10 Longevity Resolutions You'll Actually Enjoy

Feel-good behaviors for a longer life

Let's face it: some healthy lifestyle behaviors are more fun than others.  While following an anti-aging diet, limiting the amount of stress you experience, and exercising just 10 minutes a day might all help you live longer, don't overlook the significant benefits of regularly incorporating these enjoyable habits into your day.  Not only do they feel good, they're good for your health and longevity too.

Smile More

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It's easy to discount smiling as a trivial action favored by those who aren't as realistic or conscientious as they should be.  But a significant body of evidence is building which demonstrates the stress-reducing power of a smile.  In a surprising study published in Psychological Science, researchers from the University of Kansas discovered that the heart rate of subjects doing a stressful task returned to normal more quickly when they were smiling.  This was true even for subjects asked to hold chopsticks between their teeth; essentially forced to smile without realizing they were doing so.  Grinningto bear a challenging situation may serve you well, and it will help you look younger too.


Pause for a Mindful Moment

Just Sit and Meditate
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Taking just a moment to observe the many emotions coursing through your brain can ease tension, slow your heart rate and help you focus.  That's the finding of several studies on the benefits of mindfulness -  in layman's terms, simply being aware of your state of mind without trying to change how you think or feel. Give yourself a reminder to do a brief meditation session; in just a couple of minutes you'll be on your way to building an automatic habit that can help you not just relax, lower your risk of depression (and maintain a healthy weight), but live longer too.

Eat Chocolate

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Among the sweetest of health findings in recent years is the discovery that your risk of cardiac events like heart attack and stroke seem to be reduced with regular consumption of chocolate. While less-processed cocoa seems to hold more beneficial anti-oxidant flavonoids, regularly eating chocolate of any kind is linked with lower mortality in several longitudinal studies.  Just be careful to watch your overall calorie intake, to avoid putting on weight and increasing your risk of heart disease.

Get Outside

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Have you ever headed out the door worried about a problem that seemed almost inconsequential by the time you returned home?  You're not alone: various studies have found that spending time in nature can lower stress and mental fatigue, decrease blood pressure and improve mental focus.  While exactly how being outdoors benefits health is still under investigation, some health care workers are using so-called "nature-assisted therapy" to treat conditions ranging from obesity to schizophrenia. What's more: exercising outdoors may help keep you motivated and on track.

Spend Time With Other People

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Staying socially engaged is a longevity-builder, according to psychologist and author Howard Friedman.  His research on Lewis Terman's 80-year study of 1,500 school children revealed that one of the consistent behaviors among the longest-lived participants was the degree to which they were socially connected to family and friends.  Don't overlook the health benefits of staying in touch with others.

Count Your Blessings

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Gratitude isn't just saying thanks - it's an attitude that colors your entire outlook in life. People who refer to themselves as grateful seem to experience less stress, envy and resentment, have stronger immunie systems, and are more optimistic and less pessimistic about their future. Whether you keep a gratitude journal or simply take note of your blessings before falling asleep at night, your health and perspective will benefit from being more thankful.

Have a Glass of Wine - or Sip Something Similar

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Raise a glass or two - but only a glass or two. There’s extensive data suggesting that people who have a drink each day live longer than people who drink more than that, or even those who don’t imbibe at all. And the longevity accolades aren't only for red wine; drinking any alcohol in moderation is linked with lower mortality, from heart disease and stroke to cancer.

Eat More Nuts

Sharon Basaraba

Don't keep these delectable treats just for special occasions. A large review conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere - involving 76,000 women and 42,000 men studied over three decades - found that eating about an ounce (28g) of nuts each day was associated with a 20% lower risk of death from any cause.  While the research doesn't prove that eating almonds, walnuts and cashews actually lowered the chance of diseases like heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness, the more often subjects consumed nuts, the lower the risk of these diseases. Even better - people who regularly eat nuts tend to be leaner than those who do not, despite this food's high fat and calorie content.

Have a Cup of Coffee

A Cup of Coffee
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If your day is fueled by caffeine, this research finding ranks up there with the scientific conclusions about chocolate.  A 2014 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that consuming 3 cups of coffee per day was linked with a 21% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease.  Subjects who drank 4 cups of coffee each day had a 16% lower risk of death from any cause.  If you love coffee, drink a few daily cups without guilt - you're likely healthier for it.

Spend Time on a Cause You Love

Sharon Basaraba

People who regularly volunteer often observe that they get far more from the action than they give - and there's research to back them up. Published in 2013 in Psychology and Aging, a review of 14 studies examining the relationship between organized volunteering and health found a reduced mortality risk among people regularly volunteering their time and energy to causes they support.  While there's evidence that signing up simply to boost your own health is not protective, helping others (without exceeding your own physical or emotional capacity) seems to keep you healthier and living longer.

See? There's no reason to suffer, when building healthier habits.  No matter what your age, your lifestyle can be tweaked in a better direction with some enjoyable - and sustainable - actions that will leave you aging more slowly.

More on building healthy habits:


Alessio Crippa, Andrea Discacciati, Susanna C Larsson, Alicja Wolk and Nicola Orsini. "Coffee Consumption and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Dose-Response Meta-analysis." Am J Epidemiol.(2014) 180 (8): 763-775.

Annerstedt and Peter Wahrborg. “Nature-Assisted Therapy: Systematic Review of Controlled and Observational Studies.” Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2011; 39: 371–388

Elizabeth Richardson, Jamie Pearce, Richard Mitchell, Peter Day, and Simon Kingham. “The Association Between Green Space and Cause-specific Mortality in Urban New Zealand: an Ecological Analysis of Green Space Utility. “ BMC Public Health. 2010; 10: 240.

Ying Bao, Jiali Han, Frank B Hu, Edward L Giovannucci, Meir J Stampfer, Walter C Willett, and Charles S Fuchs. "Association of Nut Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality." N Engl J Med 2013;369:2000-11.

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