Before going into the 11 things, what’s the point of living a long life?
Now that the holidays are behind us we all want to “drink more water, get sleep, eat less sugar,” but if this is all we needed to know we’d be doing it already. If not you… then you know someone who struggles to maintain healthy habits (I’m willing to bet we all do).
The new year is busy at the gym, but come March everything’s back to normal.
Something is missing – and a good understanding of Longevity is right at the heart of it. We need to talk about this, about living a long life… and what’s the point?
What difference will we make?
This time of long nights lends itself to reflecting on the years past and to looking towards the brighter times of the new year.
What do we really want to bring in? What can we offer our collective of fellow beings on this planet? What unique expression of the light can you bring forward to help us all along? How best to do it?
One simple answer to how is from a place of thriving – kindling our inner nourishment so we may nourish others.
No matter what age we claim on our birthday, longevity speaks to an inner thriving.
A foundational teaching paradigm for me is to ask how I would teach this to alien’s who’ve just arrived here and wants to know more about human life on earth? It helps me try to get out of the thinking ruts we often entrench ourselves in.
Plus, we are a funny species and it’s always good to laugh a bit.
So it is with this “alien teaching paradigm” that I offer my eleven ideas for longevity. Sometimes we just need to get back to basics. I bet if you paused right now, took out a piece of paper and a pen, you could come up with your own list. What would you offer aliens? Or first graders?
What is this list really about? Thriving.
How can we cultivate a life that allows us to walk into our elder wisdom years with a vitality to share what we’ve learned?
The world needs the wisdom of the elders to guide us, to help us understand what’s truly important. Wisdom keepers are treasures for the whole community.
Some things to ponder:
We are the cycle, the cycle of life and our body will shift and change. Our energies and desires will change. It’s natural.
Wrinkles are inevitable
So let’s jump into the list – or think of it more as a guided questionnaire.
1. Right Relationship
With ourselves, each other, the natural world, the divine. Quite simply, it all begins with gratitude. Gratitude is the fastest track home to your heart, to the seat of divinity within you.
Every major belief system teaches this truth. Find anything you are truly grateful for and embody the feeling. Start the day with a gratitude practice as simple or elaborate as you have time for and pay attention to how the day unfolds. How is it different than days when you don’t start this way?
2. Balanced Living
Are we living a life conducive to vitality, health & wellness? Right now, you can answer the question….you know whether the yin/yang, fight/flight/rest/digest forces inside you swing evenly back and forth.
How can you bring balance back? Small steps.
Not what you think, and nothing extreme. As Americans we think the answer to all our woes is diet. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not. What we put in our bodies physically is a piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing. Ok my alien friends, here’s a few questions to ask your wise self:
How does your food make you feel?
Do you wake up rejuvenated?
Do you run out of energy at the end of the day?
Do you have brain fog?
The answers to these questions give you information about how the food you eat nourishes you, especially the first question. It’s that simple. How does the food, or stuff we call food, make you feel? We must pay attention to know the answer.
4. Remove Sugar
All. Of. It.
Cane sugar, beet sugar, agave, maple syrup, honey, stevia, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, alcohol sugars, fruits not in season where you live, baby jesus sugar….whatever sugar.
This one, not-so-simple, act would restore your energy, remove your risk for diabetes mellitus & metabolic syndrome and decrease your risk significantly for cancer and heart disease. You would also lose weight.
Our physiology is hardwired to seek out and eat as much as we can of this sugary goodness.
This physiology worked really well when we actually wandered the landscape on foot for hours a day and could only eat the “fruits of our labor” in the moment or from simple storage preparations.
Our sedentary lifestyles allow us immediate acquisition of sugary delights and our hard wired programming keeps us looking for and eating more.
We must evolve past our sugar addiction. There’s no sugar coating it.
I feel your pain – my last name is “Sweet” for goodness sake!. The first step is admitting there’s a problem. The obesity epidemic and diabetes mellitus being in the top ten killers and most expensive healthcare treatments in the U.S. gives us measurable evidence of the problem with eating too much sugar.
5. Drink More Water
When I worked for Outward Bound, that was our standard answer to almost every complaint. It’s a good place to start with thriving as well. 2-4 quarts per day of unfluoridated water.
The physiological difference between anxiety and excitement?
A full deep breath.
We Americans don’t breathe well.
What is breathing well? It’s deep full belly breaths that actually cause your stomach to distend. Oxygen-rich air filling your entire lungs, not just the upper third. A direct link neurologically exists between the breathing center of your brain and engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system, known affectionately as the “rest and digest” system. Yogi’s have known this for thousands of years and have a whole branch of yoga dedicated to the benefits of breathing called, pranayama.
7. Move Your Body
Movement throughout your life should not change. The impact and speed of your movement might change. We are designed to move. Everything physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually works better when we move.
The minimum movement to keep your joints, fascia, bones and muscles healthy is three miles per day.
Want to keep inflammation down and your heart healthy? 45 minutes a day of 60-75% of your maximum heart rate EVERY DAY, all at one time.
Exercise and mood share the same chemistry. The number one intervention for S.A.D. and mild depression is exercise – not pharmaceuticals, not herbs, not acupuncture. Move your body and even better if you do it outside.
The average American sleep 6.8 hours per night, down from 9.5 hours in 1900. We have not evolved in 118 years to need 2.7 hours less sleep per night. That is impossible.
We need 8-9 hours sleep per night for optimum functioning of our body. Our organs have “night jobs” with functions they can only perform when we are in deep sleep, and they can’t get to these jobs during the day.
Shut down your wifi.
Remove all light from your room.
Go to bed. If you want to really dial it in, go to bed before 10:00 pm.
My teacher Rosemary says, “Try getting 2-3 weeks of good night’s sleep before launching into some new program or making a major life decision.”
Yes, there are some nutrient dense foods to help us thrive. Spirulina, seaweed, flax, nettles, green algae, foods rich in B-Vitamins, foods rich in lutein (blue pigmented fruits and veggies).
10. Longevity Herbs
Ask 100 herbalists what their favorite adaptogenic herbs are and you’ll get probably 50 different answers.
Adaptogenic herbs help us “adapt” to stressful situations. They are nontoxic by nature and can be taken on a daily basis. They are herbs that increase the body’s ability to respond and increase our resilience.
My personal favorites are nettles, tulsi, ashwagandha and milky oat tops. I love them and I can grow them in my garden.
Please work with herbs you either grow yourself or buy from a reputable grower who does not harvest from the wild, depleting precious resources. Check out (and become a member) United Plant Savers for more information on this.
11. Expand Your Mind
One way to think of this category is to put yourself in new situations. Learn new skills, have tea with someone you wouldn’t normally. Give your well-worn neural grooves a new path.
Fasting, solo questing, sweat lodge, all of these are designed to alter our consciousness and help us see the world in a new way. Expanding our mind can be as simple as going to the places on the earth that help us remember our “right size”. Old growth trees, the ocean, mountains, waterfalls….places where divinity whispers gently in our ear, “welcome home”.
So there you have it friends – That’s my list for longevity and vibrant living. Perhaps you could wander over to your journal in this contemplative time before the new year to make your own list of how you will feel more vibrant and alive so you can bring your gifts forward into the world that so desperately needs it right now. ~Tammi