Grandpa is a good soul who overcame tremendous hardship and is alive and well to this day despite some recent medical issues he's happily recovering from. We'll call him Fred. We've studied him forever to figure out the secrets to his long happy life. Some will sound like common sense; and some you may never have heard of or correlated with longer life.
Singing - For real? Grandpa is a lover not a fighter who always enjoyed music, especially theater. But that doesn't have to be you to apply. How many of us sing in our car or hum while we work? He sang his whole life and was the leading man in numerous plays, always ready to lend a hand to community entertainment. It turns out - singing is good for the heart, mind and soul. Singing is seen as a symptom of happiness.
Sense of Humor - it must be Fred's sense of humor that brought him through hardships. Let's just say he joined WW2 to escape his home life. He made it through the Great Depression as well. But he never takes himself too seriously. He doesn't fear the eccentricity label - he doesn't seem to fear anything. Embrace humor if you want to cope with what lies ahead.
When his heart recently stopped, he had been in the middle of singing with his seniors follies choir that appears at nursing homes, many of the residents of which are much younger than him. One hospital visit and pacemaker later, he's sitting up in bed laughing, saying: "So much for that singing health study you sent me - look where it's landed me!" He was joking and serenading the nurses and back at home in no time. A sense of humor must mean something if it can change our entire physiology in seconds.
When a thyroid surgery changed his voice, we were afraid he couldn't sing anymore. "Oh but hey!" he exclaimed. "I can start singing like Johnny Cash! He talks a lot when he sings anyways." You can't keep a humorous man down - you can't hold anything over his head - he laughs in the face of his troubles. He was clear into his 80s before significant health problems arose - that's a life many of us envy and aren't granted.
Vigorous Social Life - There is increasing evidence that more virtual reality correlates with more loneliness and stagnation. While his acquaintanceships aren't deep, he enjoys a lot of face-to-face interaction - and with it comes laughter. Facebook depression or envy might seem like a conjured up way to give more meds, but there are observable changes when people hole-up on their computers all day. Or when we compare ourselves to superficial projections. We are so wired and data-bound. One boy disconnected for 90 days and those results speak for themselves.
Positive Power - Had he been steeped in his early troubles all those years, who knows how long he would have lived. Stress-response is heavily researched as an early killer and weight gainer. Negativity changes the biochemistry, turning it acidic within seconds. He learned to take things one day at a time, and turn problems over to a higher power. According to behavioral neurolinguistics, negativity creates "grooves" in the brain like tire tracks, easy to get stuck in, just spinning our tires. If that weren't true, then techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), and Eye Movement Reprocessing (EMDR) would not enjoy an increasing audience. You can also meditate your way above, like Fred did.
What about this Law of Attraction business? I don't know, but it seems in the last 50 years, no major troubles have befallen him. He goes into the city without fear - he picks up hitchhikers. He lives in a way that makes us bite our nails . . . and we who worry seemed to be cursed at times. He only believes good things will come and they do. How does worrying benefit when there's just as much chance (50%) that something great will take place? Notably, he hasn't had the "ideal" healthy lifestyle (he even smoked until he was 40) - do you think positive attitude can override physical wellness?
Outreach and Purpose - Why are we calling him Fred? Fred faced his demons and found great purpose through a 12-step program. He has started groups and sponsored young men who didn't know what else to do. He has spoken all over in a few countries. Do you have to be a 'holic to apply those spiritual principles? No, anyone can use the steps and literature to find more peace if they want. Some people who have the worst things to say about it maybe never went to meetings or found themselves at the end of a bottle unable to stop even in the face of imprisonment or losing family and jobs. Your journey might be different - you may never need to reach a "bottom" - only you can find purpose in your life. All I can say, there is a noticeable difference in people who practice some kind of spirituality even if they don't believe in God-type being.
Have you ever found that volunteering gives off a type of euphoria? A great aunt of mine died within one hour of turning 90; she derived profound joy through helping autistic children. She, too , endured a hard-knock life and coped by pouring love onto others.
Good genes? If genes are everything then why is there such a spike in disease, depression, suicide and criminal behavior? Why is there more emphasis on Epigenetics - the study of nutrition, toxicity, behavior and environment on changing DNA?
A Little Ego is Okay - Fred is shameless at times, but I think octogenarians should do whatever they want. Think of that concept - no shame. How many of us could make amazing strides if we didn't have the baggage of guilt, shame, and low self-worth often induced on us by society, media, and ignorance? This does make him appear eccentric - I prefer to think he's onto something unique. He made his amends for his wrongdoings and assesses his daily actions.
How many of us understand the ego? How many of us try to destroy it? He's not a saint, but he feels forgiven, loved and accepted. Okay, EGO (Easing God Out) is not AA-friendly, but isn't it better to have just a bit more than a lot less? That's not to say humility doesn't play a big role in his life.
In the land of confusion, it's okay to know who you are, warts and all, and feel good about it.
Walked Every Day - He never played sports, but he walked one to two times everyday. It was peaceful and kept him trim and active. He loves dogs and would walk the neighbors' dogs for free. They all thought that was weird, but it was a win-win. Since not being able to walk as often, his health has suffered a bit. Anyone can walk anywhere, anytime, but it's so easy to take for granted. In other countries that don't use cars to get everywhere, there is a direct correlation with long life. Walking is now recommended to treat depression.
Fruitaholic - You would think a diet largely made up of fruit might cause someone to go into diabetic shock. At least that's what I've feared. But the massive amount of fresh fruits (full of fiber and vitamins) this man eats has been cleansing, and the antioxidants (they eat up inflammatory gases given off by toxic invaders) have made him seem ageless. He doesn't even have many wrinkles - his face is clear and vibrant. He would bound out in the morning to face the day with no aches or pains. Definitely consider skipping juice and desserts in favor of apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon and compote. Nearly 90 and always cancer free. Maybe it helped that he had grown up on some mid-western farmland. Simple meat & potatoes, but good fresh foods, too, and a loving wife who has prepared three squares a day for over 50 years. Still, if blood sugar and candida are a concern, vegetables and leafy greens with a balanced diet are preferable, most nutritionists would say.
Loves Mealtime and Sleep - It really is the little things in life. Even King Solomon said: "And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God." - Ecc. In other countries, family mealtime is sacred. The documentary Happy shines light on Japan's growing problem with young deaths due to workaholism. After WW2, Japan put major emphasis on rebuilding and the pattern stuck, with tragic results. But, in Okinawa, the over 100-year-old ladies (who look and act like age 60) attribute good long sleep for a long healthy life. They also keep to the traditional meals and large support group of family and friends.
These are the same people, along with my grandfather who got through war and economic plunges - and made it out the other end with returning smiles. They as well as many who practice Eastern wisdom seem to know how to cope with tragedies and hardship. Take what you like and leave the rest.
What are your lifelong secrets?