"I don't expect to live forever, but I do intend to hang on as long as possible" —Isaac Asimov
Pic: Wikimedia Commons
I. Science—the Refinement of Common Sense
When most people think of science, the first thought that comes to mind usually involves technical matters, such as fancy PhDs and complex research. Yet Einstein—the greatest scientist of all—viewed his beloved profession in a far simpler light.
"Science," said Einstein, "is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."
To "refine" something is to clear it up, make it easier to understand. As for "everyday thinking," Einstein essentially meant plain ol' common sense.
Armed with the above insight, then, when stripped of all such pageantry, science shows itself to be nothing but a grand attempt to clear up common sense. As for common sense, there's no greater indication of good sense than to do everything possible to live for as long as possible.
In short, so far as applying the scientific method to extending life goes, it's always important to remember:
There's a science to everything.
II. 4 Insights into How to Live Longer, According to Science
I once heard someone say, "Everybody wanna go to Heaven but nobody wanna die for the free trip!" Indeed, at the very core of a human's being, we all fundamentally want to extend our stay on the world's stage for as long as possible.
In short, because knowledge is power, here are four powerful scientific insights into how to live longer.
1. The Less You Feed the Machine, the Longer You Preserve the Machine
When buying a used car, the first thing the prospective buyer wants to know is "how many miles are already on it?" After all, common sense suggests a vehicle's lifespan is roughly 200,000 miles.
For centuries, anatomists have called the human organism—composed of countless cells organized into organs and tissues to serve life—the "ultimate machine." And just as putting too many miles on a Honda vehicle will hasten its death, the same goes for a bodily vehicle.
"Restricting the intake of calories has been practiced as a method for increasing both the length and quality of life for over 500 years," notes a team of researchers. In other words, over-eating is the father of under-living!
Again, because science merely refines common sense, good sense suggests the more we daily tax our digestive systems to break down chunks of steak, wrestle with various fats and so forth, the more "mileage" we put on the ol' odometer.
Armed with the above insight, given that we humans share 98.8 percent of our DNA with chimps, wisdom dictates embracing the motto—"monkey see, monkey do." After all, according to "a 2017 report on rhesus monkeys, caloric restriction in the presence of adequate nutrition was effective in delaying the effects of aging."
In short, whether you embrace intermittent fasting or occasionally fast for an entire day or only consume health shakes for the first half of each day or whatever may be the case, science appears to suggest:
The less you eat, the longer you live.
Pic: Screenshot by the author on The Bulletin
Healthy people live longer → Exercise makes people healthy = Exercise makes people live longer.
The above equation, again, like all science lies rooted in common sense.
According to a study published by a team of researchers, exercising just 15 minutes a day led to the following incredible results:
Compared with individuals in the inactive group, those in the low-volume activity group, who exercised for an average of 92 min per week or 15 min a day had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and had a 3 year longer life expectancy.
"Look deep into nature," said Einstein, "and then you will understand everything better." If by chance a man were to pay close attention to man's best friend, he'll surely notice the dog's nature daily calls for "going for a walk."
Apparently the human body was designed for daily physical activity, too. Perhaps this explains why a study noted as much as a 22% lower risk of premature death in people who exercised — even though they worked out less than the recommended 2-3 hours per week.
Exercising is an investment in your health, not an expense.
3. A Dose of Meditation a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
According to Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Canada’s Dalhousie University, "Over time, [stress] can cause damage that leads to premature death.” And so, quite naturally Dr. Celan followed up by noting that “you could live longer if you had less stress in your life."
If stress is the problem, meditation is the solution. Therefore, daily meditation helps you live longer. Bingo!
Perhaps there may be no more misunderstood word than "meditation." After all, when all the cool lotus positions and even cooler yoga studios have been sliced away, guess what remains? YOU!
To meditate simply calls for realizing you’re not what you notice but rather you’re the noticer of what you notice . . . to meditate simply calls for realizing you’re not aware but rather you’re awareness itself. Hence such expressions as “watch your mouth” or “watch your thoughts.”
You are that which “Is” long before you are whatever you labeled yourself to be. Perhaps always thinking may be a bigger tragedy than never thinking at all.
To put it simply, the root of all stress lies in habitually falsely identifying yourself—the Watcher—with the stream of thought, the watched. Perhaps the key to meditation boils down to grasping the following insight:
You’ll never taste permanent peace of mind until you stop viewing your mind as identical to yourself, as opposed to viewing yourself as your mind’s guardian.
Meditating for just 15-20 minutes in the morning and 15-20 minutes at night will work wonders. Various meditative techniques serve to combat stress. From the classic follow your breathing technique to a host of guided meditations (Alan Watts, Mooji), whatever works for you is the only technique that works at all.
The goal of meditation isn't to control your thoughts; it's to stop letting them control you.
4. Common Sense, if Followed, Helps You Live Longer
Again, "science" merely clears up common sense. And here are a few common-sense approaches to living longer, which science supports.
- The earth is about 70 percent water. The human body is about 70 percent water. And so, common sense suggests—drinking water throughout the day will help you live longer.
- Eat your veggies, fruits and nuts. Again, common sense is the DNA of science.
- “O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse," Shakespeare noted. Sleep regulates cell function and helps heal the body. Therefore, consistently getting a good night's rest will help you live longer.
- (*My personal practice.) Because oxidation damages cells due to free radicals, which contribute to aging and death, each night just before sleep I take immune supplements (resveratrol, selenium, zinc, echinacea, etc). In short, if sleep heals the body and immune supplements boost immunity, this duo potentially amounts to a match made in life extension, if not heaven.
- If possible, avoid smoking anything—unless it's charcoal in the chimney.
- If you can't put down the booze altogether, limit the booze. After all, once alcohol is ingested, the human digestive system literally treats it as poison.
- Become an optimist. Pessimism causes stress; stress kills.
- Master common sense because common sense helps you live longer.
III. The Takeaway
Health is like money: we never truly appreciate it until we lose it. For this reason, it would be wise to think of how we manage our bodies in terms of how we manage our funds.
In short, because engraved on our gravestones will be a birthday and a death-day, perhaps the wisest thing we can do is strive to extend that dash in the middle as far as possible.
I don't expect to live forever, but I do intend to hang on as long as possible.