These habits won’t just increase your chances of reaching the triple digits – they’ll make the journey towards your centennial years just that more enjoyable, too.
#1. Hydrate, and hydrate well!
We’re mostly made out of water, and a lot of the stuff gets used up over the course of the day. When we’re not drinking enough water, we’re prone to lose a grip on what we’re doing, losing focus and suffering from headaches. Keeping ourselves hydrated is the easiest, and foremost step to putting a few more years on our calendar.
#2. Eat more plants.
The people who live the longest, healthiest lives consume at least 95% of their daily diet in veg and fruit — living a plant-based diet and getting the most of your major nutrients (your carbs, your fats, and even your protein) from leafy greens, nuts, legumes, seeds and the like is a sure-fire way to live longer. As with anything, though, it’s important to watch what you eat, and make sure you get your scarcer nutrients — things like vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are tough to find in the plant world.
#3. If you eat meat, try to favor fish, then lamb and chicken.
Worried about your heart? Then try to stay away from meat. It’s high in protein, but high in unnecessary levels of fat as well. While fat is good for you, and vitally important for a large number of your body’s functions, bad cholesterol and an excess in long-chain saturated fat is what science is slowly saying has led to the huge increase in coronary heart disease in the more affluent parts of the world.
#4. Don’t say cheese!
Dairy really isn’t supposed to be in our system once we get past the breastfeeding part of our lives — but it lives on as an addiction, thanks to the wonderful effects of morphine. When casein, the protein in milk, is broken down in the body, it turns into casomorphins which are essentially an opiate. The evolutionary reason for this is so babies don’t run away from their mothers, to give them a higher chance for survival — and it also happens to be amazing for the cheese industry, because casomorphins are saturated in cheeses. The biggest health boon the dairy industry has been pushing at us is calcium — but a number of green vegetables, like a good portion of kale and moringa, can kick the milkman to the curb in that regard.
#5. Hara hachi bu, buddy!
Sometimes, it’s okay to just leave some food on the plate. For years now, the longevity of the literally ancient Okinawans from Japan has been credited to their pre-meal saying, “hara hachi bu”, which roughly means that you should eat until you’re 80% full. Being full and being satiated are two different things, but in today’s world where it’s a lot easier to eat more than you should, overeating is a contributing factor to a deteriorating body. Try working on portion eating — it’s not as tough as it sounds!
#6. Get down and dirty!
Gardening isn’t just a great way to grow your own food, or get a dose of fresh air — it’s also a form of exercise. Soil bacteria are an important factor contributing to our health (vitamin B12 is a soil bacteria, for example), and are especially important for brain function and our immune systems. We’ve all got a microcosm of bacteria within us that help us regulate our bodies to such a degree that you could practically call it a second brain, affecting your mood and behavior, and your organ functions. It’s still a hazy topic, but one thing is for sure — our gut’s got a lot more to do with how we think and feel than we’re giving it credit for.
#7. Beauty comes from the inside.
It’s not much of a secret that make up is a bad idea in the long run. Most commercially-available cosmetics directly contribute to deteriorating the wearer’s skin, from irritating a case of acne, to causing oily or dry skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it’s also an absorbing one — so make sure you know exactly what’s in your foundation and blush before you cover yourself in formaldehyde and worse things. There are plenty of makeup options available today that do their best to keep toxin-free, and succeed. Go for water-based rather than oil-based, use loose powders and check out mineral-based and cruelty-free products.
#8. Go jogging on the streets, get busy in the sheets.
If you’re looking for a real fountain of youth to get started on straight away, then your best answer would probably be exercise. And sex. Not only does high-intensity exercise (running, skipping rope, plyometric calisthenics, date night) preserve a healthy heart (and give you a fitter body in the process), it reduces the risk of all cancers, especially breast cancer in women. Exercise is also linked to improving cognitive function and maintaining brain health as you get older, helping you prevent, or at least visibly mitigate the feared memory loss that plagues many seniors.
#9. Enjoy a healthy relationship with the sun.
It’s no secret nowadays that the sun’s radiation (even with our ozone layer deflecting the worst of it) is bad for our health in the long run, but sunlight is an important part of physical and mental health. In other words, make sure to get your dose of vitamin D, but don’t forget the sunscreen while you’re at it.
#10. Make sure to get enough sleep.
Looking (and more importantly, feeling) young isn’t just a matter of eating right and exercising, but also a matter of rest. The psychological detriment that a lack of sleep can cause has been linked to physical dangers — heart attacks, diabetes and obesity among them. Even for the sturdiest, a lack of sleep can accumulate into health problems over the years, and if that won’t do you in, then the stress will. Sleep isn’t just a time for the brain to rest, however — research shows that sleep can replace medication in some instances of pain relief, helping the body heal injuries and prevent chronic pain.
#11. Work on your relationships.
Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as working on your body, and a healthy relationship with your friends and loved ones is key to this. Stress and loneliness have dramatic consequences for our bodies, which get worse as we get older. Our blood pressure increases, our immunity becomes shoddy, and eventually, chronic loneliness can lead to a depression. It’s all about the chemical reactions occurring in our heads as we’re going through loneliness, which trigger physical reactions that wreak havoc on the body. We’re not meant to be alone — we’re meant to seek out others to live with and love, and without them, our minds and bodies become forlorn.
#12. Oh, and floss. Yup.
It’s weird advice, but flossing isn’t just helpful for keeping that brilliant white smile of yours (or working on one if you haven’t got it) — it turns out that by flossing, we can clear out some of the more harmful bacteria that linger in our mouth and keep them from flowing into our bloodstream or causing gum infections, both scenarios being harmful for our wellbeing and longevity. The mouth is an important part of the body, and research shows that dental health is intrinsically linked to our overall health: Inflammation in the gums inhibits insulin production, promotes chronic diseases, and causes a number of issues that can shorten your lifespan.