“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.” - Maya Angelou
Peace in heart is the key for wellness. Epidemiological studies have failed to nail down exactly which factors most influence longevity and lower risk of all-cause mortality OTHER THAN three things: sense of purpose; sense of community; sense of family. That is, deep sense of stress management reduces perception of hardship. With the reduction of perception of difficulty comes improved health and reduced risk factors. The longest lived people on earth aren’t necessarily the leanest, nor have the lowest incidence of smoking, nor the lowest sodium intake, nor the lowest alcohol consumption, nor the lowest caffeine intake, nor strictly vegetarian diet, nor many of the other things we would like to suppose we can bolt onto our lives to magically live forever. Instead, it is their overall internal peace.
This is not my opinion. We know it to be true: https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/live-longer-practicing-fo…
And here, although a little overstated:
People who are 110-119 years “don’t worry easily”:
The implications are obvious. Mindset reigns supreme. Now, this still begs the question of HOW to achieve peace. It is true that activity and food can reduce depression/anxiety by improving the overall balance between pro-inflammation and anti-inflammation. Exercise in a way that improves strength and mobility. Eat in a way that is respectful of your body and to others. From that, people gain more peace. More peace makes it easier to tackle more life. That, in turn, captures more peace. But how do we capture even more?
This is the eternal human problem. Ancient societies already figured out that constant internal conflict and drama didn’t produce on-average better physical prospects. Thus, we have religions and philosophies and scientific materialist reductionism. We think we want to get to the root of everything so that we may control outcomes. But, remember, people who live the longest aren’t control freaks. Rather, they obtain a peace about their worldview. Sometimes that means self-control. Most times it means relinquishing external control.
But again, what practices or behaviors can obtain more of that internal peace? It isn’t the resolution of external problems. People who live to 120 years of age still live in the same broken world with the same broken people as the rest of us. They’ve cultivated a skill at seeing the world a certain way.
That skill leads them to sense of purpose, sense of community, and sense of family. Now, think long and hard about this. Do you really think all of these long-lived people always get along with one another? Do they always agree? Do they avoid other humans, reducing them to sound bytes and objects? Obviously, no. Instead, they fix their internal workings in order to maintain interactions and maintain purpose.
“Turn mountains into molehills” is the mantra. There are different tactics for this. And a supreme one is the acknowledgment of how you benefit from your circumstances as opposed to lamenting everything in your life. I think someone once called this “gratitude” or “thankfulness.”
Grateful or granted?
The amount of things an ungrateful person takes for granted is outrageous. We like to keep the incredibly luxurious modernity in an abstract thought. But gratefulness sobers you up right quick. Almost 2 billion people lack basic access to sanitation: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html. That’s today. That’s not some artifact of imagination or bygone era. TODAY there are 780 million people who can’t rely on water. You walk to the faucet. I walk to the faucet. As much as anyone hates big government, we all love us some tax-funded municipal water. We love it so much we just straight up take it for granted. It wasn’t all that long ago that clean running water was science-fiction. If we take this technology away, we’re in the dark ages. Imagine burning up 5-10 hours of every day just trying to find potable water. We won’t be constructing roads or buildings or innovating anything. We won’t be sending kids to school. We won’t be pursuing careers. We won’t be redefining words and political stances. We won’t be doing much of anything other than surviving. Then we can really forget about our first-world problems.
And that’s just one single but fundamental variable for which we can and ought to be incredibly grateful. If we have no daily gratitude practice, we will remain in our taken-for-granted mindset. You can write them down. You can speak them out. You can include them in dinner-time or bedtime prayers. You can place them within a meditation. You can implement however. But you CAN implement, and consistently at that.
Just waving our hands at thankfulness is contrived. It doesn’t carry much weight. Pretentious gratitude isn’t satisfying the need for internal peace. It’s gotta be bigger. It has to be an outpouring of gratitude. It has to be regular. It has to begin to define your internal state, override the perception of challenge, and not “worry easily.”
Isaac Newton famously noted, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Good Lord. Is there a more grateful and humble sentiment, ever? The creator of calculus and physics goes, “yeah, I guess I’m ok, but only because I benefited from others.” This guy is responsible for essentially every modern piece of technology, laying groundwork for most sciences, and a sweat-equity genius who slaved for his craft. His summary of it all: I could only do what I do because of what others did before me. Meanwhile, Jimmy, your next-door neighbor, has a tattoo reading “self-made.” The father of physics: it wasn’t all me. Biff, from Back to the Future: I’m a self-made millionaire.
Sure. You worked hard. I did too. We made a lot of our “luck.” But man o man, look around. Everything you see was created and built by others/all of us. You’re not chopping your way through jungle to find a watering hole that won’t cause dysentery. Yeah, I too have stories about times we had to skip heating the house, skip a meal, and worry about if I’ll have a home. If you have a tougher story, it just means you’re a tougher breed. If you don’t, that’s fine too. The circumstances are almost immaterial. What’s your mindset? What’s your internal peace? Focus on gratitude for how good you once had it, how good you now have it, how good you will have it.
With that practice of gratefulness, we may throw off the chains of our real and imagined woes. In so doing, we may appreciate one another more. As we appreciate one another, we may grow to increasingly support one another. As we support one another, we don’t just build families and communities, we build our internal peace. Divisions and strife diminish. Purpose flourishes.
Diet and exercise all you like. Obviously, I believe in it. But for deep wellness, first begin with mindset. That mindset begins with the outpouring of gratitude.