Living longer is not just about age, it’s about being healthier, happier, and stress free, for as long as we can. Life can be full of all kinds of unavoidable stresses and anxieties at times, so it’s a great idea to try and take control of the things we have autonomy over. Our diet, lifestyle, and everyday choices are all things we can try to take control of and give ourselves the best chance of a happy, stress free, and long life. So, how do we live longer?
What is the Secret to a Longer Life?
There is no one secret—humans are complex animals and one thing may work well for some and not others—but there are some tried-and-tested approaches that will almost always produce amazing results for everyone.
10 Ways To Live Longer
1. Don’t Smoke
We all know the dangers of smoking and the health risks are serious—from cardiovascular diseases to lung cancer—which means smoking is one of the biggest barriers to living longer and happier. We understand that for smokers, quitting can be extremely challenging, but if you can do it, it is one of the best things you can do to live a longer life.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is one of the building blocks of all life, so it makes sense that we should consume a healthy amount of it. Exactly how much water we should drink a day is contested, but a simple rule is to try and get at least 8 glasses of water a day, even more to be safe. Dehydration is no joke and even a mild case can cause headaches and muscle pains, which only worsen the longer you go without water.
The benefits of being well hydrated are endless, however. Water is great for mental and physical performance, energy levels, mood, skin, and more. Choosing water over soda is a great place to start and has the added benefit of cutting refined sugars from our diet. A win-win.
3. Get Up and Move
In a world where pharmaceutical and medical interventions are more common than ever in our lives, exercise remains one of the most effective ways of staying happy and healthy for longer. It is so incredible for us in a number of ways. Regular exercise can ward off risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and many cancers. It’s also fantastic for our bones, with research showing that regular exercise can result in 83 percent lower risk of osteoarthritis and a 68 percent lower risk of hip fracture.
Perhaps most incredible, is the effect exercise can have on our brains. The serotonin and endorphin release we get from exercise is a truly magical yet natural way to be happier. As a result, people who exercise regularly have a 30 percent reduced risk of depression.
4. Make Healthy Food Choices
This is a big one. Diet plays a huge role in our overall health, and our food choices can so often be linked to our risk of suffering chronic diseases. Diets high in animal products, processed foods—and therefore saturated fat, sugar and salt— carry a much higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.
According to a number of peer reviewed studies, a vegan diet based around whole foods is the most effective diet at reducing chronic disease risk and is considered to be the best diet for health and longevity. So, this is the way to go if we want a longer, healthier life.
It’s important to understand however that not everybody has the ability or understanding of how to make healthy food choices—through no fault of their own. For many people, healthy food is inaccessible due to their location, a lack of nutritional education, socio-economic status, and the extremely effective marketing of the meat and fast food industries. For others, switching to more healthy food choices is something accessible and easy to do, they just need the motivation to get started. So let’s all do what we can.
5. Drink in Moderation
Alcohol can be an enjoyable part of socializing with friends, providing it is enjoyed in moderation, but it can also be extremely damaging to our physical and mental health, so always proceed with caution. Regular and excessive alcohol intake, over time, can lead to a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, liver disease, stroke, and some cancers. It can also lead to higher risk of mental health complications.
Those who drink in moderation, in Blue Zones for example, have found that this can actually prolong life—so a glass of your favourite tipple in the evening could do more good than harm.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is not a treat, it’s a necessity for our health. Unfortunately, for so many of us sleep remains elusive and we end up tossing and turning, running through all the things we are worried about which can become an unhealthy cycle. Luckily there are plenty of simple things we can try to break these patterns.
Regular exercise is a great place to start, as well as other mindfulness interventions such as meditation or yoga. These activities relax our muscles and release positive endorphins in our brains, meaning we are less likely to dwell on any negative thoughts that can ward off sleep.
Avoiding stimulants like caffeine is of course key, so switching out that afternoon coffee for a calming chamomile tea could be a game changer. Finally, a good wind-down routine can change everything—so switch off any screens early, grab a calming herbal tea, read a chapter of a book, and you will be dreaming in no time.
7. Picking Friends Carefully
The people around you can be an unexpected source of stress and anxiety, and many of them may have no idea they have this effect on you. Speaking honestly about how you feel to those people can be beneficial, so this is always worth considering, but in some cases the best course of action is to distance yourself from them and take the time to consider whether they are worth staying friends with. For kind, empathetic people, this can be extremely challenging, as we never want to feel like we are being cruel or hurting somebody—but letting go can also be extremely liberating and greatly improve our mental health.
8. Take Safety Gear Seriously
Taking risks is part of life and one that can be a great source of fun and adventure. But there is a difference between taking calculated risks and being reckless, and when doing any potentially dangerous activity, safety is number one. Even something as simple as riding a bike can be life-changing if we don’t wear the right safety gear and we have an accident.
9. Reduce Stress
Stress is not necessarily a negative response—it helps us survive dangerous situations and tells us when things are getting too much to handle—but this is no state to be in all the time. Our bodies’ life-saving reactions can have negative effects on our immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. It can also, over time, lead to the physical symptoms of anxiety like muscle pain, tremors, and stomach pain.
Over the course of a lifetime, stress can truly be a silent killer—so it is important we manage our stress levels and take breaks and be kind to ourselves when things get too much.
10. Get Regular Checkups
Many of us avoid getting medical check ups because we are scared of what we might find. The longer we leave it however, the worse any hidden medical condition may become, so no matter how scary it is, it’s always worth being well informed so we can take action. Sometimes, being told there is nothing wrong is just the reassurance we need to feel happier and healthier overall anyway.
Of course, in the US, healthcare can sometimes be a challenge and there are many reasons for somebody no scheduling or cancelling appointments, like cost constraints and access to insurance. We understand that it’s challenging, but if you need assistance and can access it, please take it.
How To Live Longer
Essentially, all of the above, and more! The more positive, healthy interventions you make, the better chance you stand of living a long life.
Ultimately, the key is sticking to what works best for you—there is no one-size-fits-all solution and each individual is beautifully unique. We recommend trying a few of these interventions and seeing what sticks—the more regularly we positively intervene in our lives, the better the results.
From going vegan to picking our friends more carefully, we are now armed with ten more tools to help us live longer and happier. That doesn’t mean we have to do all of these, although it’s great if you do.
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself, take it slowly—this is by far the best way to build long-lasting, positive habits. So often we get caught up with trying to be the best we can be all the time, and sometimes life isn’t like that and that’s okay, nobody is perfect!