How to Live a Long Life: 14 Habits of Happy and Healthy Aging 

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There are probably thousands of articles published every day on how and why to eat well and exercise. And yes, these are critical endeavors for living a long life. But, they don’t cover everything you need to do for happy aging and enjoying your best life for as long as possible.

long life

According to Pew research, a whopping 97% of Americans believe that healthy eating habits are key to a long and healthy life. And, 98% say that it is important or somewhat important to get enough physical exercise. They aren’t wrong, but there is a lot more you can do insure a long life.

No… there isn’t a magic vitamin, arm band, or moisturizing cream. However, many of the secrets to a long life are enjoyable, adding years and making those years fuller.

Let’s explore 14 scientifically proven ways to improve your chances of a long life.

1. Keep Learning

Learning is scientifically proven to reduce the intellectual impacts of aging, it is also a time worn concept well understood by artists and intellectuals.

Think back to high school or college English. Do you remember the poem, “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats? The poem essentially calls out to the reader to  develop an intellectual and creative life in order to survive the physical downsides of aging. Your body might not be able to keep up, but a nourished brain can enliven life at any age.

Research from UC Berkeley found that when people in their 80s were taught something new over just 6 weeks, they could make their brains up to 30 years younger. Wow. Learning is powerful.

And, while Pew research has found that about 74% of Americans engage in some kind of personal learning, it is not clear that the learning endeavors are focused and sustained in the way that may be necessary to stave aging. In the Pew Research, they reported on the types of activities personal learners undertook:

  • 58% read how to publications
  • 35% attend a meeting, club, or group
  • 30% went to a conference or convention
  • 25% took a course

These are great and beneficial activities, but it is important to make learning a focused and conscious habit. And, it doesn’t have to be calculus or rocket science. In the UC Berkeley research, people learned painting, photography, music, and how to use an iPad.

The Bad News? Learning Falls with Age

The Pew study also discovered that people who identify themselves as lifelong learners are likely to be younger and more educated. Take a look at the self identified learners by age:

  • 81% of 18-29 year olds
  • 76% of 30-49 year olds
  • 72% of 50-64 year olds
  • 62% of people over 65

2. Focus on Social Connections

Maintaining meaningful relationships is a cornerstone of happiness and longevity. Cultivate strong social connections with friends, family, and community. Engage in regular social activities, share experiences, and surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who uplift and inspire you.

The National Institute on Aging finds that 25% of Americans over 65 are socially isolated, and a meta analysis of 277 studies with 177,635 participants from adolescence to old age found that people’s social networks increase through young adulthood, then decrease steadily over the rest of their lives.

Fostering social connections is a critical part of aging well. Research has found that social 60 year olds are almost 12% less likely to develop dementia than less socially active peers. And, the National Institute on Aging links loneliness to higher risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

3. Play, Have Fun, and Seek Joy

While specific research on the direct impact of play on longevity may be limited, there is a body of evidence suggesting that engaging in playful activities and maintaining a positive, lighthearted approach to life can contribute to overall well-being, which in turn may be linked to longevity. Playful activities often involve enjoyment, creativity, and social interaction, all of which can have positive effects on physical and mental health.

Small moments add up. Whether it is wearing a bright color, small talk with a stranger, hopping on a swing, or taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature, research suggests that moments like these make a difference to your well-being. Even petting other people’s dogs can give you a boost.

The recently launched Big Joy Project from the University of California, Berkeley is gathering data that shows that we can change our emotional state by embracing these “micro-acts” of happiness.

Need some inspiration?

Learn more about why having fun is so important in both work and retirement.

4. Eat Well

A well-balanced diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Focus on a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit processed foods, excessive sugar, and saturated fats to promote overall well-being and maintain a healthy weight.

Consider the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has gained widespread recognition as one of the healthiest dietary patterns, supported by extensive research highlighting its numerous benefits. Emphasizing whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, while limiting red meat and processed foods, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with various health advantages.

Research, such as the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) study, has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, improving cognitive function, and promoting longevity. The high intake of monounsaturated fats from olive oil, abundant antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish contribute to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, the Mediterranean diet’s positive impact on weight management, blood pressure, and overall well-being underscores its status as a comprehensive and sustainable approach to promoting health.

5. Connect with Nature

Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature has been associated with numerous health benefits. Whether it’s a walk in the park, gardening, or hiking, immersing yourself in natural environments can reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being.

Furthermore, nature can envoke a sense of awe – that feeling of being overwhelmed by something vast and greater than oneself. Awe has been found to have several positive effects on well-being. Research suggests that cultivating a sense of awe can contribute to psychological, emotional, and even physical health.

6. Practice Gracious Aging

Embrace the aging process with grace and a positive mindset. Focus on the wisdom and experiences gained over the years. Engage in activities that bring fulfillment and celebrate the unique qualities that come with each stage of life. A positive attitude towards aging contributes to a healthier and more enjoyable life.

7. Avoid Harmful Habits

Steer clear of detrimental habits that can compromise your health. Quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption, and avoid excessive sun exposure. These habits not only contribute to longevity but also enhance your overall well-being.

Regular Health Check-ups

Proactive healthcare is key to identifying and addressing potential issues early on. Schedule regular check-ups, screenings, and preventive care appointments with your healthcare provider. Stay informed about your health, and address any concerns promptly.

8. Manage Stress Effectively

Chronic stress can negatively impact both mental and physical health. Incorporate stress-reducing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or hobbies that bring joy. Taking breaks, connecting with loved ones, and maintaining a positive mindset are also effective stress management strategies.

9. Reduce Financial Stress with Good Financial Planning Habits

Finances are the biggest source of stress for most people.

And, according to research from Charles Schwab, only 33% of Americans have a written financial plan, making personal finance, the least adopted habit – by far – that is important to your long term well being and living your best life.

Having a financial plan has myriad concrete benefits:

Confidence: A written plan increases your confidence and reduces your stress. When you have a plan for how to use your money, you know what you need to do to live your best life.

Better habits: When you have a written financial plan, you develop better habits. People with a plan are much more likely to:

  • Save more
  • Invest appropriately
  • Have an emergency fund
  • Reduce banking and investment fees
  • Avoid credit card balances
  • Pay bills on time
  • Re-balancing portfolios and regularly updating the financial plan

Improved outcomes: The result of those financial habits? Better outcomes. If you have a financial plan, you are more likely to be able to achieve your retirement goals.

Reduced stress: A study published in the Journal of Financial Therapy found that individuals with a financial plan reported lower levels of financial stress compared to those without a plan. The act of creating a financial plan and having a roadmap for managing finances appears to provide individuals with a greater sense of control and confidence, reducing stress.

Written plans are important to everyone, but especially those at low- and moderate-income levels

Research finds that written plans may be especially important for low- and moderate-income levels. One-third of households with less than $48,000 in annual income with a written plan save 10% or more of income, compared with about one in 10 households in that income range without written plans.

NewRetirement makes it easy to build and maintain your financial plan

The NewRetirement Planner is the most comprehensive modeling engine in the game. Using your inputs, our algorithm runs every possible scenario—even ones that may break every rule in the book—to help you see where you stand now and find the best plan to improve your use of your money and time. 

It’s easy to get started. We’ll walk you step by step to better habits, improved outcomes, and the life you want.

10. Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise is vital for maintaining optimal physical health and preventing chronic conditions. A rule of thumb is to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Moderate intensity activities can include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and strength training.

However, lower burn physical activity is great too. Think about gardening, strolling the golf course, dancing, shopping, even cooking and cleaning are considered great exercise.

The real trick is to avoid sitting and being sedentary for long periods of time.

Find activities you enjoy to make exercise a sustainable part of your routine.

11. Get Quality Sleep

Quality sleep is essential for overall health and longevity. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to rest.

A meta-analysis found that both short sleep duration (less than 6 hours) and long sleep duration (more than 9 hours) were associated with increased mortality risk. Another study suggested that consistent short sleep duration may be a risk factor for all-cause mortality. These findings highlight the significance of maintaining a balanced and adequate sleep duration for overall health and longevity.

12. Avoid Harmful Habits

If you want a long life, you will be wise to steer clear of detrimental habits that can compromise your health. While some vices come in and out of favor, the evidence is very clear on smoking. And, research is increasingly pointing toward limiting alcohol consumption.

13. See Your Doctors Regularly

Proactive healthcare is key to identifying and addressing potential issues early on. Schedule regular check-ups, screenings, and preventive care appointments with your healthcare provider. Stay informed about your health, and address any concerns promptly.

While not wholly covered by medicare, your preventative healthcare should include dental, vision, and hearing which all have a big impact on your well being.

You know what they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

14. Cultivate a Strong Sense of Purpose

Having a sense of purpose has been linked to increased longevity and life satisfaction. Identify your passions, set meaningful goals, and engage in activities that align with your values. A sense of purpose can provide motivation, direction, and a deeper connection to the world around you.

Explore 6 ways to find meaning and purpose in retirement.

About NewRetirement

For people who want clarity about their choices today and their financial security tomorrow, NewRetirement is a financial planning platform that gives people the ability to discover, design and manage personalized paths to a secure future.

Our goal is to make high quality low cost financial guidance available to everyone. More than 300,000 people representing more than $300 Billion in wealth currently trust the system to make the most of their money and time. The platform can be co-branded or white labeled for partners. Additionally, the company provides API access to companies who wish to embed planning functionality within their own site.

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