Monday, March 12, 2012

Get a Few More Years by Plugging Into Your Community

Even though I spent the last week working on some fiction writing, I have been mulling over ways to find the words to review _The Longevity Project_ which I finished up just a little over 2 weeks ago. It is a new release, so if you haven't read it yet I recommend you put it on your short list if you'd like to be around to see your eighth decade or more. The book is as fascinating as it is insightful.

In short it is the sum of the discoveries that have come out of an eighty year long study of individuals chosen in youth for their academic performance. What followed was a lifetime of detailed records of their lives which have now been used to try and discover why some lived to be 80, 90, even over 100 years old, while others winked so much earlier.

Much of what the researchers learned was counter-intuitive, like the importance of worry and how the right stress can be good for you. Even the way that you think has an impact on how long you are likely to live.

My favorite insights came from their discoveries on sociability. Provided you are not running with a hard drinking party crowd, growing your social connections throughout your community may be the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and live a long life. Let's say it again, it's that important, growing your social connections throughout your community may be the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and live a long life.

Now you might be thinking that having people that you can count on when you are having a hard time would be the key to long life, the researchers certainly did. But they were wrong. From page 164 -

"Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others tended to live to old age."

It can't be anymore clear than that. Not only does plugging into your community make the world a better place, it will make you live a longer and healthier life. You just have to go out there an do something. Join a club, volunteer, go see if you can help your neighbor mow her lawn, entertain a crying baby in the checkout line. It's all good.

It all reminds me of the poem Around the Corner by Charles Hanson Towne. Back in the forth grade my entire class was forced to memorize it, and that is about the only good thing that came out of that year. If you've not read it, here it is:

Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim
Just to show that I'm thinking of him",
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away,
"Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

If this poem had been written today, he might have concluded with the narrator dying the next day. You know what's cool though, this does not have to be you. Don't know where to start? I can recommend inviting someone over for dinner, and there is always co-housing if you can swing it, but I have other ideas too. I will get to those in future posts. are you waiting for? Take a gamble, try something, and tell us all how it goes!

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