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Yesterday I wrote on some tips on a better life from the perspective of psychology. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doing things ‘right’ to start with is far more important. 

A good life! People do all sorts of things hoping their actions or foodstuffs will result in a long and happy life. Sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists – and the health industry – have scoured the earth in pursuit of this goal. My eyes cross when I imagine all the money spent on supplements and exercise programs. So what really works? What makes not only a long life but a happy life? There are a handful of societies that seem to ‘have it’ and when they are examined and compared to each other, a few things keep turning up. I’m going disappoint you, there is no fountain of youth or herb or antioxidant. Happily the things that do make long and healthy life are achievable. They are not magical nor spectacular but they quiet almost ho-hum mundane things. But they work.

Diet – what we eat has a strong correlation to long and happy/healthy living. What these cultures eat is quite various but they have this in common: it is nearly all plant based, with little to no meat. (the more meat you eat, the less vegetables you consume). And they do portion control. They don’t gorge. Indeed many have independently reached the same conclusion to stop eating when you are becoming full and not when you feel crapulous.

“Exercise”– none of the long-livers go the gym or take Orange Theory classes, or lift weights. What they are thought is ‘active’. They are moving and doing things. The point here is to keep busy – move. Walk more and sit less. Take the stairs and park away from the entrance.

Downshift – these folks do not try to ‘do all’ or ‘be all’. They let go. They have down time rather than keeping busy. they take siestas, they go on vacations. They have day of rests when nothing is done but sitting and talking with others.

Eating better, moving more, and doing less are things we can easily do better. The next correlates are harder to achieve but no less important.

Belong – Thems who feel good about their lives have a sense of belonging. They are members of a community they know and rely on. I will use my late mother as an example. She felt good about being part of her family, her church, her group of friends, and the neighborhood too. She had no interest in learning about the internet as she had social networks of flesh and blood and love.

Meaning – This may be the hardest of the attributes to achieve. To have a good life your life needs to have meaning – meaning for you. This may be as simple as being someone’s significant other, or to your children, or to others in your community. It may be more cosmic like serving your nation or mankind. If you don’t have meaning, make this happen. Somehow.

In Part 3 of this series, I will tell you about my ‘prescription’ I sometimes write for patients to do.

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