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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 15 2013

7 Characteristics Associated with Long Life (and How to Cultivate Them)

By Mark Sisson
177 Comments

Be Happy!As much as we focus on food and fitness as the “physical” arbiters of health and longevity, there appears to be much more to it. In fact, most research fails to find any grand commonalities in the diet and fitness patterns of the longest lived. From Okinawans with their sweet potatoes to Japanese centenarians with their dairy to the Ashkenazi with their higher rates of smoking, drinking, and lower rates of formal exercise to the 107 year old with her butter, no exercise, and mistrust of medicine to the supercentenarians with their liver, bacon, wine, chocolate, and eggs to the other supercentenarians with their caloric restriction. Sure, they’re generally not eating Twinkies and Panda Express, but the secret to longevity – at least as it’s practiced by living centenarians – does not lie in one specific diet.

So what is it? One main determinant appears to be whether you have certain alleles. You can’t change that (not yet anyway), but there are some things you can control. What you can affect – and what appears to have a big effect on, or at least a strong association with longevity – are personality traits and characteristics. How you see the world. How you engage life. How you interact with others. Now, to be sure, many personality traits are somewhat out of your conscious control, whether genetically determined or set in motion by events long-past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to cultivate or emulate them.

What are some of these characteristics?

Socially Connected

Perhaps one of the prime directives of the human is to be social. To have friends and loved ones upon whom you can lean when required or desired. I’m not necessarily talking about being the guy with a thousand Facebook friends who’s out every night living it up, or even the lady who always runs into someone she knows when out and about. Socially connected simply means having meaningful relationships with other people. It could be ten, twenty, or five. The point is that it helps to have actual, real friends and loved ones, and we’re probably evolutionarily driven to want and make them because they provide a benefit to survival.

Why might social connections support longevity? The research is ongoing, but I can think of a few reasons. First, people with meaningful relationships can call on them for help in times of need and hardship. Need some rent money or to pay for an important surgical procedure? You can probably count on friends and family to help. Recovering from said surgical procedure and need someone to help you get groceries and cook? Call a friend or family member. Need a ride? Call someone you know. If you don’t know anyone you can count on, your options will be limited.

Second, social isolation and loneliness are often associated with negative health patterns, like obesity, inactivity, and smoking. Plus, the socially isolated and lonely are more likely to have hypertension, elevated inflammatory markers, and increased blood clotting. In one study, people who had close friends in the same room with them had less of a blood pressure and heart rate increase in response to stress. Another study found that in people exposed to a cold virus, those with more social connections were less likely to actually get sick than those with fewer social connections.

It’s good to have friends. All else being equal, the person who’s happy with their relationships is probably going to live longer than the person who’s unhappy with or bereft of social connections.

Cultivation:

  • Use social networks like Facebook and Meetup to arrange real life activities and augment your social lives. Make plans with friends and follow up on them. Join a Meetup group that sounds interesting and attend the events. It’s easy to let social media replace our social interactions, but it’s not a preordained inevitability.
  • Don’t be that person who regrets not calling/contacting their friends more. Some people truly have no friends or family, but that’s rare. More often than not, people just aren’t willing to make the effort, maybe because they don’t see the need, maybe because they’re lazy, maybe because they’re anxious, or maybe because they’re waiting for the other person to contact them. Be proactive in fostering and maintaining the relationships you already have.

Conscientious

According to health researchers Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, conscientiousness is a big (perhaps the biggest) influence on longevity. Using data from a study that began in 1921 and followed a group of 1500 boys and girls into old age and beyond, the two found that the kids who were “prudent, persistent, planful” went on to live the longest lives, while the “cheerful and optimistic” children lived shorter lives. The former group tended to take fewer risks, be more responsible about their health, and cultivate a better social network. They also had more satisfying and successful professional lives. Overall, the persistent, industrious, organized, and disciplined “facets of conscientiousness” were most strongly associated with longevity.

This connection is well-researched. Conscientious people tend to be healthier and take better care of themselves. Childhood conscientiousness is linked to better health later on in life. Most of the connection between conscientiousness and longevity can be explained by obvious factors, like the fact that thoughtful people are more likely to care about their diet and other health-related behaviors and therefore make better health-related decisions, but not all of it. Conscientiousness, for example, also seems to go hand-in-hand with cognitive function and it may even be protective against Alzheimer’s and other diseases of cognitive degeneration. Those who are conscientious may also deal with stress better than those who are not, probably by virtue of being better prepared for it.

There’s got to be a balance, though, I’d imagine. What if conscientiousness veers into obsession? What if dedication to self-discipline devolves into self-flagellation? What if hard work becomes workaholicism and breaks up your marriage?

Cultivation:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Make schedules and budgets. Plan out your day, and hew to the plan. If you aren’t naturally disciplined and organized, you can still become conscientious – it’s just gonna be a bit harder. 
  • Don’t just self-analyze. Ask others close to you about their perception of your conscientiousness, and adjust accordingly. After all, the original 1921 study analyzed the kids’ personalities by asking their parents, not the kids themselves.

Don’t Worry Too Much

Longer lived people (and waterfowl) are able to let things slide off their backs. They tend to be easy going and don’t get hung up on silly stuff as much. Consider the interplay with conscientiousness, however. Just as too much conscientiousness might manifest as obsessiveness and lead to poorer health and longevity, being too carefree might lead to poor decision-making and flagrant abuse of one’s health. A balance is likely best, where you don’t sweat the small stuff enough to heap unnecessary stress upon your back but take the important aspects of life seriously.

Cultivation:

  • Don’t cry over spilled milk (unless it’s raw and comes from grass-fed Jersey cows, of course). Better yet, get down on the floor and lap it all up. 
  • Forgive people. If there’s something you’ve been mulling over, some perceived slight, some past transgression, consider forgiving that person and moving on. 
  • When you’re worked up about something, stop and ask yourself what exactly is bothering you so much. Get specific when you answer. You might just find there’s nothing there. 
  • Make a list of all the things you tend to worry about. Then, objectively analyze the relative “seriousness” of each item. Discard the items that aren’t very serious. Make specific plans to take care of the serious items that merit your attention. Once this is completed, you’ll have discarded the frivolous stressors and made plans to tackle the serious ones. The point is you’ll have less to worry about now.
  • Look into Stoicism. Here’s a decent representation of what it’s all about. You can’t control everything, and you have to be okay with that.
  • Explore stress-reducing herbs and teas.
  • Meditate.

Optimistic

Seemingly contrary to the other findings about optimistic kids dying earlier, some research suggests that optimism is a good predictor of longevity. Optimists are more resistant to stress, generally lead longer and healthier lives than pessimists, and, well, optimism seems to be encoded into our genome. According to neuroscientist Tali Sharot, “optimism was selected by evolution precisely because, on balance, positive expectations enhance the odds of survival.”

I wrote about this last year. Optimists, quite simply, are fighters. They’re fighters because they can see a point to it all, a light glimmering at the end of the tunnel, and so they continue on. They don’t give up, because why would you if things are going to work out? To an optimist, things only fail because you gave up on them. If you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis – say, lung cancer – and you’re an optimist, you’re more likely to survive longer.

Cultivation:

  • Look at the bright side of a “bad” situation. That’s it. Just look at it. Perceive it. Observe it. Acknowledge it. When you do that in an objective way, you can’t help but feel a little better about the situation.
  • Throw yourself out there anyway. Things aren’t that bad. Trust me. When you actually go out and face it and it goes okay, you’ve just learned that things aren’t always as bad as you assume.
  • Get those small wins that lead to big success (and optimism).

Easy to Laugh

There’s considerable research that ease of laughter is a strong predictor of longevity. He who laughs most, laughs last, in other words. Laughter isn’t just enjoyable. It’s also really good for you. It reduces stress and improves natural killer cell (a part of your immune system responsible for fighting cancer and other diseases) activity. It lowers cortisol. While growth hormone is best known for its fat-burning effects, it can also have a negative impact in rheumatoid arthritis; laughter reduces the RA-associated growth hormone increase. Overall, laughter simply has “positive, quantifiable effects on certain aspects of health.”

Cultivation:

  • Watch funny media. Whether you like Laurel and Hardy or Tim and Eric, find something that you determine generates a high level of mirthful activity in your brain and expose yourself to it, repeatedly. 
  • Watch standup. I recommend Louis CK.
  • Just laugh. This sounds obvious, but you don’t even have to find something funny in order to laugh. In the immortal words of George Costanza, “What is the point of opening your mouth and going ‘Ha-ha!’?” It’s that easy. Force yourself to laugh and the real feelings will likely follow. Do this once a day, minimum.
  • Try laughter yoga. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Happy

In 2011, a study of older men and women found that those who were happiest throughout the day lived the longest. Interestingly, this association was independent of baseline health status or other variables, suggesting that momentary happiness “may be causally related to survival, or may be a marker of underlying biological, behavioral, or temperamental factors.” Even those with chronic diseases saw longevity benefits from being happy.

I think this comes down to something very simple: happy people have “something to live for.” They have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Yeah, yeah, a meaningful career, grandkids, a loving spouse, a faithful dog – these are all good reasons to keep living. But when it comes down to it, if you can wake up confident in the fact that your day is going to be an enjoyable, happy one, you will live better and live longer.

Cultivation:

  • Live life. Unless we’re talking chemically-induced happiness, happiness doesn’t just spring up out of nothing. You are happy because good things are happening in real, actual life. Maybe you just got a puppy or a girlfriend. Maybe you got a great new job. Maybe you’re reading a good book. Maybe you went on a hike and the flowers were blooming. The point is happiness is a reaction to happy events. You’re not really going to be able to “think yourself” happy. 
  • Do things that you know you’re going to enjoy and appreciate even if they require momentary unhappiness. You know how you’re always happy when you get up early enough to do some gardening (or hike, or work out, or clean the kitchen, or make a good breakfast) before it gets too hot (or late), but getting out of bed to actually do it is a short struggle that you usually lose? Just do it anyway. It’s not that bad. Play the long game.

Extroverted

Extraversion is a significant predictor of longevity, happiness, resistance to stress, and even mood regulation in the face of unpleasant situations. I tend to suspect that introverts might not live as long not because of something inherent to introverts, but because modern society is geared toward and favors extraversion. An introvert probably experiences more stress in response to social fundamentals, like job interviews, small talk, presentations, and anything else where extraversion helps. You can be introverted and completely comfortable with that fact and be totally fine, or at least minimize the downsides. But if you’re an introvert who’s unhappy, who’s envious of extroverts, you may suffer.

Also, extraversion is more “costly.” A study of older adults found that in order to maintain their psychological well-being, extraverts needed large social networks.

Cultivation:

  • Act the part. Even though social interaction may be more difficult for introverts, “acting like” an extrovert can increase well-being just the same, even in introverts
  • Start a conversation at least once a day. Go up and talk to people.
  • Introversion does not imply social isolation. You may not be the life of the party, but you can still have quality relationships – perhaps just with fewer people.

That’s about it for today, folks. I hope this was a helpful post and that you can begin cultivating some of these traits in your own lives. Be sure to let me know what you think – any good anecdotes about the personalities of long-lived people you’ve known?

TAGS:  Aging, prevention

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177 thoughts on “7 Characteristics Associated with Long Life (and How to Cultivate Them)”

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      1. That’s only the immediate effect of sugar. The long term effects of sugar consumption are an increase in stress and destabilization of mood-related neurotransmitters. It is also highly addictive which increases its tendency to induce stress long term.

        1. This just happened to me. (Primal – 2 years with some major battles). Thanks to a sugar addiction that reared its ugly head I fell off the wagon HARD. My stress level and anxiety increased, my emotional stability went off kilter and I destabilized my mood-related neurotransmitters (I have GABA, DPLA, and 5-HTP with me right now and am doing a bit more research on a decent regimen until I’m fully repleted). YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. (I’m HIGHLY SENSITIVE to sugar). I triggered my Fibromyalgia AND Reactive Hypoglycemia. Could they be connected? My N=1 tells me yes since they always seem to show up around the same time. AND – thanks to 5-HTP I now have full neck movement for the first time in 2 months. And I know it was the 5-HTP because about 2 hours after my second pill on the second day my neck/shoulder pain and stiffness dissipated in a matter of minutes. My neck has been a pleasant warm. Body ache is pretty much gone. All this took 3 days of supplements. I didn’t eat a lot – no appetite – during this time but made a point to get some good protein when I did. And NO SUGAR!

      1. Well then I have to say I did have some “sugar” in the last three days. ;D

  1. I once had an MD (of all people) tell me that if there is such a thing as a magic longevity bullet, it’s to just keep moving your body. Doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re moving a lot more than you’re sitting.

    1. I live in an over 55 community, morning doubles tennis , lunch with group ,
      time at the beach or pool . Poker or shooting pool in the evening . A good walk after dinner . When I was ten years old we called this summer camp !!

      1. Sweet! 🙂

        I’m just out of college and never went to summer camp. :/ I’m making up for it now though, first real camping trip in a month – Woot!

    2. smart MD 🙂 New studies are showing that standing frequently is more important to your health than traditional notions of exercise.

      1. Studies also show how motion of joints within your spine lead to increase in health and well-being. Chiropractic adds years to your life, life to your years! See a Chiropractor today to get your spine checked!

    3. My grandfather lived to be 98 years old. His motto was, “You’ve got to keep moving or they’ll throw a sheet over you.”. Makes sense to me.

  2. I recommend John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Lewis Black for laughter therapy.

    1. They may be funny, but I’m not sure that type of humor is the life-extending one. I think you’ll get a lot farther with humor that makes you laugh off yourself rather than laughing off other people. Thoughts that promote understanding of yourself or others would be more beneficial than thoughts that promote the demeaning of other people.

        1. Me too. Satire and the ‘legitimate’ version of the national news.

      1. +1

        If you don’t mostly agree with their political point of view, much of the humor element is gone from the get go. I used to love Jon Stewart but then I changed my mind on several issues over the course of a decade. He is still funny to a certain extent, but I’ve become much more aware of how much the humor rests on mocking people he doesn’t agree with. When I watch a clip or two now I find myself in a half cringe/half laugh state.

        I tend to gravitate now more towards more universal/personal humor – laughing at the craziness that connects all of us. And of course, the best stuff is the crazy situations I get myself into. 🙂

    2. Those are all to political. Jerry Seinfeld less stressful.

    3. They are all hilarious but do offer up some actual decent insight at the same time. I prefer them over the regular news outlets, I like to keep up on what’s going on but laugh rather than cry about it L.O.L.

  3. “Watch standup. I recommend Louis CK.”

    I can´t believe you said that Mark. I love Louis CK so much. I never thought he´d be the guy for your taste. Nice to hear 🙂

    And this article was one of my all time favorite here too. I had to bookmark it. Thanks!

      1. Jeeves and Wooster…and Black Adder – both induce serious belly laughs.

  4. Being happy seems like the obvious one to me. If you manage that you’re likely taking care of many others. You’re probably avoiding stress, likely are optimistic and have meaningul relationships.

    Ohhhh and at all cost avoid the life suckers and life haters. The people who are just miserable, unhappy, and unwillinging to challenge or help their situation. No time for that!

    1. I believe “happiness” is just another emotion that we experience as human beings like joy, anger, sadness, fear, peace, contentment. It’s not possible to be happy all of the time therefore I strive to experience all of the positive emotions most of the time knowing that the negative ones will creep in from time to time and that’s OK. That’s life after all…

  5. “You are happy because good things are happening in real, actual life.”

    What I’ve heard is that most (depressed) people think that once they have different feelings they’ll be able to do different things. But the opposite is true: You do different things, this causes you to have different thoughts which causes you to have different feelings. So do happy things, you’ll have happy thoughts and this will lead to happy feelings.

  6. Dr. Ephraim Engleman is 102 years old and still works part-time. One of his 10 commandments for longevity is to “choose your parents wisely.” 🙂

  7. These are all incredibly interesting to me. I’ve observed the same characteristics to be true – after profiling 23+ people that lived to 100, they almost always mentioned the same things:

    -Have fun, don’t stress
    -Be happy, do work you enjoy
    -Stay connected and be social
    – Never stop working

    … And just this overall relaxed feeling about life, a very Taoist kinda “Eh, what will happen will happen.”

    No doubt that many of us in the 21st century are killing ourselves by rushing and not taking time to smell the roses.

    – Alex

    1. …and enjoy the work that you do. I’ve seen many pessimistic folks who don’t like where they are – “this isn’t my dream job” “I’m only here till something better comes along” “all my coworkers are fools” etc. Toxic thinking.

      Learn how to change your outlook. That will go a long way in changing how happy you are.

    2. Awesome Mark, and also thanks Alexander.

      Such a great post. Kudos to all …

      🙂 Anna.

  8. “…the kids who were “prudent, persistent, planful” went on to live the longest lives, while the “cheerful and optimistic” children lived shorter lives

    Is it true that the former lived longer than the latter, or did it just seem that way? I prefer a shorter, cheerful and optimistic life.

    1. I think that was worded poorly, since being cheerful and optimistic are characteristics listed as being correlated with longevity. The way I interpreted it was that the “cheerful and optimistic” ones were those that didn’t think too much about what they were doing (e.g. Just eat as much sugar as you want? Sure, it’ll be fine.), while the “prudent, persistent, planful” people were the ones that tried to figure out the best way to live, set goals, and worked towards them. That doesn’t preclude them being cheerful and optomistic about it.

    2. read Learned Optimism if you want to learn more about optimism vs pragmatic/realistic pessimism vs pessimism. It sounds like those conscientious people were using the good kind of pessimism. Optimism in life is almost always beneficial. Almost.

  9. Doing well on most of these with the help of Primal, but optimism and not worrying . . . not so much. Most of the worry and pessimism are about the state of the world, not about my life. Primal is one of the few things that gives me some hope for the world.

    1. The world, and people, have always had problems and always will. Better to calm down and not think the world is terrible. And stop watching and reading sources that are negative. There are a lot of wonderful things in the world you can focus on.

    2. I was once told never to watch the news and it was some of the best advice I ever received. If something newsworthy happens, someone will tell you about it. All the rest is negative and just brings you down. It’s much easier to be positive when you don’t have all that Constantly Negative News flowing into your head.

      1. “It’s much easier to be positive when you don’t have all that Constantly Negative News flowing into your head.”

        It is. I’m in “the zone” on days when I skip the news. It’s easier to work and be joyful about it. Not so much on the other days.

    3. Harry, you and I seem to think a lot alike. I also see all the bad things in the world and used to despair of humanity. But then I spent some time cultivating a long-term view of life that didn’t just look at humanity, but rather life as a whole. We may have messed up our current incarnation of “civilisation”, but if you look at history, this has happened many many times before and humanity just carried on with something new. Even if we manage to wipe ourselves out and kill off most life on the planet, not to despair, even when 95% of life was wiped out, the creatures that evolved to take their place were better. Life is bigger than just us, just this planet, just humanity or the life on this planet. Spend some time watching documentaries on the universe and the natural history of the planet and start to see things in millions and billions of years, instead of human life times. It worked for me – I’m prudent (I’ve planned for what I will do if things go wrong) and I’m optimistic because I know that life continues, no matter what. And evolution always means something better is out there. Maybe not humans, maybe something much better than us.

      1. Terrific way to look at things, Riversong. I, too, tend to despair of the current world situation, but I also am able to stop and see the good in the world, to see beyond just this time and place. You put it very well.

      2. Wow, I thought I was the only person in the entire world believing
        EXACTLY what you have just written above. That is the meaning of HOPE to me. Thanks for writing it so well.

    4. Learn to laugh at the world. Learn existential philosophy/existential psychotherapy.

  10. The extravert tip really stood out to me. I’ve always been the type to change the energy when I go into the room.

    It’s more awkward for me to NOT say hello when passing a stranger than to say hello.

    1. Well, I’m jealous. At 53, I still find it very stressful to interact with people I don’t know. I have always envied people who can walk into a room and start conversations – but a lifetime (so far) of observing hasn’t taught me the trick.

      1. I’m an introvert, but thanks to my husband’s career, which took us all over the place with frequent moves, I had to force myself to go out and about and meet new people. The kids had school to attend, husband had a job to go to, but I had to make my own way or stay at home lonely and bored. I hated it at first, but now I’m quite grateful. I always say hello to strangers I pass while I’m out hiking or walking, even in a foreign country. They look at me a little strange, but usually greet me back – it’s wonderful!

        1. I’m in the same boat. Frequent moves, husband and kids have built in interaction through work and school. Definitely tiring to always be the “new” one in the group. I just make the decision to accept every invitation even if it is uncomfortable. It eventually becomes comfortable….

      2. Its not easy for introverts to feel confident among strangers, but it is possible. Having a job which forced me to interact on the phone with lots of manufacturers and then face clients that I have never met before really gave me confidence. Nobody cares about how you sound, or a mistake you might make. It really doesn’t matter in the long run. People will remember you and be happier if you reach out to them. It may feel really uncomfortable at first, but it does get easier, have faith.
        Maybe there is a club or organization that focuses on something you love in your community, find it and get involved. Each interaction will get easier and easier!

    2. You’re not nessesarily an extrovert just because you walk into a room and say hello. I’m a very private person myself and I’m definitely not an extrovert however I think it’s nice manors to say hello when you come to work in the morning and smile to your colleagues. I generally go by the philosophy: leave your shit at home don’t bring it to work and bother your colleagues – and if it’s just bad that day- TELL THEM! That way they know you’re not dragging negatitivity around towards them and that you’re just having a bad day (everyone does at some point) I have no problem small talking either etc but I generally don’t like being forced into social gatherings or making presentations etc. where I feel exposed or can’t get my privacy. Theres studies that show introverts and extroverts recharge their energy differently – extroverts gain energy from being around people (the more the better) whereas introverts gain energy by being alone with their thoughts. Since society as the article states favors extroverts, introverts are under pressure to get enough alone space which generally means its easier to be extroverted. It would be cool if society actually appreciated both types. I’d like to link to this YouTube video of TED talks about how introverts actually benefits society – so maybe introverts should stop worrying and actually feel better about being what they are.
      http://youtu.be/c0KYU2j0TM4

      There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert and we aren’t negative depressed people running around its just a different way of charging your energy and being more comfortable alone it doesn’t mean you aren’t social or don’t have friends.

      1. Thank you! Being an INFJ and reading that last part was infuriating (ok, maybe annoying at best). Introverts trying to meet extrovert mold is likely the causative agent for why they don’t live as long. Since I’ve accepted my introvert side and actually “recharge”, I love and appreciate my friends and family so much more. Plus I don’t feel lonely because I’m “supposed” to be around people all the time.

    3. Always annoying when people associate extraversion with happiness/health… as far as I know the only studies done on this basically equated the number of people’s contact info you have with the number of friends, which translated into more happiness.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole longevity/extroversion thing is bullshit. Even Carl Jung back in his day noticed that society is very pro-extro & anti-introversion. Not much has changed since then, except asians seem to be more pro-introversion. This is sad; it means extroverts will never learn of their own weaknesses & forced to change like introverts do, while introverts will always be undervalued.

  11. I highly disagree with the assertion that you have to have happy “events” in your life to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind, and where does it come from if not from your mind? You can ONLY think yourself into happiness. Well, you could think yourself into happiness, or you can think yourself into sadness. The amount of work is the same, and the choice is up to you.

    1. Look at any study of children growing up in ghettos and those in non-violent environments, then ask yourself if happiness is a choice.

    2. I agree that happiness is a choice, but the events of your life can have a huge influence on how easy or hard it is to make that choice.

    3. I also agree that you can choose to be happy, but the “amount of work” is not necessarily the same. In the midst of difficult circumstances, it is easy to have a negative attitude. But perspective is key. I was a pessimist for most of my childhood and teenage years, even though I had a pretty good life. This attitude led to a lot of problems, until I learned that my circumstances did not have to determine whether I was happy or not. I have gradually taught my self to have an optimistic view of life, but it wasn’t easy.

  12. Thanks for another classic line Mark. “No use crying over spilled milk unless it’s raw and comes from grass fed jersey cows”.

  13. “…the kids who were “prudent, persistent, planful” went on to live the longest lives, while the “cheerful and optimistic” children lived shorter lives

    Is it true that the former lived longer than the latter, or did it just seem that way? I prefer a shorter, cheerful and optimistic life.

    In the words of Jack London….

    “I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
    The function of man is to live, not to exist.
    I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
    I shall use my time. “

    1. In choosing to be the live wire you are feeding the attributes that tend to lead to longevity. For me the point is to live healthy and not live sick. There’s no point to living longer if you are diseased and feeble.

  14. What are your thoughts on research by Dan Buettner and others into the commonalities among long-lived people in the so-called “Blue Zones” (including Okinawa)?

    He identified 9 common traits in these “longevity zones” – 1) move naturally, 2) have a purpose, 3) slow down/reduce stress, 4) don’t eat too much (until 80% full), 5) eat a largely plant based diet, 6) consume moderate amounts (1-2 glasses) of wine each day, 7) find belonging through faith/community, 8) put loved ones first, 9) surround yourself with people who support healthy behaviors.

    There is some overlap with your list, but it also goes a little further to adress other aspects of diet and lifestyle.

    1. Having a plant based diet contradicts the evidence. most super centenarians have a high fat diet, which is pretty hard to achieve on a plant based diet.

      1. On the contrary, in my personal experience of both family and working with old folks, the longest living people thrive on a most or all plant based diet- which does include HEALTHY fats such as unrefined oils, nuts, avocado, etc. Most people I know who eat too much meat and dairy wind up in an early grave or end up on a very restricted plant based diet after undergoing heart surgery.

        1. Which old folks are you working with and why? Personally, I have no plans to be a

          Besides, I’m tried of hearing about “healthy fats” without much evidence

        2. Let me try again — sorry about that last one.

          Which “old folks” are you working with and why? I have no plans to be an “old folk” that will be worked with by some helpful young person. It’s good health all the way until I drop over one day. That by definition, unfortunately, would exclude nuts because I’m allergic to most of them.

          My great-grandfather was the longest lived of any of my relatives. Died in his 90’s. Ate pancakes, eggs, bacon, and smoked. Never saw a hospital until the last 2 months of his life. I’m sure he would have gotten a big chuckle out of being told to not eat meat because it was bad for him.

    2. I hit the “Blue Zone” website and took a looked at the five they have there. The initial issue that stands out for me is community size. Most of the Blue Zones are tiny communities and that’s critical, to me anyway. It wouldn’t take much net immigration or out to skew their age numbers.

      For instance, I know that most Italian hill towns are on the verge of dying off. The young people are leaving for better prospects in urban Italy. Here’s a quote from the site “In a cluster of 17 white washed villages in island’s highland Nuoro, Province [Italy], you find nearly 10 times the number of centenarians per 1000 people than you do in America.”

      If these small villages are mostly only older people, then I would expect a much higher percentage of centenarians people even if they smoke, drink, and routinely throw themselves at rabid dogs. 😉 There’s no young people left to “dilute” percentage, because they’ve all left for other parts of the world. It’s a bit like visiting a nursing home and marveling at the extremely high percentage of people who made it past 65.

      I’m inclined to think that the whole “Blue Zone” is mostly just wishful thinking. It’s easy to find a tiny group that supports your nutritional/lifestyle thesis. I’ve seen it countless times on my Net travels. I’m more interested in what connects long lived healthy people across many cultures, rather than older communities.

      1. I read the book and some of the related research and felt that the issue of community size is well considered, though there are definitely a LOT of challenges to studying longevity. Some of the communities, like the 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda, CA are actually rather large. This study, which is heavily referenced in the book, had 96,000 subjects: http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/about.page

        Like Mark’s article, the Blue Zones work is about trying to understanding the commonalities among communities with exceptional longevity. They started by identifying those places, the “blue zones” and then visiting them, conducting interviews, looking at diet, etc. Personally I think some of the conclusions are a little too qualitative, but some do have a quantitative research behind them.

  15. This really resonated with me. Growing up, I was actually the opposite of most of the things in the list. It wasn’t until I started taking steps to become more healthy that I noticed a change in how I feel. Never underestimate the power of a healthy diet on how the brain (and mind) functions. I truly believe what you eat can eventually affect how you feel and perceive yourself.

    Before I was eating healthy, I would try my hardest to feel normal–to be okay in social situations, to not feel anxious or irritable, etc. Willpower is not enough, in my opinion. Once I went primal, the first difference I noticed was in my mental health, and it’s only gotten better. I feel so much more balanced than I used to. Granted, I’m still somewhat introverted, but I feel much less anxious around people.

    But, if I go off the diet for a few days or I’m around chemicals (like paint), I will start to notice some of those unhealthy thought patterns creep back in. Since I know what is causing it, I can accept what I am feeling instead of blaming myself or feeling guilty about my feelings.

    However, I can only speak for my experiences; others may find it to be different for them.

    1. I find this to be exactly true for myself as well, and I’m so glad that the PB has taken away my guilt from those bad decision moments because now I understand why I feel the way I do, which allows me to get back on track since I know I will feel better. I know Mark has explored this before, but the mind/body connection is so important to me; when I feed my body what it needs, my mind directly benefits, and makes me want to continue to do so. I cannot simply will myself to feel better when consuming SAD foods because their effects on my mind and body are just too much.

      I’m confident that currently being primal at least 70% of the time and constantly working to up that percentage, will have a huge effect on not only the longevity of my life but the quality as well. Grok on!

    2. Sarah,

      That is SO refreshing to see you say that. I have thought almost *exactly* the same thoughts since I stopped eating grains/dairy/other problematic foods. It’s such a good feeling to know that many of my bothersome thoughts were caused by outside circumstances (such as gluten exposure). Now I don’t beat myself up about them.

      I can’t thank you enough for posting, as I have yet to see many other people talk a lot about this. E-mail me if you’d like to swap stories!

      1. Anna,

        Thanks so much! I think other people don’t understand until they’ve lived through it. I used to get upset at people who were depressed because I didn’t understand how they were feeling. I thought they could just “go for a walk” or “think happy thoughts,” and they would feel better. Now, I know it really doesn’t have to do with your mind; it’s more of a brain thing. If your body is unhealthy, your brain will be, too.

        It’s refreshing to hear from other people with this viewpoint. Even in this community (where we don’t blame people for being “fat and lazy”), people still tend to blame people for their feelings.

        I find that since I have adopted my beliefs about the body/mind connection, I have a lot more compassion for people. I understand more of what they are going through and why they feel the way they do. I think that could be another word Mark could add to that list: compassionate. The more compassion and empathy we have for people, the less stressed and more content we will feel.

        If you want to email me, it’s redrose2417 at gmail dot com.

        1. “I thought they could just “go for a walk” or “think happy thoughts,” and they would feel better…I find that since I have adopted my beliefs about the body/mind connection, I have a lot more compassion for people.”

          I must admit that I need to work on the compassion part. It’s hard though. The problem is that I grew up a Mother who spent most of her adult life “severely depressed”, even when she wasn’t.

          For the record, she is very much prone to depression. I’m very much convinced diet is on of the core issues. However, she early in her adult life she discovered that having mental health issues were a sort of “get out of jail free” card for her problems. The people she encountered were so compassionate (including my father) that they became enablers of some very negative habits.

          She never took even the most basic advise to improve her mood. (Like regular walks, etc) I can’t blame her for the low-fat craze, but even then, she knew sugar was problematic and still had a fair amount around the house when we were growing up.

          Apparently, no one on the “outside”, ie, everyone else knew anything about how hard her life was, or how it might be improved, etc. She is/was a true purple snowflake I guess.

          When she did finally get sick of feeling bad (or sick of taking meds), she would take the absolute worst advice because usually she took none at all. That led to some interesting adventures, including her initiating a divorce she came to regret 12 years later. But we all had to understand and accept her mostly selfish behavior because she was “severely depressed”.

          I absolutely believe her depressive fits are real and that they are rooted in her physical issues. Unfortunately, she is/was ironically content to be miserable and rely on the kindness of strangers. My own compassion towards her died away long ago.

          It is important that people take responsibility for their actions and emotions, if they feel crummy or even clinically depressed. Depression explains some sort term issues and people will forgive you if you consistently try to take action. Once it becomes a label and a lifestyle,though, it stinks.

      2. I found this to be true, and I’m not even eating the diet that I wish to eat yet… I’m only partway through my transition to being gluten free, and lower sugar. I have noticed that I don’t fly off the handle like I used to. I blame it on all the processed foods that I was eating.
        Its tough to convey this to people that are stuck in conventional mode, but it is very true and very real.

    3. You are so right. My husband struggled with depression, irritability and rage for many years. We cleaned up his diet and it went away like magic. But let him eat rubbish and he is likely to blow up over nothing, or get really depressed over nothing. Mental and physical health are very interlinked, I’ve actually stopped believing that there are such things as mental problems. They are all linked to your gut and what you put in your month.

  16. I can’t help but feel that focusing on centenarians for clues to long life is like looking at A students for clues to the best teaching methods: A students get A’s regardless of how good (or bad) the learning environment. The better place to look is in the middle of the normal curve – where environmental factors have the biggest effects.

  17. Actually there are others things that centenarians have in common.
    For one thing they all eat REAL food, regardless of the precise ratio of macro-nutrients. They tend to cook their own food, which of course means eating less processed and fast foods.
    Also, most super centenarians have a high fat diet.
    They also tend to be more active then most people, even if they don’t do intensive exercise, they spend less time sitting.
    Centenarians also have relatively low insulin, blood sugar and triglycerides for their age. While this can be largely explained by genetic factors, we are still able to achieve the same bio-markers regardless of our genetics by adhering to an appropriate paleo diet.

  18. I hate the advice to “try to act like an extrovert” for introverts. Like most introverts I was pushed all through my childhood, teens and 20s to be more social, but that’s just not me.

    Higher energy people and groups of people just suck the life out of me, mentally and physically. Imagine every day of your life being the stress equivalent of the mall at Christmas or Walmart on Black Friday, and that’s what a “normal” life feels like to an introvert.

    Instead I would say cultivate the relationships and activities that give you joy. I used to come home from work exhausted and depressed, often too tired to eat before falling into bed. My weight skyrocketed and I was very unhealthy. Now I am perfectly happy working from home, puttering in the yard/garden, watching the dogs bicker and play, and taking a walk when my brain is too tired to code any more.

    I spend days with my family and the occasional weekend with small groups of friends for drinks and conversation or drunken Kinect Sports (always amusing). I even enjoy Vegas 3 or 4 times a year, but only for a day or two at a time.

    You extroverts can keep the rat race all to yourselves; I’ll stick with my very happy life as a hermit 🙂

    1. Good comment. I too was pushed by my mother to be more extroverted. I was always a shy introvert–“backwards” as she put it–but that was just the way I was. I did try. I was in all the clubs in school and was a cheerleader, etc. I hated all of it. I was probably in my 30’s before I learned to be who I am.
      There’s a lot to be said for being who and what you are and doing what makes you happy, even if other people think you should be something different.

      1. I was totally an extrovert the first 45 years of my life, now for the last 11 years, I’ve just wanted to be alone and quiet with the significant other. I’m really loving it! The thought of a party or going out with friends sounds downright boring (and usually is). I think the older we get, the more contemplative and quiet we naturally should be. I eat, play, workout and move Primal and never felt better. You can have extrovert for now, in the meantime, let me enjoy my introversion.

      2. Thank you….very, very tired of the idea that introversion is some sort of personality flaw.

    2. I’m glad you made this comment. I was, as usual, offended by the remark that we all have to be extroverts to be happy and healthy. It is MUCH more stressful to try to be something you are not. I am 57 years old and up until 3 years ago thought there was something wrong with me for wanting to be by myself. Now I know who I am, know I am not the only one in the world like this, and am SO much happier for it. The world needs introverts as well as extroverts.

      Also, I think the first characteristic be “Socially Connected” covers this. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be socially connected. You can be introverted and still have close friends. Maybe not as many and probably not as many casual friends.

      And finally, it is extrovert, not extravert! (Sorry, pet peeve.)

      1. Both are correct spelling. Pick one and use it throughout. I prefer extravert.

    3. Yeah this was what I was thinking. Introversion is not a disease that needs to be cured. We could just as well tell extroverts that they need to cultivate their introspection skills to become less extroverted 😛

    4. I totally agree with this, I’m an introvert and have spent my life being made to feel like I’m unsociable and aloof. Being introvert or extrovert is part of who you are and I seem to remember an MDA article not so long ago about the importance of knowing who you are.

    5. I totally agree with this, I’m an introvert and have spent my life being made to feel like I’m unsociable and aloof. If people are worth knowing they will like you for who you are, not because you conform to the ideal. Being introvert or extrovert is part of who you are and I seem to remember an MDA article not so long ago about the importance of knowing who you are.

  19. I have to disagree with the statement that extraversion is a longevity characteristic…perhaps that’s an observance by an extravert (who has a hard time understanding what it really means to be an introvert.)

    I expect that introverts, provided they get the space they need to withdraw and recharge, are just as happy as extraverts. “Acting like an extravert” is tiring and stressful. I don’t need to act like an extravert…I can enjoy a gathering with friends without having to be the centre of attention, and can enjoy activities like performing a dance on stage without being an extravert. Being social is not owned only by extraverts…they just do it in a different way.

  20. The inclusion of “extroversion” on this list kinda kills the whole thing for me.
    If you’re introverted, and act extroverted, you’re just acting. And that’s f-ing exhausting. There are times when it’s worth the effort, but I have a hard time believing it would prolong your life. It feels a bit like chronic cardio. Extroverted is one of those things you either are or you aren’t.

    If anything, this list just confirms what I believed previously – long life is genetic. You either have it or you don’t.

    1. A bit disingenuous to opine that longevity is 100% genetic and life style choices have NO effect IMO. Also, I think a lot of people are missing the point regarding introvert / extrovert. I think it’s beneficial for introverts to try to socialize a bit more in a way that works for them, and to try not to internalize everything. Introverts may (not always) need to learn to speak up more and, if necessary, stand up for themselves better if they’re prone to letting people take advantage of them.

      1. I disagree. Being introverted doesn’t mean one is an antisocial door mat who has no social skills and who internalizes everything. Those traits speak to something entirely different.

        There’s absolutely nothing unhealthy about being introverted. It’s mostly a matter of living one’s life according to one’s personality and personal preferences. It has nothing whatsoever to do with longevity. Problems arise only when we try to be what we aren’t.

      2. “I think a lot of people are missing the point regarding introvert / extrovert. I think it’s beneficial for introverts to try to socialize a bit more in a way that works for them”
        +1

      3. Let’s not equate shyness and social anxiety with introversion.”An introvert who’s unhappy, who’s envious of extroverts” may not be an introvert at all, but a shy extrovert.

        Why the assumption that introverts should “socialize a bit more in a way that works for them?” “More”? More than what? We already do what works for us! It may be less often and on a smaller scale than you’d want for yourself; that doesn’t make us wrong. Acting contrary to one’s nature is exhausting and unhealthy. Introverts and extroverts are different–can’t we all just leave it at that?

        1. Very well said.

          When extroverts tell introverts to “socialize a bit more” – that just indicates they have absolutely no clue how much socializing that introvert actually needs. I find that extroverts seem to think I’m not happy unless I’m talking to somebody at all times. Actually the opposite is true. If I go to a party and talk to 1-3 people (one-on-one, not in a group, whether I know them or not) I consider it a success. If I don’t talk to anybody, I feel exhausted from the pressure to try to talk to people and failing. If I talk to more than 3 people, I feel absolutely exhausted (usually worse than talking to no one). Don’t try to tell me that something that sucks the life right out of me is healthy.

          The real advice is that people need a social network. The actual size and characteristics of this social network is going to vary by person. In general, introverts require smaller social networks than extroverts. And building that social network does not require an introvert to be or even act extroverted. I find I make friends by listening. It’s something that comes naturally to me. Over a long period of time – with short, scattered conversations – simply listening lets people know that I care and those that appreciate it become my friends. No acting required.

          If there’s anything unhealthy about being introverted, it’s the pressure that our society puts on people to be extroverted. That causes stress. Being alone – but not lonely – doesn’t.

  21. I just wanted to point out that there are some very common misconceptions about introverts and extroverts that I see reflected in this article. Introverts are not necessarily people who don’t enjoy being social. Introversion is not the same as simply being shy. The key factor between introverts and extroverts is whether social situations drain their energy or give them energy. Extroverts need social stimulus more in order to function because it energized them, whereas introverts need times of solitude to recharge. However, many introverts are extremely social creatures, but they need to balance their social expenditures with time alone.

    1. Our types of friends are also very different. We tend to enjoy the company of people who are quiet, calm and thoughtful – and the best friends are the ones who understand that we enjoy their company without constant talking or forced interaction.

      My best friend in the world used to come over every single day after work and spend the entire evening…asleep in the recliner. He’d wake up whenever I wanted to go do and he would come along to keep me company, but mostly he was snoring in the corner. He was a constant, comfortable, reassuring presence in my life and he spared my husband from doing all the “girl stuff” with me. We did that for 18 years until my husband and I moved across country. Best. Friend. Ever. lol

    2. I just wrote a similar comment before noticing yours- I agree with this!

  22. Very interesting, good job. Blue Zone kind of stuff. The link to the article that concluded a thirty year fast is not optimal for your health was hilarious. Advice is all good food for thought. As a software engineer consultant (have to deal with client site restrictions) and someone who spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, I HAVE to mitigate that situation, despite the fact I do HIIT and exercise quite a bit. Also keep telling myself to put together a To Do list each day, and finish the day listening to some relaxing music like something by C. Deuter instead of watching a TV show.

  23. I have a slightly different theory about the extravert correlation. I wonder if it’s not that introverts are less likely to speak up when they need help? I test 99% introvert. I make a real effort to break out of my natural hermit mode on a regular basis, but I find it much harder than my extravert friends to reach out for support when things are going badly. Even something straightforward like asking a waiter about gluten takes an effort of will (& I have Celiac Disease!) As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, & I wonder if the introverts are suffering from their squeaklessness?

    1. A lot of our squeaklessness falls under “letting it roll off your back”. I was always amazed by friends who would call a fast food place and throw a fit because their fries weren’t in the bag. Most of the time I just can’t be bothered to bother, it’s not important enough. You’re right about what an effort of will those interactions are. I just negotiate life by avoiding those confrontations that aren’t really important (like restaurants).

      1. Haha, yes, making a fuss is infinitely more unpleasant than missing a few fries! Gluten exposure’s another matter though, & I’ve had to retrain myself to be more assertive… frankly it is much easier not to go out to eat, but that’s actually the kind of social occasion I enjoy most. Oh the irony! :-/

    2. I agree with you. I will starve, crawl home from the hospital after having surgery, and sleep on the street before asking anyone for help. Thankfully I developed a thick skin and the ability to survive a lot, but know that takes a toll.

    3. I have no trouble asking for help or speaking up, especially when it comes to advocating for myself or my family. It is a skill I have gained as I’ve matured. OTOH, I have to be careful about correcting others…need to remember there are other ways of doing things the “right” way. 🙂

      I also like to seek adventure…exploring new places, trying new sports. But still need my alone time to recharge.

  24. Introverts are ruled by the neurotransmitter acetycholine while extroverts use dopamine. This is why extroverts are continually looking for action, it gives them hap hits, go go juice. By the way, introverts are longer lived simply because they do have aversion to risky activities and because it is within their nature to conserve their stores of energy. Marti Olson Laney has some great books on the subject.

  25. It’s interesting that four of the seven characteristics correspond very closely withh the 5-factor theory of personality. I haven’t done any in-depth reading on this theory but I know it broadly breaks down personality into five areas that exist on a continuum.

    Extraversion
    Conscienciousness
    Neuroticism
    Openness to new experiences
    Agreeability

    I believe that our personality traits are largely genetic, although they certainly can be influenced by environment, so some of us are largely swimming upstream on some of these characteristics.

  26. Before we further extol the virtues of extroversion as a culture, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”.

  27. I really need to work on the friendship/family thing. I spend so much time alone (working from home doesn’t help) sometimes I feel like my life is passing me by before I know it. The problem with cultivating friendships in your 30s everyone is already partnered up (friendship wise), married with kids, etc.

    1. I work from home too & it would be easy for me to go for months without seeing a soul outside the family other than the grocery store clerk! Some things that help me: a really wonderful book club, classes on various subjects, meet-ups with a learning/sharing focus– in other words anything where the talk doesn’t have to be small. I can engage in conversation for hours if there is actual subject matter, but idle chit-chat exhausts me.

  28. I worked in a nursing home once where there was this liitle 102 year old lady who was wheelchair bound, couldn’t stand and had to be lifted in and out of everything. Yet her mind was completely there. People used to ask her what her secret was, and she always replied “It’s not a secret, it’s a curse.” Just sayin keeping the body fit is just as important as keeping the mind fit! I’m sure everyone on this site knows this. Not sure I’d want a sharp mind without a functional body!

    1. I sometimes think that society treats nursing home residents like they have just magically appeared there. There’s a tendency to view it as either just how old age is or a random occurrence, like a car wreck. Or at least I used to, if nothing else. 🙂

      Unfortunately, if my mother is an indication, there’s quite a few of them who have “earned” their spot there by completely neglecting their health. If there was an opportunity to leave physical work to someone else, she took it. Walking was for chumps.

      Posture and proper gait? I was born this way, you see. Outdoors? Too many bugs, too much uncomfortable weather.

      Food? Forgo the reasonable diet my mother gave me (including offal) and jump on the low-fat bandwagon. It’s fat, not sugar causing all those pesky problems. And now that I’m old and having a hard time, sugar is the only thing that makes my life bearable.

      I’m sure there are some nursing home residents that fall into the car wreck category. Unfortunately, though, they don’t get the blanket “ohh, they’re just old and isn’t life hard?” sympathy looks they used to get from me. My mother of course, thinks I’m just being a heartless daughter because can’t I see she’s old and not feeling well?? Oh, well.

  29. As for the introvert vs. extrovert: not sure there are too many people who are 100% one way or the other…for me, most people would probably consider me an extrovert: always had lots of friends, always laughing, joking, comfy in social situations, but every few days, sitting at home reading in the quiet with nobody but my dog is required to recharge. I suspect that most people are both introvert and extrovert depending on energy levels and where they are in that cycle.

    As for comedy: Bill Burr is my absolute favorite. Very aware of his own absurd thoughts and actions and it makes me aware of my own too, which allows me to laugh largely at myself and really how silly I am – as we all are – about so many things.

    1. I bet you are more introverted than you think! Needing quiet time to recharge is actually the main defining trait. Intoversion doesn’t equal shyness, though there is certainly some correlation.

      1. I’m an outgoing introvert. I am social yet I do not want many people close to me. Tough to explain. I can only give my full energy to a handful of people in my life, so they have to be real menschen. Otherwise I keep a personal barrier. One that does not prohibit new people, conversations, experiences, etc, but one that prevents someone from getting to close. A genuine facade, if it can be called that, (manners?) until I determine if a person is a mensch. Too many people are drains. Uncle Sam provides me with enough taxes in my life so I’d rather not spend time with energy taxing people.

        1. I know the feeling. I just read an article on LinkedIn that suggested that inconsistent co-workers/friends are much bigger drain than those that consistently treat you poorly. In other words, Frenemies are a much larger emotional black hole than a plain old enemy.

          I have some Frenemies for relatives and can vouch for the drain. They are, to steal a line from Into the Woods: “Not good, not bad, just ‘nice'”. Unfortunately, I’ve pretty well stopped speaking to one of them but I have no justification for cutting the tie entirely because they are “kind of nice to me sort of”.

          In another case, I think I’ve finally started the process of letting go of the fantasy I had for our relationship. That one was tougher because I wanted to be close to her but it was never reciprocal. In looking back over the years, there’s definitely a mild Frenemy pattern. Mostly friend which is positive but still, ultimately very draining.

  30. Certainly, in the context of successfully adopting Primal Blueprint as a precursor of longevity, “persistent, industrious, organized, and disciplined facets of conscientiousness” are required, along with faith and optimism to deal with the nebulous and imprecise science. This may be particularly true for us aged former endurance-athletes attempting to mitigate years of metallic damage by adopting a Paleo diet and fitness regime, whom initially find that our attempts to adapt to fueling on fat vs carbs invokes cortisol, cortisol, and more cortisol, making the PM utopia elusive.

    1. That’s OK! Read some of the other comments, being an introvert is not a disease.

  31. There is a strong statistical association between regular worship attendance and longevity; one study put the impact at 7 years, approximately the same as not smoking. Various reasons are given that overlap with your list (community, optimism, paying attention, etc.) It is of course difficult to do an interventional study! Also the religious faithful tend to exercise more, use their minds more, smoke and drink less, and take care of each other to a greater extent. A big study from California Public Health (Int J Psychiatry Med 32(1):69-82, 2002, found that infrequent church attenders had higher mortality from most causes, and that the prior health status and associated behaviors did not explain the entire difference.

    Of course students of anthropology know that prehistoric Groks had religious instincts, with burial rituals for their dead.

    A decent house of worship (and there are many) makes it so much easier to get a community than trying to do it yourself!

    1. It makes sense that regular church going also increases social involvement.

      1. Why I’m no longer asked to say grace at any dinner table: “Oh Crom, help us to slay our enemies, ravish their women, burn their houses and enslave their children – and if you won’t help us, then to hell with you”.

  32. I’m so glad to hear that laughter made this list. I’m always quick to laugh, and to compound the issue, I listen to podcasts with comedians when I’m not listening to nutritional ones on the go. Laughter might actually be the best medicine, even when it gets you odd looks on the metro or walking down the street laughing by yourself.

    1. My grandmother was forever cutting pills in half and skipping doses. (These were blood pressure pills/stuff for circulatory issues). She lived to 88.

  33. I guess I’m one of those introverts who is happy with it. It’s not a disease. I have cultivated ways of interacting that would make you think I was an extrovert, but I’m not, nor do I want to be. Society does favor extroverts. Oh well. Won’t be the first time I’m on the wrong side of what society favors 😛

  34. Mark:

    Great post. I’ve seen in real life that all of these things are keys to longevity. My grandmother practiced all of them and lived to be 96, despite some health limitations that doctors believed wouldn’t allow such a long life.

    Her funeral was attended in large part by people much younger, whom she’d befriended over a long period of time in her community. She was a blast to be around, so people included her, even though she was a little old lady (but just on the outside).

    Stoicism – yes, good idea. Tim Ferriss has covered it well (what it is and how to apply it). I highly recommend having a look.

    Susan

  35. My Great Aunt lived to be 97, 96 of those years in virtually perfect health. Her secret was…
    1. Never listen to your doctor
    2. Eat a piece of chocolate every day
    3. Never get married.

    1. LOL – I’m good on the first two but have completely missed the boat on the third. I’ll take a shorter life for the mess in my house and the husband who sleeps in my bed.

      1. Me too! I’m sure my family has knocked a few years off my life already.

  36. These are good, and there’s science behind it.

    I’m in the process of writing a course in becoming “ageproof”. What Mark writes here I put in the first module called, “Mindset”. If you don’t get this right, develop the right attitude, then none of the rest of the methodology will matter, which is:

    Reset — detoxification
    Refuel — hormone balancing nutrition and supplementation
    Move — functional fitness and mobility

    Put these four together and you have a great chance of living long and strong.

    Yep.

    -Joe

  37. Who cares how long you live? Just Love everything within your senses’ radius.

    1. I agree Nack – who cares how long you live? I don’t want to live to be 100 or even 90. I read a lot of medical records and some of that stuff gets pretty difficult to bear. I’m going for strong and healthy and mid-80’s!

  38. As much as I love being out, and social I am equally as happy home and just with my family. i think it’s good to have balance, like anything in life. just my two cents.

  39. I agree 100% with the social aspect. I’ve seen so many people suffer from depression because they have no social activity, no friends or family to talk to, and no one significant to rely on. Those networks are so important for all of us.

  40. As I’m “pushing 80”, and keeping the glass half full, this reading is good food for thought. Most important, though, I would add, is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Savior. Nothin’ beats His tender, loving care!!

  41. Very interesting article, Mark. I enjoyed it and plan to work on cultivating several of these aspects of my life.
    My only issue with the content was that I don’t necessarily agree with how you’ve portrayed introversion vs extroversion- The currently accepted definition of the two doesn’t rely on a certain level of “outgoingness”, which your article associates with extroverts, but rather the source from which we get our energy (extroverts gain energy from social settings and introverts expend energy socially, necessitating some “alone time” to recharge.) There exist shy extroverts (hard as it is to believe), and outgoing introverts. I am one of the latter.
    The tone I got from the article is that introverts inherently struggle more with interviews, presentations, etc., and don’t socialize as much, and I think that is an oversimplification and not true in many cases. I am an introvert (I always need my alone time to rejuvenate or I never feel quite right) but I am actually quite social when I want to be and have been called “the life of the party”. That being said, too much time around others seriously drains me! As a scientist, I present my research frequently and am very skilled at oral communication, and I doubt that interviews stress me out any more than others- in fact I do well at them. My point is that I think the true issue is that certain traits, like socializing (as mentioned in your paragraph on social networking) are good for longevity, but this isn’t necessarily something that an extrovert would experience more than an introvert, although I can see how the connection could be made. There is such an introversion-extroversion spectrum, anyway, with most of us falling somewhere in the middle, that it seems to me it would be difficult to draw conclusions like “being extroverted leads to longevity”. However, if there are journal articles published that speak to the contrary, I would be very interested in reading them. Thanks for the article!

    1. I wrote this before realizing many people had already commented with similar qualms about how this topic was covered:)

  42. Regarding social networks, my friends and I are participate in what we call First Saturday. Basically, the first Saturday of each month we plan an event. We rotate through each friend (or couple) every month who plans said event. We have had dinner (home or out), bowling, hiking, attended a local festival, etc. The bonding experience is amazing and we normally try things we don’t normally do.

  43. Just:
    ‘do not go gentle into that good night…
    rage, rage against the dying of the light’…
    it makes you feel better, and that is what it is all about

  44. I would add that one needs to have a confidence that he or she is a good person… my grandma, very confident (she was always right, never remorseful), took good care of herself, had a large social network… died at 98.

    My personal all time favourite for a good laughter is reading Jerome K Jerome, especially “Advantages of cheese as a travelling companion” and the stories about uncle Poger.

    IMHO, those can be citations of the week!

    “When you’re worked up about something, stop and ask yourself what exactly is bothering you so much. Get specific when you answer. You might just find there’s nothing there.”

    “He who laughs most, laughs last, in other words.”

    LOL, kudos to Mark Sisson!

  45. From personal experience, I think introverts look for different traits in friends than extroverts. I find so many people to be very self absorbed and I end up being treated as an ear and the friendship is very one sided. I find that extroverted people don’t tend to look this deep, and therefore find friend making much easier.

  46. Highly recommend for a good laugh a old British series Mind your language! Cultural hub kind of laugh! Check it on youtube few minutes an you will get hooked right on! Enjoy!

  47. My 97 year old Nana just passed on a few months ago. Her secret? She went for a walk every day. Even when, at 97, that walk only lasted for a few hundred feet. 🙂

  48. I kept thinking as I read the list, that faith would contribute significantly to cultivating several of the characteristics. I am not necessarily talking about religion, but it could be. A faith in a “higher power” that is caring and loving, (whatever name you call it by), seems like it could positively affect some of these characteristics.

  49. When I was around four my father took me to a drug store and three of his friends were sitting at the counter and my Dad said, “Janie, tell them what you want to be when you grow up”. And I replied, Marilyn Monroe! Of course they all laughed! How could I explain to them that the picture of her trying to push her white dress down laughing was the epitome of happiness….carefree, joy! And I wanted that and found it through being what society has label introvert. I label it as a person who likes themselves, realizes friends are high maintenance( and the fewer the better), and doesn’t have to be the center of the party. Saying that, I try to find the humor in everything….the good, the bad and the ugly!

  50. All these traits formed the backbone of social doctrine of “Brave New World.” Huxley’s view of a world without heartbreak, aging, disease, and family resulted in a world of twaddle, din, and platitudes, accomplished by “conditioning” of human from embryo to grave. No art, no drama, no dissent. It was a cult of happiness. Truth was old fashioned, pleasure the ideal. Contrarily, those people died at around age 60, quite happily, due to the the drug Soma and a whole lot of bio-engineering. They didn’t mind.
    So it may be that isolation, heartbreak and conflict stimulate people to resolve their problems. They often don’t succeed. Several here have noted that mnay people depend on misery for company, and won’t even consider another way of life. But ometimes they do transcend, and I think that’s freedom.
    Another thing to consider is that longevity is a preferred ideal, and assume that we all value it. But why? Is it really so much better to live to 105 than to 65? My friends who died young, I don’t feel that they were “cut off in their prime,” or that their lives were incomplete. They lived as long as they could, god rest them.
    All honor to introverts!

  51. my Scottish Grandmother (who lived to be 97)had a great reply when we asked her the secret of her longevity – she said “I didnae fancy the alternative”…..
    Attitude counts!

  52. As to Mark’s comment about using social networks to set up “real life” get togethers: People in years (way) past spent HOURS writing letters to friends and far flung family members by hand.I doubt that prompted so much, “they should spend their time having “real” relationships”. People understood that this was just a way to communicate with people far away. Even when spouses write on each others’ FB walls from the next room…that can be like the love note left on the counter (though that’s too public for my taste). Sure, FB can be used in stupid ways (think- kids passing notes in class). The same can be said of many things people wrote on paper in the past. And commenting on blogs? Just a new version of the letter to the editor. It’s all just communication and humans need to do that. There’s no need to qualify or temper mentions of social media imo.

  53. Actually, the bit about optimism and worry are not necessarily true (although I agree with you about it being better to let go of stress and worry). According to this 80 yr study, it is more nuanced than that. In this study, they found that optimists tend to overestimate their health and not notice things, and pessimists and worriers tend to underestimate their health and notice things that need attention earlier.

    http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/everything-you-know-about-longevity-is-wrong-3-19-2013/

    Their findings in each of these areas was that none of the assumptions and myths are as straightforward as we think: married people who remain married to one spouse live longer than those who marry, divorce, and remarry… so a blanket “married people live longer” statement is not fully accurate, for example. So it is not saying to disregard these qualities, just that it is more complex than previously thought.

  54. Hey Mark-what about compassion?
    Seems a foundation principle to all of the foregoing.

  55. I’m weird. I need equal amounts of socialisation and alone time to be happy. Though, I guess it means i’m always comfortable in any situation 🙂

  56. If something really stressful is going on, I ask myself (or others to whom the stress may be occurring)…”How does this look in the light of eternity?”. Courtesy St. Aloysius Gonzaga

  57. Chris
    Shut the F**** up about this stuff.
    Do you want a bullet in your brain and to permit people to characterise Paleo as Anti semitic.
    Buddy – there are self imposed limits to free speech.

  58. Yeah agreed with the comment above. There is a difference between introverts and being self conscious. Extroversion is linked to the neural drive from the reticular activating system in the brain, more inhibited in extroverts then introverts.

    Anyway, great post nevertheless. Adding to this… eat good food, stress less and cut alkalize!

    Thanks

  59. This was a great read, thank you. My grandmother is a few months shy of 89 years old and is in the best shape I’ve seen someone at that age. She lives on house with a giant hill for a yard and still walks up and down and around while tending to her 20+ different gardens. I see many more healthy and happy years in her life. One thing about her personality that I believe is a contributing factor to her longevity is her thirst for knowledge. She is never content or complacent with what she has learned. She is a brilliant woman who could easily get by the rest of her life on the knowledge she possesses today. This is not what she chooses to do. She has a spongy, childlike mind that soaks up every piece of wisdom and every fact that crosses her path. Not only does this improve her memory and wit, but it improves her happiness. One of the greatest things is she takes what she learns and brings it into conversation. Which in turn creates another field for learning through back and forth report. I believe her dedication to keeping her mind sharp through her thirst for knowledge has kept her satisfied and happy through the longevity of her life.

  60. I found this article because I struggle with social isolation and have been trying to think of ways to change it. I’m in my 20s and live alone. My relationship with my family was always destructive, so family isn’t really an option. My friends have mostly moved to other areas of the country for jobs/significant others/etc. I broke off a four-year relationship last year with the man I thought for a long time I would end up marrying.

    So…I’m alone. Way too much of the time, I’m by myself. I’m an introvert who likes my alone time for sure, but this has gone on so long that I find myself spontaneously bursting into tears and having a hard time dragging myself out of bed despite being a morning person in excellent physical health. It doesn’t help that I’m a teacher, and while I love my job, I spend most of my work time with children, not peers and fellow adults with whom I can form friendships. I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore. I can feel it taking a toll on me but I just don’t know how I ended up this way. I actually find myself missing the crummy service jobs I used to have, just because I had friends on staff and stuff to do/people to talk to/things to look forward to.

    What do I do? Do I move? Do I try online dating? Do I talk to strangers in the supermarket? Nothing feels right. This isn’t meant as a poor-me-pity-me post, but I just have no one to talk to and I NEED ideas. Something has to change. So I’m reading through the comments and seeing what people say. It’s nice to see this addressed…good to know I’m not just losing my mind for no reason.

    1. First of all, believe it or not, this prison-like experience – in the long run – will be a source of strength and grace. It’s a gift. That strength will enable you to find the right significant other and true friends. (It probably won’t work to look for them directly.) For now, try an activity that you can engage in, in a passionate way. (Think back to what attracted you as a child. Was it a sport, art, SCUBA, dance…??) Then maybe consider changing your job so that you come into frequent contact with adults as part of it. Or — take the very same job, but in a different place, even in another country. Go back to school, if possible, even if only part-time. Here’s the most important thing — don’t force any relationship. True friendship and true love are rare, despite what people claim. You are in a rite of passage. Pay attention to your dreams and write them down. Consider adventure. Pray. Step back, look at all the signs, and then…. make a move!

  61. You need to be careful to distinguish between introverts and scared (or maybe scarred) extroverts. An extrovert who is unable to cope with the people they need will be seriously unhappy. An introvert who is forced into constant group situations is likely to be as negatively affected. Healthy introverts have perfectly good social skills–they just have a limited need for interaction. Unhealthy extroverts have the need for interaction, but don’t have the social or psychological skills to cope with them. Everyone needs relationships; we don’t all need the same kind of relationships.

  62. I’m really tired of the extroversion bias. The fact is, if you want to do something original or profound you’re going to need time a lot of time alone, so you can study and hear yourself think. Creativity is not a group activity.
    Someone told me recently that Thomas Edison was an introvert and probably autistic!! Oh, come on. He was brilliant and knew how to get things done.