I’ll Just Be Happy Today!
Cherishing the simple stuff of life, staying close to nature, using a positive vocabulary, hanging out with the right kind of friends, rejecting retirement, inculcating new hobbies to boost the brain and the brawn can add to the inventory that holds the secret to a-century-and-still-batting league.
As I had mentioned in my previous article, a steady purpose and a somewhat slow pace seemed to be the secret makings of the successful life-stories of centenarians. But research reveals that there are many other cogs in the wheel that engage to make the motion that is likeable and long-lasting.
Vigorous veterans mostly rely on a plant-based diet. The emphasis is on fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and low consumption of salt and sugar. Two other aspects related to food are also watch-worthy. They stop eating when they are almost 80% full. To facilitate such discretion they use bowls and plates of smaller sizes that can hold smaller portions. But that should not steer you into thinking that they are a boring, restrictive lot. Instead, they are just the contrary. They often have gatherings and parties in which they eat, drink and make merry. And that takes us to another impressive ingredient of their lives.
They are significantly social. Not only are these spirited people closely associated with their families but also belong to strong, dependable support groups. They like to describe such a group as a bonding that is based on shared interests and one that is integral to their existence. In Okinawa, these groups are endearingly called the ‘Moais.’ Now that sounds weird to us, don’t you think? We are insistent on diminishing the size of our family, and yes, our involvement as well. Rather, we are engrossed in augmenting the number of our acquaintances, who are simply slices of our spurious social space. So whenever a crisis comes calling, we are left with our own shadow, secluded and in shambles.
On the other end of the spectrum, are the Hunzas, a tribe who inhabit the mountainous areas of Pakistan and are noted for lifespans up to 150 years. Apart from an organic diet and a spontaneous approach to life, they prioritise family and take good care of their children and their ageing parents. In fact, they consider healthy relationships or human connections as a prerequisite for resistance to an illness of any kind and as a mindful means of living long and dying happy. In some other part of the world, a centenarian when asked how she felt holding her great great great granddaughter in her arms, came up with the most touching response that I’ve ever heard. “Leaping into Heaven!”
Centenarians through their quotidian living bust a number of myths and deeply ingrained ideas related to health and high spirits. They never exercise. Yes, you read it right. They do not go to a gym or a Pilates class, and yet they are exceptionally active and animated. Going back to the Hunza people, they work in their houses, their gardens and their fields every day of their lives. Even a generation back, every Indian household member could boast of such physical agility only by the course in which they conducted themselves.
Centenarians prefer natural movement to any kind of artificially imposed physical fitness regimen. They do their own work, keep getting up and sitting down, prefer climbing up and down the stairs (Sardinians do not have a choice!) and manipulate a walk for every occasion. Nature walks are as much a part of their weekends as eating out and catching up on the latest movie are ours.
I must admit, I was actually taken aback to hear what one of the oldest persons in the world, Anna Stoehr had to say about exercise in a video published in 2013 when she was 112 years old. The only exercise that she regularly did were cooking, baking bread and of course, cleaning her house, which was incidentally in a farm in rural Minnesota, in a way that not even a speck of dust could be spotted. Now that could act as a wake-up call for us, the people of today, who are shrouded with modern conveniences, paralysed without household help and even then, always complaining and cranky.
Anna Stoehr, the considerable centenarian whom I just spoke of held that her long life was the “Lord’s doing.” It is from this belief that one more, inconspicuous but indispensable, detail of the success story of centenarians emerge. They are almost always believers and belong to a faith-based community. They pray and allot specific time in their schedules for performing rituals in which everyone, irrespective of their age, participates. For instance, in Loma Linda (California), a Blue Zone identified by the National Geographic, life is based around the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Believe it or not, Saturdays are spent in Church, doing religious activities and in connecting with one’s purpose in life. Remember, the beautiful word, Ikigai?
Having listed some, I’m sure that there are many other little things that go into the making of a big life of a contented centenarian. Cherishing the simple stuff of life, staying close to nature, using a positive vocabulary, hanging out with the right kind of friends, rejecting retirement, inculcating new hobbies to boost the brain and the brawn can add to the inventory that holds the secret to a-century-and-still-batting league.
A centenarian was once heard saying, “I’ll just be happy today.” Another one declared that “A stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet.” Believing in those words does the magic… don’t you think? Just do me a favour. Talk to the oldest individual you know and share with me those unknown bits of her life that make it worth living — long and up to it.
Originally published at https://www.quotidiantales.com on December 18, 2019.