1. Stop Keeping to Yourself
Staying social can be a good longevity booster, mostly by helping you manage stress and by strengthening your immune system. Good relationships keep you strong, while bad relationships can leave you in a negative frame of mind, and put you at risk of depression and even heart attacks.
Staying connected can be a tough one if you are feeling down, have lost someone close to you, or live far away from extended family and friends. There are ways to re-engage and meet new people even if you are in a new city, including volunteering and reaching out to others with similar interests through networks like business groups and book clubs.
2. Stop Thinking That Only Big Changes Count
Sweeping, radical changes in lifestyle might be inspiring, but they can also be too daunting and therefore, short-lived for ordinary mortals. The next time you resolve to eat healthier or exercise more, try aiming low! Try choosing just one small change at a time, like getting up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to fix yourself a healthy lunch for work, instead of a major life makeover.
Small shifts can fly under your own radar, adding up to big benefits over time without causing stress in your busy world. Consistency is more important than a short-term, grand gesture. Besides, looking at what’s already working in your day-to-day routine can help you feel energized and motivated to tweak a little more in a healthy direction.
3. Stop Eating Mainly Processed Foods
One of the major dietary changes that have taken place in many countries over the last 30 years has been a shift to consuming more processed foods. Along with processing comes an increase in added sodium, more saturated fat, more sugar, and less fiber.
For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg (less than 2.4g) of sodium each day less for many seniors and other people with certain health conditions, like high blood pressure. Still, in a survey of more than 7,000 Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found people consume an average of 3,300 mg of sodium per day. Most of the salt comes from restaurant and convenience foods, like baked goods, cured meats, and soup.
Do your body a favor, and try to eat “clean” more often, including foods high in fiber (which are linked to greater longevity) and other ingredients you purchase and prepare yourself.
4. Stop Smoking
The NIH says tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death. Some estimates suggest smoking can rob you of a decade of life.
Whether you quit cold-turkey or phase out your habit, your body is surprisingly forgiving; blood pressure and circulation improve soon after quitting, and your risk of getting cancer decreases every year thereafter.
Keep in mind that your family members will also benefit from your staying tobacco-free because they’ll no longer be exposed to dangerous secondhand smoke. You’ll look younger, too
5. Stop Sitting Still
If you don’t feel you have time to exercise, consider this: You may not need to hit the global minimum recommendations of 30 minutes a day, five or more times per week, to extend your life.
A study published in 2011 in The Lancet, examining the activity habits of more than 416,000 men and women in Taiwan, found that getting just 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day helped subjects live three extra years. The longevity boost went up to four years of longer life for people achieving the threshold of 30 minutes a day. The results held true even for those with health problems like cardiovascular disease and for overweight people who didn’t lose any pounds through their activity.
Brisk walking was one of the “moderate intensity” exercises cited in the Taiwanese research.
6. Stop Holding a Grudge
Anger can be a tough emotion to release, especially if you feel justified in your outrage. Maybe the best question to ask yourself is this—is it worth the cortisol? Levels of this stress hormone go up when you’re stressed or angry, with negative effects on your heart, metabolism, and immune system.
7. Stop Letting Fear (or Denial) Keep You From Being Healthy
Of all the personality traits that could affect your longevity, conscientiousness consistently ranks as an important one, perhaps the most important one. Why? Well, conscientious people tend to engage in healthy behaviors like eating well, exercising, and following their doctors’ advice, while avoiding risky behaviors like smoking and driving too fast.
However, don’t confuse being conscientious or diligent with being neurotic about your health, a trait that may be linked to negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and depression. A simplified example might be that a neurotic person worries he might have cancer, and fearing the worst, doesn’t go to his doctor.