My Aunt Irene is 101 years old. She is and has always been a curious, happy-go-lucky kind of gal. She was not one to exercise and go on diets, although she ate fairly healthily her whole life and smoked cigarettes 'til she was 95. She quit the cigs because they got too expensive. She had two older sisters, Helen (my grandmother) and May. Both died in their eighties and both created more stress and less humor in their lives than Irene. She raised five kids on her own after her husband died young, so her life wasn't a picnic either. Is Irene an anomaly or does her good-natured spirit have something to do with her longevity?
Research is showing that poor sleep and a stressed-out life is shortening our lives faster than a poor diet and no exercise. The combination is like playing Russian roulette. We need to lighten up, find balance, and not be so attached to the outcome all the time. Exercise and a good diet aren't enough. The combination of mind stress and physical stress (from exercise) can produce free radicals that damage cells and cause everything from premature aging to cancer. Beating yourself into submission to keep up with the Joneses is killing you. A sense of humor and scheduled downtime (other than sleep) will keep stress at bay. Whenever you feel stressed out, ask yourself these three questions:
1. Where's my sense of humor? If you can make a goofy face or say something silly, then you can instantly shift your mood.
2. What's the solution? When you're stressed out, you're focused on the problem. When you ask yourself to solve the problem, you start to ask the right questions to improve the situation.
3. Am I in the moment? Sadness, anxiety, depression, and stress are often caused by thoughts and events of the past and future. All you have is right now, so stop, take a breath, and check to see if the present moment is as bad as you think it is.
If you can dump the stress, find yin to balance the yang, and search for solutions, then you will live long and prosper.