How to Beat Negativity, Harness Optimism, and Envision Longevity
Have you noticed that one day seems to be a whole lot like the day before? We may laugh at the antics of the movie Groundhog Day, but some of its reality may strike a nerve. That’s because there’s a grain of truth to it.
What patterns do you repeat day in and day out and what do they have to do with healthy aging and longevity?
How Everyday Choices Affect Aging
Did you know that the patterns we repeat today are the building blocks of what we create tomorrow? If pressed, you could likely list several behaviors, habits, and lifestyle choices that could put you on the fast-track toward advanced aging. Not that you’d want to, of course. But sometimes it helps to look at the opposite of what we want.
What would it look like if your goal was to age faster? It’s commonly known that the following four behaviors contribute to rapid aging, the sum of which is often first visible on the skin: overuse or over exposure to the sun, smoking, alcohol, and sugar. These may seem obvious.
But there are a lot of not-so-obvious factors that contribute to rapid aging. From poor eating habits to environmental exposures, our bodies are bombarded by insufficiencies, toxins, injuries, and other damaging influences.
Nutrient deficiencies can lead to poor immune health, gut and digestive disorders, cognitive challenges, vulnerability to infections, and accelerated disease progression. Environmental exposures from chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, can damage the body in profound ways including neurological, digestive, respiratory, and cognitive impairment.
Then, there’s stress.
Stress has a significant influence on how our body ages. Examples of stress-related occurrences may include headaches, insomnia, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, digestive imbalances, increased heart rate, and hormonal irregularities.
By now, you’re saying, “tell me something I don’t know,” right?
What we eat, see, hear, touch, smell and react to can negatively impact our physical and emotional health. But (with few exceptions), this doesn’t happen in an instant. Rather, it’s the incremental impact of these occurrences that creates the final result — accelerated aging. The little decisions you make, every single day, have more impact on your future self than the big events or circumstances that may happen. This is a daily problem.
An Anti-Aging Equation for Change
When it comes to problem-solving, the mind jumps into action and spins with ideas to try. The brain urges us to do something in order to reduce stress and minimize the potential for future problems. Our mind naturally believes that doing (AKA our behavior) equates to a result, or what we want to have instead.
“Doing equals results” is a common belief in the health and fitness world. For example, infomercials demonstrate that if you use specific equipment, the result is six-pack abs. Or, if you buy a specific food plan, you’ll look like the lithe body of a popular celebrity. If you pay attention, you’ll notice how this “doing equals results” mentality is pervasive in our culture.
But have you ever purchased equipment, meal plans, or health programs, and not followed through? If so, you’re just like the rest of us.
If “doing equals results” was effective, then we’d all have great results. Clearly, this equation is incomplete. In fact, it’s missing something so vital that without it, willpower and motivation simply aren’t enough.
We often focus on this incomplete equation. We try hard to change how we eat and then berate ourselves for slip-ups. Or we go to great lengths to create a new and improved fitness plan and stick with it for just a few days or possibly weeks.
What’s the missing secret to make this equation complete?
Here’s the anti-aging equation — "Mind Math" — you need to memorize now:
Thoughts + Behaviors = Results
Behaviors (the doing part of this equation), only happen after a prompting thought. What we’re thinking beforehand is the key to success. Our thoughts provide the power behind our initiative to take action. Thoughts drive our potential for results. When it comes to feeling happier, more vibrant, healthier and stronger, how we think about our future is the driving force.
A Healthier Future for You
When you think about your future, what comes to mind? Do you see the days spread out before you as endless opportunities to enjoy life? Or do you see the days ahead with some dark clouds and potential for uncertainty?
Perhaps you worry about the following:
- Possibility for declining health
- Potential loss of a loved one
- Uncertainty in your financial future
- Fears or concerns about losing your mobility or your sense of freedom
There’s a lot to think about, for sure. But how you go about it can actually translate into a longer and healthier future for you.
Studies have shown that centenarians and near-centenarians (those living to the age of 100) tend to have a more positive outlook on life. Those who live longer in general think with optimism, hope, constructive expectancy, potential, and a sense of confidence. The good news is that this concept isn’t just a platitude.
Consider yourself armed. You’ve got the Mind Math equation, so use it to your benefit. What do you want in life? Don’t fall back on familiar thinking patterns. Think about what you truly want rather than what you believe you’re stuck with. How you think (not the details of how you’ll get what you want) is where to place your focus.
Of course, it’s not a simple matter of positivity.
In the longevity study mentioned above, those who lived longer weren’t simply Pollyanna types. Far from it. They weren’t even positive by nature. This population of participants were concentration camp survivors who chose to think positively despite their unthinkable circumstances.
To lock in a future of better health, remember that positive thoughts drive positive behaviors. And, positive behaviors deliver positive results. When this equation is complete, and the steps are in the right order, your results are a shoe-in.
The Centenarian Mindset
In addition to putting the Mind Math equation in place, there are several other key habits and common characteristics of fit centenarians.
Those who enjoy a healthier retirement age and beyond tend to:
- Eat whole, healthy, nutrient-dense foods and avoid overeating
- Make social connections a priority and enjoy their time with loved ones
- Move their bodies (exercise or fitness) regularly
- Enjoy getting outside and experiencing nature
- Make it a priority to pray, meditate, or nurture a spiritual connection
- Develop a healthy sense of self-value and self-worth — through their work, hobbies, volunteering, and relationships
Note that there’s an interesting impact when the above topics are viewed through a positive lens. As our thoughts lean toward hopefulness and anticipation of an enjoyable future, we automatically tend to eat well, move our body regularly, get outside, and stay connected with others.
And, the opposite is also important to note. When our thoughts drift too far toward the negative side of things, we tend to eat for other reasons than hunger, self-isolate, and feel stuck and disconnected.
Take a look at the simplified path outlined below. This can help you to navigate toward the brighter side of life.
Mind Math Equation in Practice
After reading this article, you’re in possession of two secret weapons to wage war against rapid aging:
- You’re aware of what, specifically, can help you to steer clear of illness and promote vibrant health.
- You’re aware of the powerful Mind Math equation that can prompt these practices into action.
- What healthy habits would you like to implement or tweak first?
Here’s a simple dietary example:
Let’s say you’d like to reduce the amount of processed and packaged foods in your diet. Notice how the mind automatically jumps to what you can do to make it happen. Your mental checklist may look something like this.
- Add broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green beans, apples, pears, and berries to the weekly grocery list.
- Take inventory of the fridge and pantry to remove packaged items that might be a distraction.
- Change Friday’s dinner reservation to a restaurant that serves healthier fare.
- Get shopping and get chopping. Wash and prepare veggies to keep in the fridge and have on hand.
But, this approach skips the Mind Math equation. Without it, what would prompt those behaviors to continue on a regular basis? Willpower and motivation are limited resources and can only take you so far.
Here are some suggestions using the Mind Math equation for peak potential.
- Write a hand-written list of what you’d like to achieve from your plan. Think ahead to your future. What are your ultimate goals? Do you want to lower your blood pressure, move the needle (no pun intended) in your daily struggle with diabetes, drop a few pounds, or improve your immune system? Be very specific with your goals.
- Peruse newspapers and magazines featuring applicable words and images. Consider cutting them out and creating a vision board or simply post one on your fridge. Keep it simple. Words and images speak volumes.
- Browse magazines, websites, and TV programs that feature healthier, whole food recipes. New ideas can generate interest to try something different.
- Watch documentaries, movies, or programs featuring people who have accomplished goals and overcome odds. Read up on sports heroes, self-help legends or whatever topics appeal to you. TIP: it’s not important to match their goals to yours — the feelings of success and motivation are highly transferable.
- Pray, meditate, and focus with intention on the end-result. What do you want your life to look like? How do you want to feel as you age gracefully? What will be the benefits of extending your healthspan?
- Turn off the news (or if you watch often, watch less). News programming has changed significantly over the past several decades. The language used in programming is designed to feed and advance the feelings of fear, doubt, suspicion, isolation, and conflict. Being informed is great. Being manipulated, swayed, or negatively influenced is not. Read rather than watch the news. Reading allows the mind to filter content in a way that watching cannot. Read the article for content that’s interesting or important to you. Skim for pertinent data only and move on.
Do you see the difference to the two approaches?
When your thought process is in alignment with your goals, taking action is the easy part. You’ll automatically come with ideas and solutions to make a healthy future a reality for you. This happens one small step at a time – it’s an incremental process.
Your primary task is to craft an internal world filled with everything you desire. Once done, your outer world follows suit. If you’d like to re-write your own Groundhog Day story, begin with changing your patterns of thought. Take little steps to change, re-direct, distract, and maneuver around the thoughts that keep you stuck. Keep your focus on what you want from life.
Changing your thought patterns has the potential to be the most profound tactic you can implement to create a future of health, happiness, and vitality.
Kato K, Zweig R, Schechter CB, Barzilai N, Atzmon G. Positive attitude toward life, emotional expression, self-rated health, and depressive symptoms among centenarians and near-centenarians. Aging Ment Health. 2016;20(9):930–939. doi:10.1080/13607863.2015.1056770