The Secret to Longevity? Be Outgoing!

family walking

Research with the children of centenarians suggests that if you want to live to be 100 years old, next time you are at a party, or in a room full of friends and strangers, introduce yourself and say hello to most of the people in the room. Researchers believe that these individuals live to a ripe old age because they are outgoing, form a lot of meaningful friendships, and have ways to deal with stress effectively. Why is being outgoing positively related to stress and friendship? Well, anecdotally, I find that the people I know who are the most outgoing are also generally happy and comfortable in their relationships (unless being outgoing is a cover for some sort of inner loneliness – it happens). And, let’s face it, if someone can strike up, and genuinely enjoy, a conversation with a stranger, he must not get too stressed out about much.

Maybe you aren’t the naturally outgoing type, and would like to be. Well, the good news is that we can re-wire the brain over time, with work. Alan Garner in the book Conversationally Speaking, gives some great tips about how to increase “personal and social effectiveness.” One technique he gives is called SOFTEN, which is a way to make yourself more naturally open to engaging in conversations and interactions with others. Below are the techniques (which, I may add, may have the social effect of making you more likable).

S – Smile: Smiling shows an openness to others, and to interaction with  them. Make sure the smile is real though. Social scientists have proven that fake smiles don’t have the same effect as real smiles. Garner suggests practicing in the mirror if you are worried about your smile!

O – Open Posture: Again, this is a sign of openness. Sitting with legs and arms crossed signals being closed, even though there are times I do it for comfort and posture reasons, but basically, it conveys a lack of interest.

F – Forward Lean: This signals interest, and genuine affection.

T – Touch: This refers to appropriate touching, of course. Nothing raises the stress levels, and contributes to old-age, like getting slapped with a sexual harassment suit. Seriously though, appropriate touching shows interest and affection.

E – Eye Contact: Truly interacting with people requires interest. Eye contact shows that you are interested in the other person. This may take practice.

N – Nod: Just like the others, nodding shows interest, and says, “I am enjoying your company” instead of “I really don’t care about your hang-ups…now where was that bowl of Doritos I saw when I came in the room?”

Garner explains other ways to be more outgoing, but the SOFTEN technique has stuck with me over the years. So, be outgoing, be friendly, and maybe, be 100.

A Young Man at 31

Yesterday I turned 31. I spent the day at a local amusement park with some of my students, my wife, and because our schools both planned a day to the same amusement park, also Jonathan. All-in-all a pretty cool way to spend a birthday. I am not one to moan about getting old. My life has gotten so much better as I have gotten older. When I was in my early 20s I was a depressed, whiny, college student. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but I wouldn’t trade my current life for my teens or early 20s. Now, I feel much more disciplined and stable, spiritually, mentally, and in how I approach my health. I guess that is what a fully developed brain does for a person! I am in a happy marriage. I enjoy where I live, and get to keep up with my friends in person, and with others, on Facebook. So, you see, I have no desire to be 15, 18, 21, or whatever again.

Nonetheless, being 31 brings challenges that I wouldn’t have had to face as a younger man. I believe that I am in the best shape of my life. I don’t want to sound like I am bragging, so I will save you the details, except to say that I exercise more, eat better, and weigh less than I did in high school. When I was younger, I knew I could mess around my health and still be basically healthy. At 31, I can’t do this any more. My knees were beginning to hurt a few years ago. The reason was that I was trying to be active, but carrying too much weight. As I lost weight, my knees finally started feeling a little better. However, to truly improve my knees, I had to take extra steps, namely working out my quads more. I went from leg-curling roughly 50 pounds, to being up to 190 now. Yeah, I think my quads were crying out for development! I use this as example of something that I would have just “gotten over” as a younger man, but that at my age, I have to watch and maybe work a little harder on. I also have to start thinking about preventing cancer, heart disease, and other conditions which are more common among older peopple.

Some of the things I do to help ward off the bad effects of aging (as opposed to good effects, like maturity, which I will gladly keep) include the following:

– exercising intensely regularly

– lifting weights every other day

– keeping my brain sharp by reading, writing, etc

– eating foods high in fiber

– eating foods high in Monounsaturated fats

– eating foods high in Omega 3 fats

– eating foods rich in phytonutrients (e.g. cabbage, broccoli, onions, etc)

– getting fresh air

– getting plenty of Vitamin D

– praying and worshiping regularly

– taking Knotweed supplements, a source of Resveratrol

– taking enzyme supplements

– hanging out with family and friends

– minimizing stress

– enjoying life! Everyday is a new great day. Seriously. I am alive.

Run for Your Life!

above track

For real. A 20-year study concludes that running can extend your life, so much that those in the study running cut the risk of premature death by half (see #2)! Running also boosts levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor), which is key to keeping nerve cells alive, and stimulating the growth of new nerve growth.  So when you run, you are truly running for your life, i.e. running on your life’s behalf ;).

I got out and ran for an hour the other day. We had an unseasonably warm day (around 65 F) so Jonathan and I ran at the local state park. I am already starting to get sick of being on the eliptical machine, and am yearning to run outdoors. I go through this every winter, so it is nothing new. The more I exercise outside, the less I like exercising indoors. However, I still will exercise indoors, because I know I need to do it, but once I get a warm day…watch out.

Image from a summer running day at the local school track

Seven Anti-Aging Foods

Eating Well Magazine has listed seven anti-aging foods, an article precipitated by the author’s discovery of her first gray hair. Ouch. I am still waiting for mine.

The foods are:

Cocoa (not chocolate per se, as the article suggests)

Blueberries

Fish

Nuts

Wine

Olive Oil

Yogurt

These foods all contain a variety of beneficial compounds, including monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, good bacteria, resveratrol, etc. I am happy to say that I eat a lot of these foods, and even like most of them. One way I get extra cocoa in my diet is to add it to my coffee. It actually improves the taste of cheaper, supermarket coffee, and gives it a mocha feel. Cocoa powder is pretty cheap too, and when you add it to your coffee you aren’t getting the extra sugar and fat (and cost) of getting your cocoa through chocolate bars.