Welcome to the final installment in my series on longevity. We’ve covered a lot over the past few months! Here’s a recap: (1) Love life and live for the present (2) Work, stretch, and relax all parts of yourself (3) Dance with consciousness (4) Reduce media consumption (5) Pay attention to your breathing (6) Eat less (7) Prioritize community and service (8) Exchange love and touch (9) Optimize your sleep (10) Laugh more (11) Keep your heart open (12) Simplify (13) Go with the flow / don’t resist (14) Be one with Nature. (15) Keep growing (16) Know your pain body (17) Invite the spiritual dimension into your life. And now for my last three recommendations.
#18: Be an Optimist.
Optimism has measurable positive impacts on physical and psychological health. Some people are born optimists and it comes naturally for them to always look on the bright side. What a**holes, right? 😉 If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The fact is, even if you were born such a curmudgeon that you can’t see the bright side of a lightbulb, you can choose to become an optimist today. Remember that “growth mindset” we talked about? Sure, optimism is a lucky inheritance for some, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cultivated.
To a great extent optimism and pessimism are habits of attention, and what you put your attention on grows. If you want to be an optimist, start putting your attention on what’s working, what’s good, beautiful, fascinating, or fortuitous. Pick something and take a moment to appreciate it. Hit your inner “save button.” Amplify it. Comment on it out loud – to yourself or whomever is nearby.
Feel how it lifts you up a little. Then go with this springiness and see if there’s another good thing you can be aware of. Bounce from one gift to the next. If nothing sweet or wonderful jumps out at you, create a sweet event. Hand someone a flower, pay someone’s bus fare, offer a compliment. Meanwhile, as important as focusing on the good is noticing when you’re focusing on the bad. Then, as efficiently as possible, pick up your attention, put it on something else, and let go of whatever you were focusing on. You can change your habits.
Little consumes life force as much as holding onto grievances, whether they’re with ourselves, other people, or the world. Withheld forgiveness is a primary expression of the pain body (our addiction to pain and conflict) we talked about last week, but I chose to cover forgiveness as a separate item on this list because it’s just so important.
Our resentments cause us pain while stealing our power and attention. Moreover, everything we resent eventually hardens within our physical and/or energetic being as a sort of concretion. You might think of it as a knot or blockage. Conversely, forgiveness is the relinquishment of a false idea – the idea that condemnation is a force for constructive change – and it opens and frees us.
Like the concept of resistance I discussed in part nine of this series, I feel I could write a whole book about forgiveness, but in the interest of your time, I’ll bottom line it. Opportunities for forgiveness are everywhere. Start noticing your grievances with all sorts of elements of your life – from the obvious to the very subtle – and forgive them. Don’t expect it to be something you’ll do once and it will never come back. Forgiveness is a commitment to keep forgiving. Over and over. Let it go, let it go, let it go. Feel the peace that comes from this act. Set yourself free and set the world free.
#20: Love Yourself.
If you seek longevity, I believe it’s worth looking closely at who it is that you wish to have a longer life and how you feel about this creature. Look in a mirror. Do you love that being dearly? Have you forgiven and accepted them in their entirety – for everything they are and all they’ve ever done? Do you want the best for them in all situations? Do you treat them lovingly in terms of how you feed them, how you groom them and clothe them, how you exercise them, how you regard them and speak inwardly to them? Are you your own biggest cheerleader?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, sadly, you’re in excellent company with most of the world. What a tragedy that we’re given a life and a vehicle for that life, and from such an early age we learn to withhold love from it.
The withholding of love from ourselves is mostly fueled by an internalization of the parent/child dynamic (where the parent role could be informed by any adults from our early life). We become our own inner parent (more like a vicious tyrant at times), deeming ourselves underserving of love for all the ways in which we don’t match some unattainable template of perfection. Withholding love from certain parts of us while conditionally loving the other parts (as long as they don’t get pimples or say the wrong thing) fragments us.
The path to self-love involves a lot of forgiveness. What parts of yourself have you disapproved of, rejected, or even denied the existence of? Find all the unloved pieces, forgive them, and let your love enter them, envelop them, and include them in your emerging sense of self. Forgive yourself for condemning and withholding love from these parts of yourself. Visualize your reintegration.
Use your broader forgiveness practice to learn where you may be withholding self-love. What aspects of the world do you condemn? What qualities in others do you resent? Can you find those same qualities within yourself? Yes, it’s work. But it’s work worth doing.
This concludes our exploration of the factors that contribute to longevity and life enrichment. There are always exceptions – like the rare centenarian who drinks whiskey for breakfast and doesn’t abide by any of the recommendations on this list – but I figure we might as well hedge our bets and follow these practices to the best of our ability. Also, my focus all along has been to help you get more life out of this life right now – regardless of how much longer it lasts.
I always love getting into conversation with you. Did I miss a good one? What do you plan to do with your newly lengthened life? Share your thoughts about this subject with me and our community.
P.S. If you’re someone who likes to see everything in one place, here’s the whole list for review:
- Love life and live for the present
- Work, stretch, and relax all parts of yourself
- Dance with consciousness
- Reduce media consumption
- Pay attention to your breathing
- Eat less
- Prioritize community and service
- Exchange love and touch
- Optimize your sleep
- Laugh more
- Keep your heart open
- Go with the flow / don’t resist
- Be one with Nature
- Keep growing
- Know your pain body
- Invite the spiritual dimension into your life.
- Be an optimist
- Love yourself