What’s the secret to long life? Many factors can affect your longevity, including your genetics, socioeconomic status, environment and even your gender. Some of those factors are beyond your control. However, making good lifestyle decisions can also play a big part in how to live longer – and healthier. Avoiding known negatives like smoking and excessive drinking and going for age-appropriate health screenings are a strong start. But eating nutritious foods, exercising and maintaining a strong social circle have also been shown to improve your odds.
Here are six ways you can make lifestyle changes, or continue beneficial behaviors, that may lead to a longer life.
Maintain a Positive Outlook
The key to how to live a long life may be all about positive attitude, studies show. Obviously, it’s impossible to be happy all the time, as everyone faces challenges and difficult situations throughout their lives. It’s more about laughing off small inconveniences, avoiding having petty arguments or holding grudges, and maintaining an optimistic attitude that things will get better as you enjoy the gifts you’ve been given.
With a positive outlook, you may be more resilient against illnesses and proactive about your health in general. Less mental stress may mean a lower risk for depression or cognitive decline. Also, because (negative) stress has been linked to inflammation, optimists may be better protected against these damages – leading to better heart health and stronger immune systems.
In places around the world known as “blue zones,” there are higher-than-average concentrations of people who apparently know the secret to long life. From Okinawa, Japan, to Sardinia, Italy, to Loma Linda, California, the longevity link seems to lie largely in diets that are high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains and very low in meats and refined or processed foods. These long-living seniors both eat and drink alcohol in moderation, which may also play a big part in their health.
Why is your diet key to living a long life? Eating a healthy, largely plant-based diet can help you maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce your risks of diabetes and obesity, and lower your chances of developing certain types of cancer. Plus, nutritious foods give you the energy you need to stay active and engaged in daily life.
If you want to live longer, get moving, experts agree. Exercise improves your cardiovascular health, strengthens your muscles, reduces stress and increases your energy. These benefits can help you avoid common life-shortening events like heart attack and stroke, diabetes, falls and even depression.
Plus, exercise is often a social activity. Whether you take long walks with friends, take a yoga or aerobics class, or join a local pool to get some daily laps – you’re staying engaged with the world and the people around you.
Be Part of a Community
Loneliness can lead to a shorter life. It’s important to maintain relationships and human connection as we age. Positive relationships with family members and friends and even regular interactions with acquaintances or friendly strangers have been shown to lead to a longer life.
People in healthy relationships of any kind tend to have better cognitive health, come down with fewer illnesses and report more health and happiness, in general. To live longer, stay engaged with others. Maintain regular meetups and calls with family and friends. Join a club or class that puts you in touch with folks who share your interests. Or choose a senior living community that offers plenty of opportunities for social engagement.
Enjoy the Moment
This is another lesson from the long-living people of the blue zones. Sardinia’s 107-year-old Rafaella Monne once said, “Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it.” Her observation is important for people of any age living today’s fast-paced, busy lifestyle.
Slowing down and appreciating the moment, including the people and things around you, can bring you greater happiness. Spending more time relaxing and doing the things that make you content and give you a sense of purpose can reduce your stress levels, and subsequent inflammation —all keys to how to live longer.
Do Something for Others
Longevity isn’t just about the quantity of years; it’s also about the quality. Volunteering your time and talents to help others, whether close family or complete strangers, will not only give those people a boost but also increase your sense of life satisfaction.
Doing good for others can give you a sense of purpose to get through tough times. It will keep your mind and body active and give you more opportunities to build connections with those around you. Any of these steps can set you on the path to a happier, healthier, longer life.