We are living longer and longer. As our lifespans extend to 80, 90, 100 years or more, having a good quality of life during those years becomes increasingly important. How can we stay healthy? How can we still do the things we want to do? How can we feel content and fulfilled until the last moments of our lives? The keys to aging well with health, happiness, and peace lie in training our physical power, heart power, and brain power.
Physical power is a cornerstone for happiness and health. Having enough muscle mass, flexibility, bone density, immune response, cardiac tone, and more, all contribute to being able to do the things that make us happy. It also contributes to having confidence and a positive outlook on the future.
Heart power is the ability to follow our conscience and have tolerant, compassionate relationships. Like physical power, the more we use our heart power, the greater it grows. Close personal relationships, such as those with family and friends and the communities to which we belong, are excellent training grounds for heart power. Having a social support network built on heart power remains one of the cornerstones of healthy aging, according to studies in areas with a high population of centenarians.
Brain power is creativity, or the ability to use our insight and wisdom to create something that contributes to ourselves and to the world. Creativity comes from curiosity, from interest in and love for ourselves and our surroundings. Being engaged in the world and trying new things stifles cognitive decline and provides a sense of excitement for living. It leads to creation and contribution to others that gives us fulfillment and a reason to live.
Building our physical power, heart power, and brain power can be done with simple changes in our lifestyle and outlook that add up to a big difference. Here are eight ways to do it from my recent book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years.
Staying physically active is essential for developing physical power, but hectic lives and inertia often get in the way of our staying as active as we need to. However, exercise doesn’t need to take a lot of time or involve special equipment or clothing to be effective. Recent research has indicated that short bursts of high-intensity exercise can be as effective as longer bouts.
Try exercising for just one minute every hour. If you can, do a strong, high-intensity exercise such as push-ups, plank, sit-ups, or jumping jacks. But if you cannot, try a gentler exercise such as stretching or breathing. Choose exercises that work for you and make you happy. You can even use exercises from practices like yoga, tai chi, or qigong.
By scheduling your exercise in short bursts throughout the day, you break up the length of time you spend sedentary. Longer periods of uninterrupted sitting is a risk factor for disease and decline. Try to fit in one minute at least ten times a day. Mindfully exercising for just one minute every hour will keep your body and mind alert, strong, and flexible.
Dreams and goals fuel your body and mind to move. They motivate you to take care of yourself, grow, and change. No matter how old you are, continue to develop yourself. Rather than living day-to-day, without something meaningful to work toward, focus on goals that are near and dear to your heart, and you’ll find yourself waking up with excitement each morning, eager to see what lies ahead.
A good attitude is another important part of living a long, healthy life. Change your attitude about getting older, if you have any negative assumptions. In studies on attitudes toward aging, those with negative attitudes tended to walk more slowly and have worse cognitive abilities than those who had a more positive outlook. Rather than seeing the wrinkles, stooped posture, or old-fashioned notions, remember all the wisdom and experience you accumulate and can share with others. You can live with hope and dignity at every age.
Sharing and giving are the greatest rewards we can receive. Developing a habit of helping others or contributing to your community forges the social connections aging experts say are important for aging well. In caring for others, you are more motivated to care for yourself. You might mentor a young one, give money to a charity, or do something fulfilling that supports the next generation. Make sure the cause is something you believe in, and you’ll enjoy your selfless giving in ways that might surprise you.
Visit natural places often, wherever you may be and whenever you get the chance. You don’t necessarily have to go to distant mountains or the wilderness, or to the ocean. A park or trail near your home is good, too—wherever you can feel the sunshine, trees, water, and wind and wherever you can see the open sky and walk on unpaved ground. Being in nature, or doing a nature meditation, helps you let go of your stress and worries. Nature rejuvenates body and soul. Greet nature like a friend, and it will heal the wounds you’ve suffered and open your closed heart.
Meditation is a good practice for people at any age. Many studies have confirmed that it is excellent for relieving stress, and it can offset some of the cognitive decline that comes with aging, improving focus, memory, and creativity. Most of all, meditation makes you happier since it promotes a calm state of mind and has been shown to increase serotonin, a hormone associated with happiness and contentment.
Your brain doesn’t need to grow stiff and forgetful as you age. It has the capacity to make new neural connections any time if you exercise it with new challenges. Instead of doing the same routines day in and day out, grow your brain power by doing things that are different. It’s even better if they are difficult. This could be learning a foreign language, taking a challenging class at your local college, or immersing yourself in an art form that’s unfamiliar to you. Even brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand each night helps your brain grow in wonderful ways.
Discover your values and what your brain really wants to create by asking your inner wisdom. Sit in quiet contemplation and ask yourself, “Who am I? What do I want?” Ask until answers come to you, and then trust those answers. They will guide your decisions and actions for a life of fulfillment and inner peace.