When it comes to living a long satisfying life, there are a number of things that we know and focus on. Things like exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, limited or no alcohol use, and avoidance of risky behaviors are all things we know will contribute to health and longevity. Most of these areas are things that directly impact our health and have a common sense application to the length of our lives.
However, much of the research suggests that other elements, often nonintuitive elements, contribute at least as much to long life, if not much more. These aspects usually fall into the realm of psychology, spirituality, and relationships.
Psychologically, older individuals tend to have a more positive outlook.
They tend towards a rational optimism, and they cope with anxiety-provoking situations well. They live with a level of structure that serves them well but have an ability to adapt and cope well with change.
Spiritually, older people tend to have an active history of spiritual connection.
Their faith gives them a sense of place and value in their lives generally. Their faith community also gives them a sense of belonging and valuable social interaction.
Relationally, older individuals tend to have long-term stable and uplifting marriages.
Their relationships tend to be characterized by close friendship, emotionally supportive and displaying intimacy on multiple levels. In fact, recent research has associated those with more physical intimacy in their relationship as having lower rates of heart disease. They also tend to be quite active with their family, both immediate and more distant. Friendships also serve an important role in their lives.
This is not saying we should set aside lifestyle efforts to maintain our health. Diet, exercise, and the like are important. However, we may want to put at least as much focus on improving the psychological, spiritual, and relationship aspects of our lives.
So go ahead, work on how you look at life.
Choose to be reasonably positive, get involved spiritually, celebrate and work to have great relationships. There are all kinds of resources online, with books, even seeking the help of those you respect and trust may be useful. Some would even benefit from some professional help. Those struggling with more serious psychological and/or relational issues could benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor. It will likely help you with your current distress, and it might even extend your lifespan, significantly.
Written by Eric Clements, M.S.