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Four Ways To Live Longer

Living your purpose, and setting healthy living habits, can literally add years—exhilarating, fulfilling years—to your life.

 John Lund/Getty Images
John Lund/Getty Images,

by Janice Holly Booth

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Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton and his wife Dr. Ann Case, both of Princeton University, made the startling discovery that mortality rates for white middle class Americans are increasing, flying in the face of declining death rates in every other age, racial and ethnic group. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources, Deaton and Case concluded that death rates are spiking due to substance abuse, alcoholic liver disease and suicide. It’s a sobering set of statistics. So while dying young may be “a thing,” it’s also an “aha moment” with real potential to help us shift the way we live our lives and give us new ways to live longer.

As Steve Jobs said in his now famous Stanford commencement speech, “death is life’s change agent,” and there is no greater motivation to choose to live healthy, full, interesting lives. Here are four powerful, strategies for a long life.

Find your life’s purpose. Scientifically validated research proves that people with purpose live longer by 7 years than people without. “That’s the same as people who quit smoking,” says Victor Strecher, professor of health and health education at the University of Michigan public school of health. Studies reveal that having a purpose relates to better treatment outcomes for cocaine abusers; it increases success in dealing with stress, coping and suicidal behavior; it reduces Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, heart attack and stroke.

Get moving and get healthy. Even if the thought of going to the gym makes you tired, you can still move toward healthy living and a healthier body by taking the first step, which is literally a step. Medical science has shown that critical processes in the body begin to go dormant when we sit for more than an hour. Getting up and moving every sixty minutes, even if it’s just a brisk walk to the mailbox, keeps important body processes from shutting down. 

If your friends aren’t inspiring you to be a better version of yourself, it’s time to swap them for ones who do.

Spend time with upbeat friends. The company you keep matters—a lot. If your friends aren’t inspiring you to be a better version of yourself, it’s time to swap them for ones who do. Once you have a shiny new social circle, spend time in it. Recent research shows that more face-to-face time (not phone, Facebook or email) reduces your risk of depression by half.

Dare to adventure. Life feels stale when it’s shelved on a dull routine. Visiting a new park, signing up for a class in Photoshop, or taking surfing lessons at the beach puts you in the position of being a newbie, a first-time learner. Every adventure keeps you curious and fills you with excitement and anticipation; the antithesis of apathy and boredom, which can lead you down all kinds of ill advised paths.