Long Live Longevity

At least one new book on how to live longer and look younger is published every week. Topics include such things as cosmetic surgery, exercise, diet, and attitude. Cosmetic surgery may make you look younger, but it won’t make you live longer. Exercise and diet are important and everybody, young and old, should eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. That leaves “attitude.”

Attitude is the key to living longer. First, as pointed out in a previous article in this newsletter, attitude affects the immune system: happy, gracious thoughts enhance, whereas negative thoughts impede your immune system. You need a healthy immune system to live a long and healthy life.

Second, you need to think and act young to live a long fruitful life. The concept that thinking and acting young can make you physically younger was studied by Professor Ellen Langer of Harvard. Professor Langer conducted an experiment with a hundred men, seventy-five to eighty years or old. The men spent five days at an isolated retreat where they were instructed to think it was twenty years ago. They were provided 20-year old magazines, radio and TV programs.

The men were divided in two groups. The control group was instructed to focus on the past but all conversation would be in the present tense. Theexperimental group was instructed to return to the period twenty years ago and not talk about anything that has happened in the last twenty years. Thus, the context for the control group was the present (albeit, talking about the past), while the context for the experimental group was to be the person they were twenty years ago and experience the way things were twenty years ago.

All subjects were tested physically and psychologically before and after the five-day retreat. All participants did better in the physical and psychological tests after the five-day retreat but the experimental group did best. Moreover, participants were reported to look three years younger, stand taller, and have an improved memory after the retreat.

Professor Langer’s study implies that our belief in how we are supposed to grow old is not necessarily so. We can influence how fast we age, and how long we live, with our attitude.

Think younger; be younger; live longer.