Monday, March 9, 2009

I've Discovered the Secret to Longer Life

Yes - I confess. I've found that elusive secret to a longer, happier life. The secret actually involves four things...are you ready?

#1. Let the sunshine in.
Two recent studies found that people who have a positive outlook on life when they're younger live longer than those who don't. Simple, huh? Even at the age of 50 - which is fast approaching for me - just feeling upbeat about getting older can snag you an average of seven more years of life. So - cheer up - chin up - be sure to always look at the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

I know that, having done extensive travel now through the American Red Cross as well as mission trips, I have seen how "the other half" lives...and I have come to the realization that my life is definitely blessed and I am VERY lucky. It's easy to get caught in the "woe is me" attitude, until you get out there and experience true suffering - whether brought on by poverty, natural disasters, or illness.

#2. Say a prayer.
A study done by the University of Texas found that people who regularly attended worship services averaged a longer life span of 7-14 years. Attendance alone is not the key - it's the underlying belief system that provides comfort and improves health.

I confess that I wasn't always a regular church-goer. I think that after I had children, it became more important to me to raise them in the faith. However, what began as a belief in going "just for my kids' sake", became a journey deeper and deeper into my own faith. Now - I can't image a Sunday without being at church. It's what keeps me centered and balanced the rest of the week.

#3. Socialize
Another study found that people with strong social connections enjoy better health - which translates into longer life. But - the relationships must be good - and healthy - to benefit you. And marriage is the best relationship of them all - studies have found that married people live longer - 4 more years for women, and a whopping 10 more years for men!

I could have saved a study and told the researchers that friends are definitely important. I love seeing my girlfriends - whether it's for a quick lunch or a long, leisurely dinner - I like the laughter, the fun, and the joy of sharing stories and advice with a strong circle of other women. And, I know it keeps me young - I sometimes feel like a 10-year old girl again when I'm giggling over something funny that a friend said - especially if I accidentally snort my drink through my nose from laughing so hard!

#4. Do Good Works
Ahhhh....the best for last - my personal favorite - the one near and dear to my heart. People who volunteer at 2 or more organizations have a 44% lower death rate than those who don't do any charitable work. I'll repeat that - 44 percent!!! 44% is comparable to exercising four times a week...seriously! Like working out, helping others seems to boost antibodies.

Although I "dabbled" in volunteerism for many, many years - it wasn't until the last 5 years or so of my life that it became more than a hobby and became a way of life. And it has been truly life-changing. When I put myself out there for others, it's me who benefits - as these studies show.

When I had an epiphany many years ago and realized that life wasn't all about me - but was about others - that's when the secret of life was revealed to involved putting feet to my faith and putting God's love into action.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to make a difference in the world by doing one thing at a time, one day at a time. You'll live longer - and happier!


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