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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Live a Long Time

What would you think would be the single most important quality you could possess in order to help you live a long life?
I've asked a lot of people, especially those who've reached eighty or beyond.
Most of them answer with something like this:
"I've tried to keep a positive outlook."
Or: "I stay busy."
It's true that most of my very older friends do indeed have a positive outlook and do indeed stay busy.
But maybe they have a positive outlook simply because their bodies have not betrayed them with Lupus or RA or some terrible degenerative disease that might prevent them from having a busy life.
I've also known many people who suffer with chronic diseases that, even with their positive outlook on life, will significantly shorten their lifespan.
And some very old people that I've known have nasty outlooks on life. Some of them make people around them miserable because they're selfish or mean-spirited. Yet, they keep on living and living.

I used to hear people remark to others: "you'll worry yourself to death," or "try to stay optimistic; you'll live longer."
I've wondered about this for a long time.
Those centenarians that get their pictures on national news when they turn 102 or 104: when they're asked the secret to their long life most of them say something like this: "I don't smoke or drink."  "I take a walk every day."
But some of them say: I've smoked a cigar every day since I was a young whipper-snapper."

So, should you just do what makes you happy? Is that the secret?
Or it the secret to long life purely hereditary?
There sure does seem to ge a genetic component.
My dad's family seem to live long inspite of hardships and a not-too-healthy diet.
But I've known other families who all suffer with heart problems at an early age. And they have great attitudes and they exercise each day.

I recently read an article that surprised me.
New research suggests that the single most important quality to possess in order to live a long life is. . .
That's right, being conscientious-- more than optimism, a relaxed attitude, or being super skinny--
will help you add years to your life.
Think about it:
When you're conscientious, you:
don't ignore that lump or cough or strange growth on your skin
you take care of your car's tires: rotate, balance, change, put on snow tires
you check your weight and decide to do something about that growing waist circumference
you return phone calls and emails that help you keep good relationships with employers and friends
you do what you say you're going to do. . . resulting in good relationships with people
you pay your bills on time. . . assuring a better credit score and possibly a better lifestyle
you go to the doctor regularly for your checkups
you mow your lawn and pick up trash. . . resulting in better relationships with neighbors. . . resulting in a happier lifestyle.
you go to work and get there on time
you do your work, school, college, church, etc. assignments

I could go on and on. I'll bet you can think of tons of other things conscientious people do that benefit themselves and others.

The research results, that being conscientious helps you live longer seem to echo the message of a little book that came out a few years ago. The message of that book was: everything that I learned of value, I learned in kindergarten.
Kindergarten is the place where kids begin to learn about good citizenship. (Or it used to be the place; maybe it isn't any longer.)
That's where children learn to put their toys away, say "please" and "thankyou" and "you're welcome."

So living longer is not a matter of: "Don't worry, be happy."

It's a matter of taking care of business.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)


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