A whole food plant-based diet is just one piece of the puzzle about how to live a long life without disease. How else can you increase longevity? Here are 7 secrets to a long, happy life besides diet.
Want to know how to live a long healthy life? Nutrition science shows that following a whole food plant-based lifestyle is optimal for health and longevity because it reduces the risk of and even reverses serious chronic disease like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and more. But your wellbeing comes down to so much more than food.
And it turns out, science has our back on this one, too. So now that you’ve checked eat better off your list of healthy lifestyle changes, here are 7 other ways you can live a long life without disease.
Forget all the articles you’ve read on CEOs who thrive on just 4 hours of sleep. Long-term, an abbreviated night’s sleep isn’t going to cut it. Humans need a restful (and longer) slumber to be productive and healthy. Sleep affects so many things, from our mental health to our physical health to how long we might live.
Feeling grouchy because you have only got a few hours of shut-eye? That’s because your brain’s not working at full capacity. When you're sleep deprived you have increased amygdala activity (the part of the brain that experiences negative emotions) and you disconnect from the part of the brain that regulates those bad feelings. In other words, when you are tired you get mad faster and feel more irritable.
Aside from being a grump, sleep deprivation also inhibits your ability to learn, to make sound decisions, and to pick up on social cues. Sleep deprivation also increases your chances of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
So it's no surprise that sleep impacts human longevity.
Need to revamp your sleep patterns? Here are some tips for improved sleep:
You really do get by with a little help from your friends (and family of course). There’s a strong correlation between general well being and prioritizing friendship and family.
Not a social butterfly? That’s ok. When it comes to benefiting from friendship, quality trumps quantity. Having a few strong relationships is better than having a ton of mediocre friendships.
And friendships may become even more important as we age. They keep us engaged and sharp, help us to feel more connected to our community, and can also influence our happiness and habits -- which is why it’s important to keep good company and in turn, be a positive influence on others.
You’ve heard it before but we’ll emphasize it again - exercise can do the body wonders. Exercise is all around a good idea for folks at any age.
So do you need to join the gym to get the benefits of exercise? Not necessarily. Walking is great for you, and easier on your knees than running. Just make sure to walk at a brisk pace for at least 20 minutes a day.
The Surgeon General recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week (walking, gardening, cycling, even housework). That said, data suggests this recommendation is on the lower end of the spectrum and that closer to 45 minutes to an hour of exercise a day is better for longevity and overall health benefits.
Our suggestion? Add exercise to your calendar (it helps you stick with it if you have a routine) and grab a walking buddy to reap the benefits of both friendship and exercise at the same time. Win-win!
There’s no doubt about it - Americans are stressed out with 8 in 10 of us negatively impacted by stress. And while not all stress is bad (normal levels of stress can be a great motivator), chronic stress does not do your body, or mind, any favors.
Stress aggravates a whole mess of problems, like obesity, heart disease, mood and depression, cognitive health (like Alzheimer’s disease), and gut issues.
So how can you alleviate some of the day-to-day stress? Numbers 1-3 on this list will do wonders (rest, walk and exercise). These 16 tips can help, too.
Laughter really is great medicine. Laughter reduces the level of cortisol in your body (AKA stress hormones) while boosting endorphins (the hormones that reduce pain in the body). So it gives you a physical release and boosts your mood.
Does your stomach ever hurt after a good laugh? That pain is your tummy thanking you for the ab workout.
Laughing also connects us to our friends and family and during hard times it helps us to see the positive, or at least the humorous, side of things.
Don’t feel much like laughing? It's fine to fake it. That’s right -- fake smiling and laughing can actually trick your body into thinking it’s genuine so you reap the same benefits, which in turn can lighten your mood and help you get some real laughter in your life.
Skip Netflix and renew your library card because the health benefits of reading are too good to pass up.
Read improves your attention span, helps you sleep, makes you smarter, alleviates stress, enables you to empathize more with others, enhance your vocabulary, boosts your cognitive health and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading is also linked to longevity. One study found reading 30 minutes a day provides a survival advantage for the elderly. And books are king beating out magazines and newspapers as most beneficial for your brain.
When we practice gratitude, we allow ourselves to mindfully appreciate what we’ve got and to pass the positivity onto others.
Why does this matter? Acknowledging and appreciating the goodness in our lives, the tangible and intangible gifts we’ve been given can have a dramatic effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. Positive psychology research demonstrates that practicing gratitude increases happiness. Writing down three things you’re grateful for every day helps depression increases optimism.
Gratitude also helps us be more patient, make better decisions, and supports healthy habits like exercise and sleeping well.
Feeling grateful for your spouse strengthens your bond and boosts your love life.
Unlike the quick fixes we often turn to make ourselves feel better (i.e. eating a cookie or Netflix binging), daily gratitude leads to sustained happiness.
A healthy whole food plant-based diet is absolutely key to a longer, healthier life. But a healthy life isn’t just about the food you eat. To truly boost longevity (and your happiness), you’ll want to incorporate these 7 things into your life as well:
Some plant-based newbies find that their food waste increases as they ramp up the number of fruits and veggies they eat. Here are our tips for using your fruits and veggie from root to stem.