How To Live a Long, Happy & Healthy Life – Insights From Two Great TED Talks

Eat your vegetables, have a positive outlook, be kind to people, and smile
– Kamada Nakasato, 102-y/o-female fr. Okinawa

“Drink without getting drunk
Love without suffering jealousy
Eat without overindulging
Never argue
And once in a while, with great discretion, misbehave”
― Dan BuettnerThrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way

Here are some insights from two of my favourite TED talks.

1. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

  1. Social connections are really good for us – to family, friends and community are healthier, happier and live longer. Loneliness kills; the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic
  2. It is the quality of your close relationships that matter, and living in good warm relationships is protective for health and happiness; the people the most satisfied were the healthiest at age 80; good relationships are a buffer for managing pain, improved mood.
  3. Good relationships where they really feel they really can count on someone, not only protect our bodies, but also our brains; their memories stay sharper for longer
    • Those in poor relationships, who in particular feel they cannot count on the other person, are likely to experience memory loss earlier

Robert J. Waldinger @ wikipedia

2. How to live to be 100+ – Dan Buettner

To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and team study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.

  • Sardinia, a small island off the coast of Italy
  • Okinawa
  • Seventh-Day Adventist enclave in Loma Linda, California

1. Eat mostly plants.
Most of these groups are not vegetarian. But in every case, plant-based foods form the biggest part of their diet.

2. Walk a lot
None of these groups have much in the way of organized exercise, and none of them go to the gym. But their lives are set up for constant movement that adds up to exercise.

3. Take at least one day off every week
There’s plenty of evidence that at least one day a week away from work makes you more productive and is actually beneficial for your brain.

4. Pray or meditate.
All the Blue Zone groups tend to gather in faith-based communities, something Buettner says is worth 4 to 14 extra years of life expectancy if you do it at least four times a month.
5. Hang around healthy people

“We know from the Framingham studies that if your three best friends are obese there is a 50 percent better chance that you’ll be overweight, So, if you hang out with unhealthy people, that’s going to have a measurable impact over time. Instead, if your friends’ idea of recreation is physical activity, if your friends drink a little, but not too much, and they eat right, and they’re engaged, and they’re trusting and trustworthy, that is going to have the biggest impact over time.”
-Dan Buettner

6. Spend a lot of time connecting with your family and your community
One common thread through all these long-lived communities is that they put family first.

7. Purpose & Meaning
One of the things that most helps you lead a long life is a strong sense of purpose, something the Okinawans call “ikigai.

“Having a powerful reason to live can be a strong antidote to early death. This is why the year people retire is one of the most dangerous years of their lives.”
-Dan Buettner

“He not busy being born, is busy dying”
-Bob Dylan

This is the kind of reason 85-year-old Warren Buffett says he tap dances to work every day and plans never to retire–investing is his ikigai.