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The #1 Factor that Contributes to Living a Long Life

I knew I was getting ‘old’ when I realized NPR was my favorite radio station!

Anyway, I was particularly engaged by one interview discussion on a study conducted with octogenarians around the world. One of the significant findings was the revelation of the most important thing that helps people live very long lives.

The guest cited several contributing factors which I will summarize in a bit. But I want to encourage you to imagine what the top factor was.

Here are 5 of the factors:

1) Octogenarians eat largely a plant-based diet
I’ve been moving in this direction recently, striving for ever more veggies, fruits and beans. I must admit though, I’m a carnivore by blood type and the satisfaction that chewing on muscle provides is hard for me to replicate. But I have seen enough other studies confirming this to actually start shifting my intake mix. In this study, fava beans were seen repeatedly as a dietary staple.

2) When they eat meat (once a month or so), pork was the meat of choice
This finding shocked me. Pork has had somewhat of a ‘branding issue’ with a somewhat negative reputation although it’s a staple in our house as my husband has food allergies to many other meat protein sources. However, this is what people who live long around the world  eat.

3) Physical activity promotes longevity
We know this, right? But our lifestyle makes it challenging to get in the physical activity our bodies truly need. Many of us go to the office, sit in front of our computers all day, network at lunches and dinners and then go home. If we’re good, we walk, run, bike, do yoga, workout at the gym, do Pilates or Zuumba.

Around the world though, people have different lifestyles that incorporate movement. They garden and walk frequently. Their lives are done in motion.

4)  Daily napping contributes to a long life
This is another practice that seems challenging, even wasteful to me (the overachieving, always-working-on-something person that I am.) I know the value of getting enough sleep and have begun going to bed earlier at least. But napping in the middle of the day?!?!?

Hmmm. However, evidence shows that getting plenty of rest keeps the body going longer. So take heed.

5) Octogenarians have a supportive ecosystem
People who live long don’t do so alone. They are connected to a social network (no, not Facebook), a live network of real people who know and support them. They get encouragement and love from their families and communities and just as important, give love to their communities.

They have a strong sense of faith and likely belong to a faith-based community. They are connected to others, here and ‘above’.

The top contributing aspect of this supportive ecosystem is having a clear sense of purpose. In many of the communities in which octogenarians prosper, the concept of retirement is non existence. People do their life’s work their entire lives. Even if they have jobs in their earlier years, they have a sense of personal purpose that incorporates, envelops or transcends their wage-earning means. It gives meaning to their lives. It gives them a reason to be here.

So my question to you is, ‘What is your purpose?’ What will keep you going after you’ve ‘retired’? What are you here for? What is so important to you that you would continue pursuing it until your last dying breath?

Take some time right now and write down in large print, your purpose…what your life is about…why you’re on this planet at this time.

Why your life will have mattered.

Then make sure you take action on it every day. And, oh yeah, incorporate the other ideas in this article to live long and prosper.

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Top 3 Tips for Overcoming Adversity

Last week, I found a pair of sandals I hadn’t worn for years: didn’t even recall that I owned them until I opened the box they were in and saw them.  (Hmmm. What does that say about my shoe collection? It’s not that big…really!)

Anyway, I remembered the shoes were quite comfortable and excitedly slid them on right away.  I took a few steps and suddenly my past was in my present. I had worn them during the spring and summer of 2001 when I was in a job I hated and in a marriage that was just about dead and taking our souls with it.

I flashed back to walking through a quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto CA past modest (but way overpriced) homes with beautiful flowerbeds, enjoying the sunlight on my shoulders but grappling with the heaviness in my heart.

All of the anguish rushed right back: so much so that I immediately took the shoes off, put them back in the closet and entertained thoughts about giving the to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

It’s strange how we store memories in our bodies in ways we don’t hardly know. Even though it had been almost 10 years since they’d been on my feet, I was right back there on the streets in northern CA, sad and angry.

So here I am now in Phoenix, enjoying life as an entrepreneur, living with a man I could have married 36 years ago instead of just 6. (That’s another story.  If you haven’t heard it, ask me about it next time you see me.)

I shared my keep-them-or-give-them-away dilemma with my husband a couple of times until he basically said (lovingly), ‘make a decision or quit lamenting’.

Great advice!

Here’s what I’ve learned from this .
1. Choose your future
Sometimes it’s hard to envision a positive future when your present is flooded with unpleasant thoughts, feelings, emotions and circumstances.  You have options.  Bring the future you desire into existence through the power of declaration.

2. Never give up
Too often, people are discouraged from their goals when they seem difficult to accomplish. It would have been easy to put those sandals back in the box and drop them off at a donation center.  But I choose to keep them and therefore deal with the (what turned out to be) temporary discomfort of the memories.

I decided I could make NEW memories in the present.  So I started wearing the sandals at every opportunity and – Voila! The pain diminished.

It was similar to the breakthrough I had when I quit smoking 15 years ago.  I realized that when the urge to smoke struck and I distracted myself for just a few minutes, THE URGE WENT AWAY!  That was mind-boggling for me.

The same thing happened with the shoes.  When I decided I was bigger than the memories, they started to fade. My body started experiencing and remembering NEW details that over-wrote the ones that had been stored in the shoes and the soles of my feet laying dormant until they were joined together again.

Because of the choices I made, the nicotine lost its grip and so did the memories of the bad job and ex-husband.

3. Move steadily forward toward your goal.
On occassion, an image or conversation from the past returns to my consciousness.  Because I believe and say “You are not the boss of me!”, the pictures and words don’t take hold.  They are disempowered. They learn their new place in my life and I am free.

So when adversity strikes, look toward the future with determination and faith and act consistent with your desires.

Why ARE you here?

The question, ‘Why am I here?’ causes a truly deep and penetrating exploration.  It can be a tough question to answer.  We think the answer comes from outside ourselves and mistakenly seek it in the eyes of others.
In more uplifting times, their purpose seems more clear perhaps.

In challenging times, people challenge their worth, their essence, their purpose. They might even wonder, “Why me?”

Some even doubt they have a purpose.

I believe we are here for a reason and a couple of questions Martha Beck, columnist for “O” Magazine,  posed are a great place to start the inquiry.

1. How do I want the world to be different because I lived?

2.  How do I want to be different because I lived in the world?

These questions brought to mind a poem I wrote almost 15 years ago after spending an afternoon meditating among the redwoods of northern CA.  It’s a bit long, so I’ll just include a few verses here.

In the depths of the forest, I discover my Soul
Its majesty calls me, beckons my heart
“Come. Sit. Be with me.” Spirit says
“Rejoice in my arms, for you are at home here.”

I still the chatter of my mind, sinking deep into the silence.
Retreating ever inwards, new sensations overcome me.
An orchestra emerges where there was once only absence of noise.
Birds sing to their lovers; a squirrel rushes home with its treasure.

Giant trees surround me, love me, cradle me in their arms
Seducing me with the fragrance of eternal life.
The scents of the centuries carry me back to the recesses of eternity
And forward to futures yet untold.

I dissolve into the tree, merging our Beings
Traveling through time recounting the lessons of life
Engraved in each ring darkened by the memories of the past.

At the center of existence, Now, This Instant is the beginning of Being.
Eternal and timeless, yet immeasurable in its brevity.
This moment of creation reaches forward causing futures unimaginable,
Countless possibilities for potential rings
Drawn by the thoughts and actions of today.

Choices reaching for Providence as tiny branches reach beyond the sun
Toward Infinite Wisdom, both Source and Destination.
Steps ordered in the Word of Spirit fly toward my destiny.
A fearless Life lived in Love and Joy

In the depths of the forest, I discover my Soul
Its majesty calls me, beckons my heart
“Come. Sit. Be with me,” Spirit says
“Rejoice in my arms, for you are at home here.”

What do YOU do to get in touch with yourself and connect with your higher purpose? Let me know.