One of my goals in life is to become a centenarian, someone over 100 years of age. A few years ago, a team of researchers identified four areas that had the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. They studied these people, wrote a book about them, then distilled their similar lifestyles down to a set of consistent life-giving habits.
And by life giving, I really mean death halting. Since there’s no brake on death, the best you can do is ease off the accelerator. With my added commentary, here are nine ways to do just that, as compiled by author Dan Buettner:
- Find a physical activity you enjoy and keep doing it. Do it for as long as you enjoy it. If and when you tire of that activity, find something else that pleases you. For example, you could start jogging, and if that becomes a bore, move to biking. Then swimming. Then Pilates. Then kickboxing. Then underwater basket weaving. Whatever it is, be sure to do it at least three times a week, moreso for idle or cubicle people. (In my case, since I sit at a desk and work from home, I have to move a lot more than most people to achieve the optimal amount of fitness.)
- Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, as opposed to being full. There’s a difference. About 20% less food per meal, in fact. In short, this is the best known way to eat less. Stop when satisfied instead of stuffing yourself.
- Eat mostly plants. As I’ve covered previously, reach for produce, veggies, fruits, nuts, and unprocessed food more than you do the other stuff, including meat and junk food. The best way I know how to do this? Buy a big fruit bowl and make it the centerpiece of both the kitchen and dining area. My wife started doing this last year, and we’ve since upgraded to two fruit/veggie bowls with overflow on top of the microwave. Make it visible and you’re consumption will start to change, especially if you clear your pantry of junk food.
- A glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you. What’s interesting, however, is that the people they studied rarely if ever got inebriated. They didn’t drink often. If that’s the case, red wine has proven to have positive effects. Do those affects outweigh the risk of alcoholic indulgence? Of course not. So tread extremely lightly. Or just don’t drink at all like a good teetotaler (which have their own share of health advantages).
- Regardless of your age, have a purpose in your life. Don’t just survive. Live for something. Create. Do anything that excites you and lets you contribute to society and your community in a positive, life-giving way. Like having goals, this keeps people going longer than they otherwise would have.
- Slower is better. This is harder for Americans and other fast-moving, cram your day cultures to understand. But it works. How? People that down shift and live at lower RPM relieve more stress than people always on the go. And stress can build up and ultimate kill you. What’s more, you’re better able to appreciate your surroundings and what’s in front of you at a slower pace than a faster one. “Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it,” said one 107-year-old lady.
- Believe in things unseen. Atheists and agnostics aren’t gonna like this, but people that believe in a supreme being have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and suicide, and their immune systems appear to work better. “To a certain extent, adherence to a religion allows people to relinquish the stresses of everyday life to a higher power,” says Buettner. So have faith. Or don’t and die sooner. The choice is yours.
- Have a family. Prioritize spending time with them over personal ambitions and materialism. “Play with your children, nurture your marriage, and honor your parents,” Buettner counsels. If you still haven’t found your soulmate, never stop looking. If you are unable to have children, resolve to become the best aunt, uncle, brother, or sister, grandma, or grandpa the world has ever seen. And do whatever you can to surround yourself with immediate, extended, or your surrogate family.
- Commune with like-minded people. Specifically, people that value the above eight things. Making healthy habits a part of your culture and immediate surrounding is the fastest path in reaching 100 (at a slow pace, of course).
Centenarians, here I come. Save me a seat at your table, will ya?