality risk by (wait for it...) 49%. Yes, you read that right. But friends and even furry ones can help too.
"Having a large social network of friends, family, and helpful neighbors can reduce the probability of early death by about 45 percent." And you do not have to be an extrovert, but being open to others creates opportunities to connect.
If your personality leans into conscientiousness and away from neuroticism, that can help too. And if these are not your natural proclivities, you can learn, choose, and practice behaviors that help move you in this direction.
One study, cited in the book, includes some at-home advice:
"To boost your extraversion:
To work on your conscientiousness:
To diminish neuroticism:
What else? Hug more, hug often, and get that oxytocin love hormone working. Why? It makes us less crabby, more loyal, and more empathetic.
Empathy is important as it is the perfect "anti-loneliness drug without any side effects."
And speaking of loneliness, it is a global phenomenon - if you are feeling it, you are not alone. Some great news - this too can be worked with. Marta states, "If you feel lonely, the first step is to realize that this is a biological adaptation and not a sign that something is wrong with you. Stop blaming yourself. Try to change your thought patterns."
It's how we interpret a situation that determines how we feel about it. And if you want a quick fix, hold a hot drink, take a hot bath or shower - heat generally makes us feel better.
Finally, a lesson from Japan, which has the highest number of centenarians per capita: prioritize your ikigai, your sense of purpose. This can often be stimulated when volunteering or practicing acts of kindness... which end up making you feel good. At the end of the day, relationships are more important than we might imagine. This is something that we each can look at, and all be better for it.
Remember, if you want to live a fulfilled and long life, start from the inside. If you prioritize friendship, a positive mindset, and kindness you are already well on your way.
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