Is This the Secret to a Long and Happy Life?
When it comes to the secret to a long and happy life, who better to ask than centenarians? People who have celebrated their 100th birthdays know better than anyone else what it takes to hit the massive milestone. In search of the top well-being advice, we’ve scoured the globe to discover the daily habits of the healthiest and happiest people, all backed by science. Read on to learn their secrets for a long and happy life.
The health habits of those who live on the islands that dot the Mediterranean Sea are some of the best in the world. There’s a reason why the Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular: It’s backed by some serious science. The Greek island of Crete is considered to be one of the world’s few “cold spots” where illnesses such as heart disease are rare. Why? Nutrition experts believe it might be because of the island residents' snacking habits. For generations, the people of Crete have been reaching for small portions of nuts. Studies have found that a handful of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds each day could cut your risk of diabetes and boost brain health.
Our Takeaway: Keep a small bowl of raw nuts on your desk or countertop. Opt for a palm-sized bowl that will hold about 30 grams of nuts, the recommended amount to reap the health benefits.
We all have a talent that makes us feel good. Whether it’s your ability to shoot hoops or your love of writing, science says putting that talent to use is a key contributor to happiness. In fact, those who used their signature strength every day felt the difference months later. One study asked 577 participants to identify a passion and incorporate it into their daily schedule. Those who used their signature strength every day reported a greater sense of satisfaction, even after the experiment ended.
Our Takeaway: Write down two lists: things that you love doing and areas that you excel in. When the two lists overlap, you’ve found your signature strength. Try to find a way to incorporate that strength into your day, whether it’s by starting a class or finding a creative outlet to explore during your lunch break.
Sure, hearing someone say I love you might feel good, but centenarians believe that using the phrase more often is a powerful way to build resilience. Science agrees: A Brigham University study found that having a close group of friends and family could be just as important for longevity than quitting smoking. Twenty-two percent of centenarians said simply telling their loved ones that they care about them every day was their secret to long-term happiness.
Our Takeaway: Just say those three words! Write it in a card, send it in a text message, or say it at the end of a long day— whatever your method, being articulate and spreading the love to those you care about is key.
It might seem bizarre, but advocates of laughter yoga believe it is one of the easiest ways to alleviate stress and boost your mood—stat! Originating in India, the practice brings people together for a class of prolonged laughter. Yes, it’s odd, but the concept has merit. Laughter naturally decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins. The Mayo Clinic even found that the odd giggle could relieve pain and improve your immune system.
Our Takeaway: Make smiling your default. We often grimace throughout the day without noticing, but making a conscious effort to change your facial expressions could have a big impact on your overall well-being. Cue yourself by trying a mindfulness app or taking a laughter yoga class.
The small island of Kitava, Papua New Guinea, is home to a community of centenarians who boast a clean bill of health: no incidence of heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, or even obesity. It’s believed that their secret to a long life could be their diet. Kitavans eat food like their ancestors did—whole, direct from the source, and often raw. Similar to the paleo diet, they eat a lot of fish, vegetables, and coconuts.
Our Takeaway: Go raw for a week. Trade processed meals like pasta or burgers for options rich in fresh vegetables. Pick up a Paleo cookbook, or try one of our favorite vegan recipes.
Every morning, hundreds of Japanese people in Okinawa start their day with a 15-minute stretching session broadcast on national radio. Okinawans are among the healthiest people in the world, and it’s believed that their slow morning routine might play a role. One study also found that tai chi could have an anti-aging effect, and that the popular Asian exercise has a ton of health benefits.
Our Takeaway: Trade your morning gym session for a tai chi or yoga class. If you’re short on time, simply stretching will increase blood flow.
If you feel like your busy schedule is getting in the way of a Zen state, change your mind-set. New research suggests the happiest people in the world are those who are busy but don’t feel stressed. It seems that reducing your workload isn’t the answer. The study found that those who felt dissatisfied in life had the most free time. Yes, it turns out your busy schedule could actually be a benefit.
Our Takeaway: Being busy is a good thing! Rather than feel the need to change your workload, focus on your mind-set. The happiest people aren’t those with a ton of free time, they just think about it differently.
What daily habit makes you happy? Tell us in the comments below.