For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing about the factors that contribute to longevity. Some of these are (mostly) beyond our control – like having good genetics, being female, growing up in a developed country, and having access to good medical care. These articles are about the factors that we can control. Let’s continue.
#7: Prioritize Community and Service
When Briana and I decided to leave Portland, Oregon (where I had lived for 15 years and she’d been for 12), Briana was concerned about not having community at our new home in Colorado. In my excitement about the move I was nonchalant about it. “We’ll make new friends! Don’t worry! We’ve got each other!” I said with total confidence.
But a couple years into our Colorado life we were wondering if we should move. We had a few friends, but didn’t feel we were part of a strong community – a group of people who share similar values, who look out for each other, who support each other’s growth, whose connectedness enhances the lives of everyone involved.
As a lifelong introvert, I was surprised to discover how much community actually mattered to me – and how much I missed it. Luckily, through a combination of meeting more good people and our own efforts to feed it, our community started to grow, and we now feel rooted in Colorado and nourished by our people. I think my life expectancy has grown by at least 3 years. 😉
Having community consistently registers in studies as the single best (non-genetic, non-geographic) predictor of longevity. I believe this is even more likely when your orientation toward community is one of service. Putting oneself in service to the world lets us share our gifts – and hone those gifts – and see our value manifest in our good deeds. Both the recognition of our connections to others and the desire to make a positive difference seem to tether us to life.
#8: Exchange Love and Touch
Few medical interventions do us as much good as simply being touched compassionately and knowing we’re loved. It’s a damn shame that unhealed trauma, human neuroses, fear of rejection, and inherited pain have so distorted such a fundamentally GOOD thing.
All of us were held snugly and perpetually in the womb. Most of us were held almost incessantly as newborns, quite a lot as infants, and frequently as toddlers. Then less and less as the years went on. A similar progression occurs for many of us around the openness of expressions of love in our lives. Often around adolescence things get weird – sometimes toxic even – and it’s common to never find our way back to that earlier freedom around the exchange of touch and expression of love.
Whatever work it takes, and however painful and difficult that work may be, it’s worth it to be able to touch and be touched, to be able to express love and allow ourselves to be loved, with a wide open heart.
You don’t need to strive for being able to partake in a “cuddle puddle” with a group of strangers. Not everyone is capable of that level of comfort with touch, and that’s okay. I’m talking about a hug, or holding hands – that’s plenty. A massage is also a wonderful and therapeutic way to exchange touch (if you don’t know how, check out my and Briana’s online video course “Learn How to Massage”!).
Be well & take care,