Live long!

Once upon a time living to 100 was a rare thing. These days, however, it is becoming more and more common. In 1976 there were 300 Australians over 100. Last year there were nearly 5000! It’s easy to put this amazing increase down to the wonders of modern medicine. After all, we keep inventing cures for anything that ails you. But actually, there is a lot more to it than that.

So, since estimates suggest there will be 2 million centenarians worldwide by 2050,  what characteristic do you need to have to be in the fastest growing age bracket in the world?

Research suggests that up to 30% of your likelihood of living long is down to genetics – if your parents and grandparents did it, you may well do it too. So that leaves 70% up for grabs. Of course, there are the advances in medical science – both preventions and cures – that are not only prolonging our lives, but keeping us healthier for much longer. That accounts for some of it.

However, recent studies have shown something that you might not consider. Your personality has a lot to do with it! I remember as a kid my mum saying of a particularly grouchy old relative “he’s too cranky to die”. In actual fact, it seems, the reverse is true.

Studies by Keio University in Japan and UNSW’s Centre for Healthy Brain Aging suggest that your personality has a lot to do with your chances of living to a ripe old age. Traits that many Centenarians have in common are friendliness, happiness, kindness and compassion, making them people who are generally good to be around. Perhaps the most important trait, however, is resilience. It seems we keep coming back to this one – remember our blog from August – Resilience? In that blog we talked about the importance of resilience in our communities. But resilience as a personal trait, it turns out, is an important indicator in our ability to ‘live long’.

So, is resilience an inherent trait, or can we learn to develop it? Well, yes. To both. Some people are born with naturally positive, resilient characters. Others have to work on it. So, if you need to work on your resilience, how do you actually go about doing that?

There are a few key things that you can do to help build your resilience:

  • Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. This will help you feel more confident and empowered. There will always be aspects of life that we just can’t control, so let that go and focus on what you can control.
  • Learn from your mistakes. We all make them. So look at them as opportunities for growth, not a negative reflection of your worth.
  • Have goals. And commit to them. Not just at work but personally – in your family life, friendships and personal interests.
  • Maintain a positive attitude towards the future – think about the good things ahead.
  • Work on your relationships. Solid support networks in both your personal and professional life are very important in maintaining resilience.
  • Avoid thinking of yourself as a victim. Take responsibility if you need to, then move on. And as we said earlier, if you can’t control it, don’t let it control you.

If that’s what you should do, are there things that you shouldn’t do? Of course!

  • Try not to see setbacks or mistakes as permanent. Everything is temporary, even the worst mistakes.
  • Don’t let problems in one area of your life ‘bleed’ into another. If things aren’t great at home, don’t take it to work with you. And vice versa. Try and compartmentalize problems.
  • Don’t take it personally. Easier said than done, but try and recognize the circumstances, rather than always blaming yourself when things don’t work out.
  • Don’t worry about what other people think. This can be a fine line. Strong relationships are important, but always remain true to yourself.

All this has a cumulative effect. If you develop your resilience, you will be happier. If you are happier, you will be more friendly, kind and compassionate. So you can see how it works….

Now, we wouldn’t be an allied health clinic if we didn’t mention that keeping yourself fit and active and aiming for a healthy diet is important too. So remember the regular exercise, plenty of sleep and healthy diet mantra while developing all these wonderful personality traits.

Before you know it, you’ll be getting your letter from the Queen and attempting to blow out 100 blazing candles!

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