Here are some of the longevity-inducing factors researchers ferreted out from studying this population of centenarians:
1. Sleep in and take naps.
A 2008 study conducted by the University of Athens Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health studied more than 23,000 Greeks and found that occasional napping was associated with a 12% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. But regular napping — at least three days weekly — was associated with a 37% reduction. Zzzz’s, anyone?
2. Stop worrying about being late.
Arrive whenever you get there – and let others do the same. Worrying about when you arrive triggers “fight or flight” stress responses that can reduce your life expectancy.
3. Grow a garden, nurture it, and eat from it.
Eat plants, avoid animal products, consume lots of olive oil, avoid processed foods, and drink wine in the company of good friends. Need inspiration and recipes? Read Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen.
4. Never give up your sense of purpose.
Finding and fulfilling your calling throughout your lifetime can extend your life. In fact, studies have linked early retirement to reduced life expectancy. In Okinawa, another community where many people live to be older than 100, people embrace the notion of ikigai — “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”
It gets centenarians out of bed and off the sofa so they can make a difference in the community. The Nicoyans in Costa Rica use the term plan de vida to describe a lifelong sense of purpose. Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, says that being able to define your life meaning adds to your life expectancy.
5. Get it on.
A study of Ikarian men between 65 and 100 found that 80% of them claimed to have sex regularly, and a quarter of that self-reported group said they were doing so with “good duration” and “achievement.” Go dudes! For more proof that sex isn’t just fun, it’s good for your health, read this.
6. Take a placebo at least once per day.
Ikarians take a spoonful of honey every morning. They believe it is their “medicine” and use it for both prevention and treatment of illness and injury. They also regularly consume a homemade tea made of a special blend of herbs they believe extends their lives.
While there may be some health benefit the Ikarians enjoy from the honey and herbs themselves, chances are good that the stress-relieving, relaxation-inducing effects of the positive belief they associate with the honey and tea are more potent medicine than the honey and tea themselves. For more proof that placebos really can heal your body, read this.
7. Walk up 20 hills a day.
To get around the island, Ikarians walk. And it’s hilly where they live. Exercise isn’t something they do at the gym. It’s an enjoyable, built in part of their lifestyle.
8. Cultivate a sense of belonging.
As I wrote in this blog post, finding your tribe, alleviating loneliness, and feeling like part of a community can cut your risk of heart disease in half and extend your life up to 10 years. Be part of a community where you fit in. Ikarians live in multigenerational homes and avoid spending too much time alone. And researchers have proven that being part of a nurturing community is more important to good health than quitting smoking or starting to exercise.
9. Go to the church, temple, or mosque.
Studies show that gathering as part of a spiritual community can extend your life up to 14 years.
10. Surround yourself with people who follow steps 1-9.
The more you surround yourself with people engaged in whole health-inducing behaviors, the more it becomes part of your culture. If, however, you surround yourself with beer-guzzling, obese couch potato loners, it’s easier to become one yourself. When you surround yourself with healthy, inspiring people, you’re way more likely to live to be 100.