If we observe those individuals who are healthy and vital living into their 10th decade, we see that there are three patterns to their lives that show us what a happy, vibrant life looks like. And most of us these want that life so much so that we put ourselves through hoops to learn what it takes. We study meditation or explore productivity improvement to become better at what we do or even move across the country to find a better place to be happy. Nonetheless the evidence shows us that it is not the grandiose stuff that creates a vital life but the small, simple steps we take each day that make the difference.
What we see is that the search for happiness is best recognizable when we demonstrate three habits that are consistently seen in these seniors known as healthy centenarians. And it is the small simple steps we take that bring those habits into our days.
The Three Habits Responsible for a Healthy, Hearty and Vital Long Life:
1. A permanent, purposeful participation in life – No matter the time of your life. Any concept of ‘retirement’ can be more positively looked at as a car that needs re-tiring; changing up your wheels to continue the journey at whatever stage of life.
2. Feeling youthful every day for the rest of your life – Do you let the reflection in the mirror dictate how old you are or is it your inner spark that moves you?
3. Permanently utilizing your seeking, striving and creating system – Never allowing time to run out on the contributions you have to make.
So, the obvious question is, what choices and actions contribute most to developing these principles so they show up in your life? We can learn from those people who reach 100. See what makes them so vital and borrow from what they do that contributes directly to the three principles.
Those habits are regular, unmindful repetitions of action that are healthy ones. Habits can be either healthy or unhealthy and while they become unmindful they start out with mindful practice. And making the above three intentions habits is healthy and powerful. It is a purposeful way to structure your world and it will require patience and perseverance. Feeling youthful and full of vigor every day? Seeking and striving when it takes everything just to make it through the day? Sometimes it can indeed seem like an uphill battle but less so to healthy centenarians.
Healthy Centenarians are engaged, vibrant, powerful, and creators. In a word, they are mindful. Mindful not in the way of forced meditation or routine actions. You will note that healthy centenarians are in general quite flexible people and what is critical to them is creating habits that arise purposefully. In the vital life of a healthy centenarian, ritual features as important and though flexible, the rituals are celebrated and they form into happy habits.
In the Vital Lifelong Alignment program, we explore participating in rituals, taking consciously competent steps and cultivating habits that will give you mindfulness, purpose and vitality just as those who live into their 10th decade have in their lives.
So, let’s look at rituals that healthy centenarians convey is vital to them. Rituals are part of what many current studies say cultivate mindfulness. There is much information out there on cultivating awareness and attention in the craziness of daily life and yet the healthy centenarians seem to have found one way through celebration of ritual.
I am suggesting that you take on three small rituals in the next two weeks that can create more space in your days in a purposeful way by borrowing what the centenarians have shown works. That space and mindfulness allows you live into the vitality principles in a powerfully, conscious way.
Take on Three Small Rituals for Mindfulness, Happiness, Longevity and Health:
1. The Ritual of doing one thing and one thing only. We try to fill our days with accomplishment. I’ve heard tell of those who accomplish more through multi-tasking however the cost of this is a gradual decline in your happiness if not your productivity over time. Persistently dividing your attention means you partially engage in a little bit of everything but hardly focus on any one. If you check in with healthy centenarians they will often show you supreme focus on the one thing they are doing at the moment.
Do you remember playing with a magnifying glass as a kid? Hanging out in the backyard in the summer sun? Holding that glass over a small pile of dry leaves as the sun shines didn’t do anything until you would focus the sun’s rays on one leaf. Then the whole pile of leaves would ignite into flames. And that’s the power of focusing on one thing at a time. So be the magnifying glass in your own life and intentionally focus the energy you get from the world on one important thing at a time and ignite the flames that move you towards realizing a dream life.
2. The Ritual of Break Bread with Others Regularly and Often. The 17th–century French writer, François de La Rochefoucau said, “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art,” And healthy centenarians know that such intelligence contributes to living a healthier and happier life.
Think of the words ‘comfort food’ and its’ associated meanings. Some food is literally comforting to us, and this has more to do with what it does for our sense of ourselves than our stomach. Eating ‘comforting food’ while gathering around a dining table together has far reaching benefits, for everyone. At the table, we share stories, build relationships, learn from each other and create bonds that define us and create well being. The food we eat while doing this then holds special memories too.
Today’s conflicting schedules mean we often sacrifice dining together so breaking bread together is more often than not a rare luxury. Making mealtimes together, is a true gift to yourself in these times of fewer and far between ritual meals. Create the ritual of some pattern of regular times of eating together and see your relationships flourish. After all, you need to eat anyway…
3. The ritual of giving thanks. Healthy centenarians pay attention to the wonders of life. Overlooking “wonderful” is a tragedy—a debilitating one. When you worry about the life you think you “should” have, you end up missing the beauty of everything you do have. You aren’t consciously thankful for the good things in your life.
Here’s a super simple, five-minute daily gratitude exercise that has worked wonders for many and it fits with the attitudes of Healthy Centenarians that contribute to vitality, longevity and happiness.
Every evening before you turn out the lights, review your day by noting three things that went well during the day and provide a short causal explanation of each happening. And if you’d like to write them down in a journal as that’s great reinforcement.
That’s it and it’s free. We spend money on expensive things, electronics, big homes, fancy cars and lavish vacations expecting them to make us feel better, feel happy. Giving thanks is a free and a more effective solution.
Martin Seligman, a famed psychologist, studied gratitude and participants in his study were asked to ‘Give Thanks Before Bed’ for just one week. After the week, participants were only measurably 2% happier than before, but in follow-up tests their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. And though the participants were only required to keep this gratitude journal for one week, the majority of them continued this practice because they enjoyed it and noticed a difference in their attitude. So, give thanks and you need not limit the thanks to bedtime. An attitude of gratitude will carry you far.
Your Reset Reminder for Today:
Healthy Centenarians seem to know that the power of ritual creates sacred space in the day, focuses the flames of your dreams and seeks happiness where happiness is found. Putting ritual into your world makes for healthy habits of vital living.
Here’s to your very vital life filled with the rituals that are important to you.