I’m currently reading a fascinating book called The Longevity Project by two articulate Ph.D’s, Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin.
The premise is that for years we have been told to obsessively monitor when we’re angry, what we eat, how much we worry, and how often we go to the gym. So, it begs the question, why isn’t everyone healthy? Drawing from the most extensive study of long life ever conducted, over eighty years, from 1921 until present day, with 1500 participants born around 1910. It carefully documented when and how they died, and studied their lives in meticulous detail. Although many died in their sixties, many others aged in good health and lived well into old age. This riveting book debunks many long- held myths, revealing how:
- Many of those who worked the hardest actually lived the longest
- Getting married is not a magic ticket to good health
- It’s not the happy-go-lucky who thrive-it’s the prudent and persistent
It includes many thought-provoking self-tests (which initially prompted me to purchase it) that illuminate your own best paths to longer life, this book changes the conversation about what it really takes to achieve a long, healthy life.
In the book, the researchers identify five important factors to implement for those trying to improve their happiness and health. The caveat: Rather than recommending you do each of these items, their research suggests finding a lifestyle in which doing each of these things come naturally.
- Watch less TV
- Improve social relations—spend time with friends
- Increase levels of physical activity—go for a long walk
- Help others and express gratitude to those who have helped you
- Take on new challenges to remain fresh and in-the-moment
These five factors are all connected to health and long life only if they become long-term patterns that characterize your lifestyle. The healthy patterns and pathways come first, and they lead to both health, (often) wealth, and happiness.
They stress being happy is not the same thing as being healthy, and that worrying is sometimes a good thing. But the participants who lived long happy lives were not cynical rebels and loners, and it’s important to note they did not pursue “five easy steps to happiness.” They were accomplished people who were satisfied with their lives.
We all know that if we hear advice to stop watching your favorite television shows, put away your snacks, and go out running, we are very unlikely to do it. But if you are the kind of person who is really, really busy with friends, family, congregation, a sports league, a challenging career, travel, book clubs, and more, then you won’t have much time to sit, snack, and watch TV. The happiness and long life experienced by the participants in this study was a by-product of their pathways to longevity.