By Jimese Orange
No matter what your age, you have the power to change many of the variables that influence how long you live, how energetic you are and how vital you feel in every stage of life. These six tips will have you well on your way to a life of more vibrancy, more joy and more satisfaction.
Relish Awe-Inspiring Moments
Experiencing a sense of awe — such as when viewing the Grand Canyon or listening to a breathtaking live music performance — may boost the body’s defense system, says research from the University of California, Berkeley. “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines and the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychologist and coauthor of the study.
Sleep is for the Living
If you actually want to have more days in your life, make getting good sleep a top priority. Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night can lead to all kinds of health problems, from obesity and heart disease to depression and a compromised immune system. Missing out on sleep regularly nearly doubles your risk of a heart attack or a stroke, according to a review of 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal. “Good sleep can help reverse all of those damaging effects, which can help you live longer,” says sleep expert Richard Shane, PhD, creator of the Sleep Easily method.
Use Those Vacation Days
The act of planning a vacation and having something to look forward to can boost your overall happiness for several weeks leading up to your adventure or getaway. In the long-running Framingham Heart Study, women who vacationed just once every six years were eight times more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.
“Love you the most,” says Courtney Leak, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in North Carolina. “Loving you the most means that you are taking the time you need to heal, nurture and grow as an individual. It means that your boundaries are clear. It means that we spend time alone with ourselves and we know our worth. It means that we have good self-care, which is not just taking bubbles baths and getting pedicures. it includes financial health, clear and clutter-free spaces and removing ourselves from toxic relationships.”
Leak also highly recommends going to therapy and releasing shame and the stigma associated with it. “Ongoing counseling is a form of self-care,” she says, “a way to voice your struggles and receive objective feedback and support.” Maintaining mental health is vital to longevity.
What’s the best prescription for a longer life? Exercise. And doctors are literally prescribing it instead of medication. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. It benefits your brain, heart, skin, mood and metabolism. Even as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking a day can help. Exercise may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth, given the positive effects it has on the body and mind.
You’ve heard of aging gracefully, but aging gratefully is really where it’s at. Research has proven that cultivating gratitude increases well-being. “Conscious aging is sometimes referred to as vital aging, or grateful aging, and the science behind it says that we can live longer by learning to become appreciative of the aging process,” says psychologist Deborah Serani, author of “Depression in Later Life” and a professor at Adelphi University in New York. “When you put your focus on the positive aspects of an experience, you tend to find acceptance,” she says. “This can help you prioritize what’s important, reduce stress and give you the motivation to stay active and eat well.”
“The practice of gratitude keeps us in the present moment and focused upon what is RIGHT in our lives,” says Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill, owner and director of Ja’Makin Me Dance Fitness Studio in IndianTrail. “Consider keeping a gratitude journal or go on daily ‘Gratitude Hunts’ where you remain on the lookout for things, people and occurrences to be grateful for.”