I just got back from Chicago, where I celebrated a big birthday milestone with my now 90-year-old Aunt Jo. Yes, the one I made infamous in my book Fractals of God. She has managed to outlive all other family members of her generation, even those who were very conscious about good nutrition and health. Ironically, my Aunt Jo doesn’t care about supplements or what’s in the McDonald’s hamburgers she eats. I have seen the inside of her refrigerator and always silently groan. She buys GMO-laden cereals, nitrate-filled lunch meats, pasty white bread, canned soda, and even has a drawer at the bottom of her refrigerator filled with candy bars, sugar-free desserts, and Jello in all colors of the rainbow. Did I mention she’s also a diabetic? Yet, oddly enough, she keeps her daily sugar levels under control, even after eating a big slice of Chicago’s Eli’s cheesecake. Hard to believe, but true.
My mother, who ate macrobiotic and religiously bought organic health foods along with cupboards full of vitamins and minerals, landed up having breast cancer, then dying of colon cancer. My Aunt Jo, on the other hand, eats virtual crap. Yet she is alive, sharp as a tack, and is even still driving. While her aging girlfriends are all falling apart or are in nursing homes, she still cleans her house daily, trudges up and down steps to do her laundry in the bowels of her basement, and sneaks into feature movies. Okay, maybe the last fact she wouldn’t be too happy to have divulged, but she proclaims that “its okay for senior citizens trying to supplement their fixed income.”
So how has she managed to defy the ravages of age doing everything you’re not supposed to do? For one–she doesn’t take herself so seriously. She laughs at getting old, jokes about her friends who try to one up each other on who has the most ailments, and has an intense curiosity for all things. She can be stubborn, but generally doesn’t hold onto to anger or self-limiting beliefs. More importantly, she doesn’t dwell on her aging or health, but prefers to really enjoy life instead.
My Aunt is clearly on the right track. The experts used to think longevity was a product of our genes, now they’re saying genetics accounts for only one-third of how long we live, if that much. The secret is all about ATTITUDE–a positive one. Research shows the benefits of a positive attitude are far greater than any mind exercises, healthy habits, physical exercise, organic food diets, anti-aging nutrients, or for that matter–anything else you might do.
The most positive character traits of studied longevity cultures is the attitude of not seeing aging as an inevitable path to decrepitude. How often we hear statements such as “I’m too old for that” or “One can’t do that at my age.” The truth is–if you believe you are falling apart–you will fall apart. Thoughts are powerful things. Others are quick to emphasize their family’s bad health history as determining their own. FACT: One’s genes do not predict one’s destiny. Just because everyone in your family gets breast cancer doesn’t mean you will as well. Having the right positive attitude is the best deterrent to disease.
A positive attitude includes one key ingredient–laughter. I’ve noticed that my Aunt Jo laughs a lot and makes me laugh as well. She’s like Betty White–and we all know Betty White is a riot and feistier than hell at 90+. The woman is a walking tome of positive quotes on aging:
A lot of people think this is a goodie two-shoes talking. But we do have a tendency to complain rather than celebrating who we are. I learned at my mother’s knee it’s better to appreciate what’s happening… I think we kind of talk ourselves into the negative sometimes.–Betty White
The most important thing you can do for increasing health and longevity is to eliminate negative and self-limiting beliefs about yourself and others. This entails staying away from negative people–the whiners, the complainers, the ones that always see the glass half empty rather than half full. We all know who these people are. I call them energy vampires and limit my time with them accordingly. They have a knack for siphoning off your good energy, leaving you wondering why you feel so tired from being around them. Also on the list is to avoid negative habits, activities, or anything that is not life affirming. Instead, play uplifting music, find work that feeds your passion, and above all else hang out with people who make you laugh. I have a great friend that when we get together we can’t stop laughing. We keep each other young. She’s the first person I turn to when I’m down. Before long we’re both laughing about the problem. Life is too important to take so seriously. This I’ve learned. It’s the most simplest solution to both life and longevity.
Dr. Kathy Forti is a clinical psychologist, inventor, and author of the new book, Fractals of God. amazon.com/author/kathyforti