When someone reaches his or her 100th birthday, people usually ask, “What is your secret? How did you do it?”
We are hoping to hear that they ate a certain healthy food every day or that they did some special exercise to guarantee longevity, so that we can emulate their behavior. But usually their habits are quite ordinary, and there’s no one thing that all centenarians do.
Of course, we know that a good diet and plenty of exercise will increase our chances, so that’s a good place to start. But there might be another part of ourselves that is even more important: the mind. Perhaps the best way to live like a person destined to live a long life is to think like a person who will live a long life.
I plan to live to be 120 years old, and even wrote a book about it. I know I must have a mindset to match, and I’ve lived long enough to know that the most vivacious older people have wonderful minds, as well as healthy bodies.
Here’s what I have found are the five best mental habits of the happiest, longest-lived people:
We Should Celebrate All Phases of Life.
If we bemoan getting older every time a birthday passes, how can we expect to live well? As we get older, we gain maturity and experience that is invaluable, so there is good reason to celebrate who we are now, no matter how old we are. Basic self-respect will free us to accentuate and develop our natural wisdom through self-cultivation and personal growth. This can never happen, though, if we believe that all our best days are behind us. By the same token, it is important to connect with younger people, too. From them, all of us can gain new perspectives on life as they can benefit from the wisdom we have gained.
We Should Set a Challenging Goal.
We should never give in to the idea that life has passed us by. To thrive, we must have confidence in ourselves and know that we can still make our dreams come true. When we connect to a worthy goal, we will always have a reason to get up in the morning. In choosing that goal, we must make sure that it is something challenging, something that will engage our minds and demand that we grow beyond our limitations. Then, we should take it step-by-step, dividing the big goal into many little ones that can be accomplished more easily.
We Must Stay Curious.
We must always seek out opportunities for learning, chances to acquire new knowledge or new skills. We must challenge our brains to step outside of the box—learn a new language, take up an art class, explore new cuisines, join a club, brush our teeth with our other hand. If we have the chance to travel, we should choose places with diverse cultures and opportunities for unique experiences. This will keep our brains sharp and our lives filled with excitement.
We Should Consider All Perspectives.
Vibrant older people do not allow themselves to get stuck in mental ruts. Thus, we should read and watch material that challenges our own opinions and preconceptions. With so much media available today, it is easy to focus on that which agrees with our own views, but it is better to challenge ourselves with new perspectives. We can still keep any opinion we like, but we will understand the world better if we look at it from many viewpoints. For the same reason, we should seek out people who have lived differently than we have, people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. As we widen our own perspective in this way, we will be able to find creative solutions to old problems.
We Need to Be Optimistic.
Many studies have shown that mental positivity is very important for our physical health. We can start by always looking for the best in ourselves and others, rather than criticizing and judging. We can also work to face hardships with a positive mind by trying to seeing the silver lining in the gray clouds, and by understanding that the hardest lessons offer the biggest growth. The greatest joys in this world cannot be appreciated without sadness, so we must embrace the give-and-take of life as part of its natural rhythms.
Good mental habits begin with watching ourselves and our thought processes, and then guiding our own thoughts toward healthier perspectives. After all, it is only through our minds that we make ourselves and others happy, and a long life lived unhappily is not worth pursuing at all.
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson