Believe it or not but the amount of people living to 100, or more, is on the increase. This is hardly surprising as science, medicine and technology have advanced so much over the last 100 years. No matter what age you are now, the chances are that you will live to a more advanced age than your parents. So here are 10 of the best habits you can implement and weave in your modern daily routine to assist you along in your journey to your 100th birthday. This does not guarantee living to 100, but it’s a good start.
Here is my miracle list !!
1- Do not smoke!
This is a fairly obvious one that has been around for the past 20 years!! I will not explain the negative aspects of smoking here as I am sure you all know.
2- Filter the air you breathe!
Air pollution is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air. Car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mould spores may be suspended as particles. Ozone, a gas, is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it’s also called smog. It’s very well known that air pollution can affect respiratory function and health. There is mounting evidence that suggests inhaling polluted air is also toxic to the brain, particularly for children and adolescents. So here are a few suggestions to reduce the effects of air pollution.
- Nose breathe! Your nose is fully designed to filter and warm the air you breathe. With slow, silent nasal breathing you can oxygenate the body far more efficiently than with mouth breathing. The health benefits of nose breathing range from improving sleep, eliminating snoring and sleep apnea, to reducing inflammation, enhancing memory and an overall increase in your immune system function.
- Wear a mask! In 2020, during this COVID 19 pandemic, wearing a mask has become the norm. There is a huge debate whether these masks offer any protection against coronavirus or air pollution, however, a good quality, a well-fitting mask will offer some protection against these air pollution particles.
- Cycle more, drive less! I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but air pollution is more harmful inside cars than outside. The inside of the car acts as a box collecting toxic fumes and trapping them inside.
- Filter the air at home! You could fit an air filtration system in your home or office to improve the air quality that is inhaled. A good HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) filter is the Pure Zone air filtering device. These air filtration devices simply pull the air in and force it through a filter, in order to retain as many tiny particles as possible, making the air you breathe so much cleaner !!
3- Eat a diverse plant based diet!
When you open the pantry of people living in the blue zones they have real food. Handpicked roots or tubers, pickled food in jars, fresh produce from the farms nearby, some wine locally produced and a vast selection of wild plants and their meat consumption is very occasional. Packaged and/or processed food are very handy and practical in our fast-paced lives, but it comes with a high price to pay. Those foods ( even the healthy ones ) contain sugar and some sort of vegetable oil. In general, sugar will cause your blood sugar levels to rapidly fluctuate and poor quality vegetable oil will cause your inflammation levels to go up and down during the day. Instead, introduce high amounts of legumes, a wide variety of plants, fruits, nuts seeds. It’s also a good idea to introduce wild plants, herbs and spices, like nettles, mint, thyme, rosemary, turmeric and cayenne amongst others.
The Japanese have this amazing practice called Shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing). This is to take advantage of all the polyphenols and essential oils that emanate from plants and trees and have healing effects on the lungs. It is as simple as walking in a forest, breathing deeply, opening your senses to nature and feeling present in the moment.
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
- Boosted immune system.
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Increased energy level
- Improved sleep
Once you make this a regular practise you will start experiencing other benefits such as:
- Deeper and clearer intuition
- Increased flow of energy
- Increased capacity to observe and understand nature’s processes
- Overall increase in a sense of happiness
4- Low-level activity all through the day!
People in blue zones don’t go to the gym, their natural way to be strong is to be outside all day.. building fences, lifting rocks, working the land, walking for miles to another village, feeding the animals, dealing with cold or heat, and any other activity that demands a continuous movement and body adaptation.
Our modern lives are far from this model, however, we can simulate some low-level activity in our daily routine. If you are working at a computer all day, try a standing workstation, carry around your office something weighty such as a 5-litre bottle of water, a barbel, a kettlebell, maybe you can even fit a pull-up bar, take frequent breaks outside, stretch, do 10 air squats every hour, etc. Before and after work, walk as much as you can, to work, to the supermarket or go for a walk with your friends.
While there are benefits to mild forms of exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is where exercise for longevity hits full stride. Even more so when you’re older.
“To engage our longevity genes fully, intensity does matter,” Dr David Sinclair reports.
“It’s high-intensity interval training — significantly raising your heart and respiration rates — that engages the greatest number of health-promoting genes, and more of them in older exercisers.”
As Sinclair summarizes exercise for longevity, “Exercise turns on the genes to make us young again at the cellular level.”
So in other words, the lesson we can take from the blue zones is; move as much as possible and incorporate short bursts of high-intensity exercise!!
5- Social engagement!
There is a growing epidemic of loneliness in our modern societies because people tend to interact more digitally than physically with one another. When you are face to face with someone you are exposed to their pheromones, to the electrical signals of their brain, to their smells (which is not always a good thing!!!), to the oxytocin hormone that they release when you hug them, touch them, or shake their hand. You simply cannot simulate or replace this with digital interaction. In truth, you need a certain amount of physical exchange and communication with real people. In the blue zones, they eat together, drink red wine, they laugh, they get louder, they play card games, dominos, or board games together and have a fully emotional, physical and social interaction. I said they drink together… this must be explained. Drinking one alcoholic drink a day for women and two drinks for men is acceptable. For example, if you drink some organic red wine with no pesticides, it is full of antioxidants and polyphenols that are beneficial to your health. In general, people in the blue zones drink in moderation and usually wine, so don’t feel guilty about enjoying your glass of red wine.
A word of caution! At the time of writing this post, social distancing, mask-wearing, no physical contact and limited gathering are the norm.
One of the most powerful ways of increasing your longevity is to eat less. Whether you skip a meal, do intermittent fasting or fasting, eating less equates to improving your lifespan.
Fasting is the wilful refraining from eating for a period of time. After 12 hours without eating the body goes into a phase called cellular autophagy. This autophagy is a cleanup procedure of cellular debris, a clear out of old cells and a renewal of the body. Fasting or intermittent fasting is not a calorie restriction diet but more a window of time in which you do not eat at all. Some of the most popular intermittent fasting techniques are 12 to 16 hours without eating and, for the more seasoned fasters, 24 hours is quite common. In many cultures and religions, fasting is not only synonymous with cleansing or purifying your body but also it is a time to develop your mental clarity and perhaps a certain connection to a higher power. Fasting has many health benefits such as improving your immune system & brain function, speeding up your metabolism, helping to stabilize your hunger, aiding in weight loss, and most importantly improving your longevity.
7- Strong life purpose! Ikigai or Plan de Vida...
It’s essential to have a good reason to get up in the morning. My mantra is…”I, Pedro Gracia endeavour to inspire people to live a joyful, healthy and fulfilling life until they are 100 or more..” This one sentence sums what my purpose or mission in life is. So when the going gets tough, when I am stressed or feeling low, when I lose track of my purpose, when life itself becomes overwhelming, this single sentence will remind me what it’s all about.
In the blue zone, people seem to have a mission, a sense of belonging to a larger community, some sort of motivation or vision, that keeps them going. Very few feel tired, almost all of them live their lives, getting up out of bed every single day and living with a purpose.
So how do you find your purpose or Ikigai ( Japanese term for life purpose)?
Very simply answer the following question and make a list:
- What do you love to do? ( your passion)
- What are you good at? ( your vocation )
- What do you get paid for? ( your profession )
- What can you bring to the world? ( your mission )
So once you have your list of answers, put them in the circles of the Venn diagram ( see down below ) and look at the intersections of this diagram. Look at the complete picture and find some connections. This will give you some strong indication of your passion, your mission, your profession and vocation. Give this some time, let your ideas and impulses a chance to emerge. With this, you are better equipped to make a plan and find your purpose in life. Take your time to do some soul searching,it’s well worth it !
8- Low-stress levels.
This year alone many people have lost their job, have fallen ill or lost someone close to them and some others are struggling to survive. So across many populations around the world, the levels of stress are on the increase. Ongoing, chronic stress, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems including mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke can sometimes be caused by stress. Now more than ever is when we need to be kind with ourselves and with one another and be equipped with simple techniques that allow us to regain control, or even totally dampen our stress. We often rely too much on external sources such as watching a series on Netflix, listening to relaxation music or binaural beats, meditation apps, etc, in order to calm our daily stress. Don’t get me wrong, these tools are great and with time can help you along the way. But we have an almost instant way to regain a state of calmness. It’s with our breath! Every hunter-gatherer or tribal society around the globe has practised some type of breathwork to help them cope with their daily challenges. With these next three techniques, you can regain almost instant control over your levels of stress.
Box breathing is the first one – slowly breathe in to the count of 4, hold that breath to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4 and then repeat until your heart beats slows down.
Alternate nostril breathing is our second hack to control stress, long and slow breath in through the right nostril, long and slow breath out through the left one.
Finally in third position the 4, 7, 8 technique. Breathing in to the count of 4, 7 count hold and 8 count exhale.
So if you practice these techniques you will find it to be second nature and you will be able to take control of your stress levels in an instant !!
9- Engage in some kind of spiritual discipline or belief in a higher power.
Over the last few years, I have become increasingly convinced that caring for one’s spirit is as important as caring for one’s body and brain. Unfortunately in this fast-moving world, it seems that we relentlessly pursue our physical fitness and seem to totally ignore the spiritual disciplines…such as meditation, gratitude, prayer, fasting, studying the great thinkers and philosophers, continually seeking wisdom, journaling, visualizing, solitude, breathwork, yoga, prioritizing family dinners, etc. After all, as our physical body and brain decline, our spirit could remain as bright and as strong as ever. So it’s of the utmost importance to weave some of these spiritual practices in our busy daily schedule.
The daily practice of meditation, breathwork, fasting and prioritizing my family has made me more grateful for what I have, less materialistic, less judgemental, more compassionate and has opened my connection to a higher power. I think engaging in some kind of spiritual discipline will give you hope, a sense of purpose and the knowledge that you are playing a role in the grand scheme of things. And this my friends, will boost your longevity by years and possibly decades. Many of the centenarians in the blue zones engage in some sort of spiritual discipline.
10- Sex and intimacy.
Research has shown that a person who continues to be sexually active into old age is sending her body a very powerful biological message. The body believes that this person is still active in a procreation sense and will do all it’s best to maintain him/her well and healthy, not only in the immediate future but for many years to come. Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones”, states the following “we know that people who are having sex after the age of fifty, at least twice a week, have about half the rate of mortality than people who aren’t”. A close and loving relationship that includes intimacy, both physical and emotional, is one of the most powerful antidotes to ageing!!
These 10 habits are easy, free, and can be simply woven into your life. If you are not already practising them, try to introduce them one at a time and see if they are beneficial to you or not. This is not a one size fits all!!!
I hope this is helpful, I can’t wait to hear your comments, feedback and maybe you can share them with friends and family.
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100