Looking at the many factors that affect aging and longevity I realize that as a society (in North America) we don’t put enough importance on learning these habits early in life! Our modern day society revolves around working hard, over scheduling family activities, eating on the run (which often means processed convenience foods) and predominantly a sedentary lifestyle. How did we get here? There have been several studies now looking at the habits of Centenarians (those individuals around the world that live to be 100). Here’s a few of the habits that many Centenarians have in common, and what YOU can do to incorporate a piece of that lifestyle into your own life.
Positive attitude and sense of humor – Centenarians don’t take life or themselves too seriously. They commonly have a ‘child-like’ demeanor, like to joke around and spend time laughing daily. To bring that into your own life try keeping a gratitude journal – eventually seeing the glass as ‘half-full’ will become easy. Try to find some time daily to enjoy the things you love and that put a smile on your face.
Eating locally available food
Although there was not ONE diet that was consistent across all Centenarians, they focused on foods that were local to their regions, and ate them in the most natural, unprocessed form. Vegetables, beans and meat were part of most diets. We can follow many of these same principles – whenever possible don’t buy produce that has been shipped from other countries in the middle of winter. Instead, wait until the summer months and head to a local farm to pick berries and vegetables that are both local and in season. These can be frozen and enjoyed later in the year as well.
Don’t get ‘stuffed’
In many cultures the idea of eating until you’re 80 per cent full has been engrained. It’s easier to recognize your ‘satiety’ signals when you are connected with your body and view eating as ‘fueling’ the body rather than as an escape from stress and emotions. Try to establish regular meal times where you get to sit and enjoy your food instead of eating on the run or at your desk. Take 10 deep breaths before eating to put your body into ‘digestive mode’ and eat without distractions.
Some cultures never eat alone – Meals are social and tend to be enjoyed with friends and family. Eating alone would be frowned upon! This philosophy creates a different dynamic around food – it is not something to be rushed, but rather a positive and mindful nourishing experience. Although many of us are rushed and over-scheduled, try creating at least one meal daily that you can enjoy with others. Dinner is often the meal where families are all together, but if after-school activities don’t allow for this, try eating breakfast together. Weekends are a great time to get together with friends or family and enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal.
Many centenarians are still active well into their 90’s. They garden, walk to their friends house and often take care of a homestead. Many were used to hard work and physical labor their entire life. In our society desk jobs and computer work are the norm. Try taking regular breaks to get up and move around (ideally every 30 minutes). Wake up early to get a 20 minute workout in, and take walks after work (great time to connect with a friend).
Strong social network & sense of community – This is a big one. Having a sense of belonging and feeling valued is a HUGE health benefit. Centenarians are often highly involved in their communities and are respected by their family as having years of experience and knowledge to be shared with the younger generation. In modern society it’s easy to feel alone and secluded. Try connecting with a local church, a group that shares your hobbies or volunteer your time to the countless number of groups that could use your help. These activities will not only get you out of the house but also give you a sense of purpose.
Modern day life has many pitfalls and challenges but also has many benefits that we should feel grateful for. Although we can’t recreate the lifestyle from past generations we can certainly learn from it and try to incorporate the habits that we know can help us feel our best!
Dr. Anna Falkowski is a Naturopathic Doctor, Wellness Educator & Clinic Director at Vitality for Life Health Center in Barrie, Ontario with a specialty in Women’s Health, Weight-loss and Family Medicine. She is a healthy living advocate passionate about teaching classes and creating online programs for ‘Mom on the Glow’, her wellness blueprint for busy Moms. For more information you can visit www.vitalityforlife.ca or www.MomOnTheGlow.com