Live long and healthy

Want to live a long, healthy life? Then why not learn how healthy 100 year-olds do it?

Studies of the  five spots around the world with the highest concentrations of 100 year-olds have revealed communities with eight habits which lead to healthy, long lives.

Multi-generation family gardening in the park

The most reported resilience-promoting factor was strong and long-lasting social bonds with family members and friends. The second most commonly cited habit was an outdoor lifestyle immersed in daily physical activity.

Third highest was involvement in family worship activities through regular church attendance and involvement in church ministries. A fourth was consumption of simple foods especially home-grown foods, with an abundance of vegetables and fruits.

Fifth most important was engaging with the natural world, especially gardening and walking in woods.  Sixth was getting at least 8 hours of sleep a day.

Seventh most important is a basic belief: that their actions will result in positive outcomes in their life.  The eighth is performance of regular charitable acts and altruism.

The authors of this study contend that these habits reduce the effects of chronic stress.

They believe that harmful biological changes associated with toxic chronic stress may be caused by inflammatory mechanisms. These eight habits help reduce inflammation.

The authors further contend that creating these habits in childhood “can help build up an immunity to the environmental and mental challenges that life brings.”

The key is a reduced reaction to traumatic life experiences.  Such experiences are going to happen to all of us.  How we respond to them determines how we survive and thrive.

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For more details on this study, see: http://iecn.com/research-suggests-key-to-longevity-lies-in-behaviors-started-as-young-children/

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Thunderstorms reveal resilience

A huge pine tree beside our driveway blocked the view of oncoming cars. This week I resolved to prune it back so we could see. Friday night a powerful thunderstorm did the work for me.  It tore off a three foot diameter limb and deposited it in the road.

Thunderstorm and lightnings in night over a lake with reflaction

As usual, I slept through the storm, so I didn’t notice no one could get by the huge limb. But I didn’t have to. Our self-organized community marshaled chain saws and a front end loader to clear the road.  Meanwhile the storm had blown down power lines and poles and the whole region had no power.

But our local electric cooperative went right to work. Less than 24 hours later, we all had power.  Everything was back to normal, except that we appreciated our community a little bit more.

Gratefulness is one characteristic of resilient people. I try to express thanks often for the many folks who help me have everything I need.  No one is an island. Even the most self-made man built his life on the foundations laid by others.

Our wind and lightning was nothing compared to the traumas others have endured. How did some people endure 9/11 and make New York an even better place afterward?  How do some people survive and thrive in challenging and high stress jobs like the US Special Forces? Severe earthquakes?  Being a prisoner of war?  Those who survived these challenges and subsequently thrived have been studied by many.

One research group has concluded that ten qualities are present in such resilient people:

facing fear, having a moral compass, drawing on faith, using social support, having good role models, being physically fit, making sure your brain is challenged, having ‘cognitive and emotional flexibility, having ‘meaning, purpose and growth’ in life and ‘realistic’ optimism.

Several of my older friends contend that a good church will help you have most of these.  Too bad our churches don’t focus a little more on exercise of the body and brain and cognitive flexibility.  Then they’d produce even more resilience.

All I know is that this weekend started with a huge thunderstorm, a blocked road and no power.  Now it’s Sunday morning and thanks to a lot of resilient people, my community is back to enjoying life and getting ready for church.

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For personal resilience in good times and bad, click this link for more insight.

 

 

 

 

Needing something to believe in

“Don’t separate children from their parents.”  Such a simple truth. Anyone can believe in it. And anyone who doesn’t is obviously hard-hearted. This is the dominant political narrative in the US in summer 2018. People are marching and protesting. The First Lady is going to the border. And the President makes it federal policy.

Earlier this summer, suicide was the emotional topic all the news was occupied with. Two famous and rich Americans had chosen to end their lives. One had noted that he didn’t believe in much of anything. “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river.”

RiftValley masai

Some people seem desperate to find something to believe in.  Others are determined not to believe in anything. Or just keep moving to avoid the emptiness they have created in their souls.

We need something to believe in, something larger than ourselves, something wholly, inherently true that will motivate us. What we all need is beyond simple emotional slogans. We need a universal truth to believe in.  Some call that God, others call it Nature, others say God is Nature.

If people need this so much, why do they run away from religion? There are plenty of good reasons.  “The letter of the law kills” is one good reason priests and rabbis have chased many away.  If religion is a set of laws you must obey, it will chase people away.

But while the “letter of the law kills, the spirit of the law gives life.”  Those who established the laws meant well in many cases, but when they lost the Spirit, they lost the ability to help people realize the freedom and peace and life that is available to all of us.

My hope is that you go beyond emotional slogans and find the everlasting truth which is so much more satisfying than man made slogans–which always fail us.

Find some of this truth and you’ll have peace and joy.  You won’t need simplistic slogans and you’ll fill that empty space in your soul.