“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man.” – Trotsky
It is said that although death is certain, the time of death is most uncertain. Wise people have been trying to teach us this for thousands of years. Long life is considered by many to be the most precious gift that one can be given for it is rare and valuable; an unlikely chance to experience more, contribute to society and redeem our faults.
And although we will never be able to permanently cheat death, modern science is now showing us dozens of ways to add years to our life. In this post I want to show you some interesting things I have found about how to add at least ten years to your life, broken down into a list of do’s and don’ts.
Why live longer?
While researching this post I have come across and interesting perspective – why would I want to live a long life? Why would I want to grow old and lose my mobility, friends and perhaps sanity? Wouldn’t it be better to pass away younger whilst still relatively healthy and independent?
From one point of view I guess this attitude is right. I can understand why people would be afraid of living to an old age if old age meant only a degradation in the quality of their own life. But, from another perspective I think old age is quite a wonderful thing. Time is so limited and fleeting, any extra amount I am given to accomplish my goals would be most welcome.
A different focus
The key thing here, I think, is that your focus must be on charity, contribution, service, others. If you are just trying to live a long life because you are afraid of death or because you don’t want to leave your nice house then the whole idea seems silly. But if you want to live a long life in order to help others, then you are on a very different track.
The list of people who continued to help others right into their twilight years is long and includes wonderful names like:
- Shakyamuni Buddha (81 years)
- Mother Teresa (87 years)
- Gandhi (78 years)
- Benjamin Franklin (84 years)
Adding ten years to your life would be a wonderful achievement if it meant you could spend more time working to benefit others, helping your family and friends and contributing to your community and society. Unfortunately, however, there is no way we can add so many years to our life that death is averted. We must always try to remember that.
How to add 10 years to your life – the do’s and don’ts
I have done my best to include as much “further reading” materials in the following tips so that you can go on and read more about the subject, the studies, etc. If I have missed any or you have any further information please leave a comment. It might really help someone.
DO – Meditate
Modern science is now beginning to study the effects of meditation on longevity with some very promising results. In India I had often heard stories of monks and nuns who lived to an extremely old age and I often wondered whether this had something to do with their dedicated meditation practice. Dr. Robert Keith Wallace is a pioneer in this field and published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience which showed that those who practiced meditation for just a five year period had a biological age somewhat 12 years less than their chronological age.
So why does meditation increase your lifespan? Lots of reasons. The main three, however, relate to its ability to deal with stress, longevity and immunity hormones. Dr. Vincent Giampapa has done studies that show how massively these hormones are affected by some simple meditation practice.
Many of these studies have shown that you just need to take a few minutes each day to sit down, relax and focus on your breathing. Calm your mind down and focus on the breath coming in and out of your nose and there is a good chance you will avoid certain illnesses. Scientific proof that the mind can affect the body in a big way.
DON’T – Stress
More than ever before we have concrete evidence that stress can kill you. Sure, it won’t kill you right away but it will lead to things like heart disease and perhaps even cancer. Robert Sapolsky has spent more than 30 years studying the effects of stress. In an interview with Stanford Report he mentions that stress is designed to keep us alive by helping us run away from predators or fight off enemies, and it does this extremely well by releasing certain hormones. But nowadays those same hormones are being released when we worry about money or our next bill. And overtime this has devastating effects on the body.
Stress is also dangerous because it can lead to other life-shortening practices like smoking or binge drinking. When you feel stressed at work you often come home to a junk food meal and some beer to make you feel better. And this makes you sick.
If you want to add 10 years to your life you need to learn how to deal with stress. It is important to realize that you will never be able to eliminate all the causes of stress in your life; the bills will keep coming. The goal is to develop some techniques to deal with those life events.
DO – Drink Green Tea
Green tea has been drunk in China and other regions of Asia for thousands of years. It has formed an integral part of their medical system and has long been known as a substance that can have very positive effects on the body. And now western medical science is backing up those claims with various studies that point to the health benefits of green tea. The study in the previous link surveyed 40,000 people over a ten year period and found that drinking green tea made you less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. And considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the western world, it might mean that green tea can significantly increase your life span.
When drinking green tea it is important to buy it from an ethical producer who is located in a non-polluted region. There is some evidence that suggests that toxins in the air and soil can be absorbed into the tea plant and passed along to your body. It is also very important to drink tea without any milk as a protein in the milk can damage some of the beneficial enzymes in the tea. Tea also has the dual effect of calming you down which can definitely reduce your stress levels.
DON’T – Stay up late
I have written about sleep a lot of times on this blog; how to wake up fresh, how to get to sleep, why staying up late is bad for you, etc. I have always felt the effects of a bad night’s sleep on my own body and mind but the more I look in to the matter, the more I realize that science is discovering the same thing. Late nights and erratic sleep are now understood to be contributing causes to conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The interesting thing about sleep is that no one knows why we do it. But we know that we need it. Since the beginning of our species the body has forced us into shutting down each night for around six to 12 hours. And now that we have the internet, busy careers and, of course, the TV, we are all getting a lot less sleep. And this is worrying a lot of experts.
If you want to live an extra ten years it is important that you have good sleep habits. Try to make sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time each evening and morning, don’t drink things like red wine and coffee before bed which cause you to have poor sleep, and make sure you are getting enough hours. The ironic thing about all of this, however, is that you will probably spend an extra ten years asleep!
DO – Exercise every day
This is nothing new. Exercise has long been known to have benefits like weight loss, increased cardiovascular health and an increased level of emotional well being. But what is just coming out now is how much exercise you need to achieve these benefits. And it is bad news for sweat haters. You need exercise every day. One recent study went so far as to say that you will not lose weight in the long term unless you exercise an hour every single day. That is a lot.
The good news is that there are so many different types of exercise you will never feel bored. Exercise doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights. It could be yoga, pilates, dance classes, tai chi or kick boxing. It is important to choose a variety of different disciplines so that you do not get sick of one thing and give up on exercise altogether. One way you can do this is find a buddy that will share your passion and dedication. Go to classes together, wake each other up at 6:30am to go for a run, have fun together. This is an easy way to add years to your life.
DON’T – Eat Meat
This is likely to be a very controversial heading as the western world is so obsessed with eating meat. We have commercials on television telling us to eat more red meat for its iron and vitamins and we have Government sponsored cookbooks telling us that lots of meat is healthy. But, as happened in Australia a few years ago, it turned out that the cookbooks were paid for by the meat industry. Often times the advice telling us to eat meat has an ulterior motive.
There are now lots of studies that show that vegetarianism is linked with a longer life. In fact, this one tells us that if you eat a vegetarian diet for over 20 years you are likely to add four whole years to your life. It is interesting to note, however, that the scientists don’t really know why a low meat diet increases our lifespan. Is it because fruit and vegetables are so healthy, because meat is unhealthy or because being a vegetarian might also indicate other lifestyle choices? They just don’t know.
Eating less meat is a way to live longer but it is also a good idea for other reason. Two of the big ones include ethics and environmental protection. The meat industry is extremely cruel to animals at every stage of their life. The living conditions are often torturous and the culling and transport stages (especially if live export) are unacceptable. In a day an age where we have scientific and documentary evidence that animals feel pain, emotions and desire happiness, it is entirely baffling that we continue to treat them with such cruelty when using them for food.
I have been trying for a long time to be vegetarian and keep failing miserably so I definitely don’t deserve this soap box. But I have got my meat eating down to around once or twice a week with a view to, one day, have totally kicked the habit. If you love a good steak or a cheeseburger perhaps try limiting it to weekends and see how you go?
These few simple do’s and don’ts are enough to add ten years on to your life if you do them consistently and with dedication. But it doesn’t need to stop there – you can stop smoking and, just by that fact, you will increase your life expectancy. Remember, living a long time is something we should aim for but not expect. It is important to use what little time we have on this planet to help others and bring about positive changes in lives of those around you. Otherwise you might spend 90 years not doing much at all.