No one knows if the recipe for everlasting life really exists. If so, what would be the ingredients? Every day, we are just flooded with so much information concerning unlikely as well as expensive concoctions to fight the signs of ageing, that it’s really hard to distinguish the truth from the falsehood. Yet, pretty much everyone standing on the threshold of a certain age is asking whether such a recipe does exist and is available to all.
Often that happens, doctors as well as scientists are considered as modern witches, magic keeper of extra life. Nay, long and healthy life. As this would make no sense, living beyond 100 with poor physical and mental health, or worse. That’s like saying: everlasting life feeds on wellness, so wellness should be promoted first. And not just on paper, but in real terms. After all, health promotion is a relatively new issue, overlapping the more consolidated discipline of prevention.
Commonly, there are three stages of prevention:
- Primary prevention: the most effective form of prevention, performed through population-based interventions and measures to encourage healthy lifestyles;
- Secondary prevention: the early detection of diseases, with prompt and effective interventions;
- Tertiary prevention: the rehabilitation consisting in every intervention to reduce impairment and disabilities as consequences of illnesses.
Prevention is the main defence against chronic age-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or hypertension. The main difference between prevention and health promotion is that prevention is disease-focused, whereas health promotion is health-based: prevention works on diseases while health promotion works on healthy individuals.
It’s perfectly logical to assume that longer life expectancy is associated with an increased risk of developing serious illnesses, hence the importance of a lifelong health promotion starting from the very beginning: our childhood.
Easier said than done, yeah. However, believe it or not, that is exactly what the World Health Organization (WHO) has pointed out in her Policy Framework for Active Ageing. If you’re looking for a magic formula to live longer and better, the ingredients are therefore nothing more than a mix of health promotion, a proper diet and some basic dietary supplements. So, what’s exactly is a program of health promotion?
Health promotion includes all those basic aspects which are always recommended and to which we have usually paid far too little attention. Like a regular physical activity every day and a good diet, with an increased intake of fruits and vegetables as in the Mediterranean Diet. And don’t forget to nourish that beautiful survival tool which is your brain. Just remember, the greatest secret of longevity is a strong physical, mental and functional capacity, including a perfect cognitive functioning (the “fluid” intelligence) and the continuous development of social relationships.
Mental and cognitive functioning needs only one drug: be curious and jump always beyond every obstacle, no matter how old are you!
Life satisfaction and the relationship with longevity
Life satisfaction is how a person feels like his/her present life and perceives the future. Life satisfaction is typically influenced by many circumstances, including unemployment, financial difficulties and coping with stressful situation like the death of partner, retirement or chronic illnesses.
A recent study, published by researchers at Chapman University (California, USA) sheds light on life satisfaction and mortality risk in the elderly, showing that greater life satisfaction in adults older than 50 years of age is related to a reduced risk of mortality. The researchers have followed more than 4000 men and women over a nine-year-period. All the participants were asked with the same question: “all things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?” – every year of the period. Over the course of the study, the researchers have noticed that, whereas life satisfaction increased, the mortality was diminished by 18% and by contrast, that greater variability in life satisfaction was associated with a 20% increased risk of mortality.
Taken altogether, the findings of this study seem to suggest that fluctuating levels of life satisfaction account for an increased risk of mortality only when life satisfaction is also relatively low. Extreme variability in psychological states is often associated with mental-health disorders, thus considering the variability in psychological characteristics can really add insight into health-related outcomes like longevity. Attitude and personality can ultimately predict longevity, with a positive impact on wellbeing.
Ten golden rules to improve your attitude
Often happens to become confused, icky and under the weather, overwhelmed by sadness and despair. It’s a part of our life, undermining our personal, natural, “positive” attitude. Changing our mood from negative to positive poses often a challenge and often requires adaptation and resilience.
But what is “resilience”?
In its literal meaning, the word “resilience” comes from the latin word “resalio”, indicating the action to get back into the boat, capsized by sea waves.
In the broadest sense, resilience is “the positive pole of individual differences in people’s response to stress and adversity”. In other terms, resilience is “the ability to maintain a stable equilibrium and a high level of psychological and physical functioning in spite of losses or negative circumstances”.
When we refer to active ageing, resilience has been defined as “the ability to recover from any misfortune or challenge”.
It takes a lot of training and adaptation to develop a considerable resilience, however we need to learn how to deal with stressful situations, taking better control of our emotions.
Don’t let your mood take over. Here are ten practical rules:
- Share your emotions with someone. Remember that no one of us is alone, all you have to do is look up. Putting your thoughts into words will let your negative emotions get out of the way. Why not join our community on Facebook? Tell us how you feel, the more you detail your thoughts, the better you’ll be feeling.
- Do not stand still, act quickly. It doesn’t matter whether your actions are big or small, what’s really important is to get anything done. There are dozens of little actions you can do on your day, so why not try to accomplish some of them? One after the other, you’ll open the floodgates to your good mood and you’ll feel like doing more. It’s like a snowball effect, a small action opens the gate to a greater one – the key to feel fulfilled and gratified.
- Congratulate yourselves. Whether you’ re an astronaut on the surface of the moon or a simple reader of books and magazines, what’s really important is that you’re acting, no matter how big your actions. If you value every single success, you’ ll find your way to your personal empowerment, even at older age.
- Start doing meditation. We have already talked about the positive effects of meditation on cognition and brain skills. Meditation will also help you to interact with yourselves, witnessing your emotions in a detached way. The more you’ ll be able to watch your emotions, the more you’ll take control over them. Like a movie, you watch it over a screen, but you’re emotionally detached.
- Sharp your brain. Our brain structure isn’t fit for multi-tasking activities. Coping with many activities can be stressfull and stress is the main cause of bad mood. However, if you try to focus on a single task, you’ll make your negative emotions magically disappear, sharpening your level of attention.
- Have a good laugh. Laughing can stimulate the release of endorphins and encephalin, enhancing serotonin production and reducing cortisol, the stress hormone. Laughing helps to reduce stress and to enhance your good mood, even in difficult situations. If you learn to laugh, you’ll learn how to develop your resilience and adaptation.
- Don’t be afraid to cry out, when necessary. Don’t hide your emotions, open the door and let them out. Negative emotions are like rattlesnakes: make sure to let them sneak out your door, or you’ll be bitten, sooner or later.
- Move yourselves. Don’t lie in bed, even when you’re depressed. If you can, try to carry out some physical activities. You don’t need great physical efforts, all you need is a regular aerobic activity. Physical activity not only helps you to lose weight but also provides you with a feel good factor ensured by the release of endorphins. Endorphins are particularly useful in preventing depressive episodes.
- Listen to your favourite music. Just a few minutes a day listening to the compilation of your choice are enough to create dramatic boosts in mood and long-term increase in happiness and satisfaction.
- Be the artist of your own life story. Try to unleash your inner child – as the world’s greatest artists – and let the beauty of art dispel all your bad vibes. Writing a poem, for instance, is sometimes a powerful tool to work through your inner conflicts. After all, poetry is a kind of meditation, where the writer puts onto paper his/her emotions, watching them in the same detached way as a trained meditator.