Friday, March 25, 2016

Studies on Healthy Centenarians

This is the data from Dr. Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is based on longitudinal study of 500 healthy elders.

At age 70 his centenarian data:

    37 percent were overweight

    8 percent were obese

    37 percent were smokers (for an average of 31 years)

    44 percent reported only moderate exercise

    20 percent never exercised at all

Despite this at the age of 100 the people in this study had 60 percent lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Depression and other psychiatric illnesses are almost nonexistent.

There are many studies done on Centenarians that involve asking them to try to explain why they have lived so long. When reviewing these interviews, there are patterns and themes that come up in every study.

It is interesting when doing a review of the literature on Centenarians; I found it doesn’t seem to matter where they live or what their particular culture, when it comes to their beliefs and the behaviors they seem to have intuitively established the same beliefs and behaviors that foster longevity.

    Staying mentally active and always learning something new.

    Keeping a positive attitude.

    Friends and family important part of their daily life.

    Being social with a strong social network.

    Faith/spirituality is important.

    Healthy oppositional to the tribal rules that don’t fit their beliefs. (Breaking unnecessary rules)

    Don’t like to be around old people whose conversations revolve around aches and pain, or doctor visits.

    Don’t like to go to the doctor and most have not gone in years. They say their doctors died a long time ago.

    Live in moderation.

    Keep moving naturally, remaining active doing things they enjoy.

    Have a strong sense of purpose.

    Have routines that shed their stress like kicking back with something they savor, taking a nap, prayer or mediation.

    Eat less meat.

    The Mediterranean diet was most popular among centenarians of various locations and cultures.

    Drink alcohol in moderation.

A few more interesting statistics:

    Eight of every nine Centenarians are women.

    19 percent use cell phones.

    12 percent use the Internet.

    3 percent have participated in online dating.

Some findings from Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s book, Counterclockwise:

    Women who think they look younger after having their hair colored show a decrease in blood pressure and are rated more youthful in photos even when the pictures do not show their hair.

    Being married to someone younger tends to lengthen your life

    Being married to someone older tends to shorten your life.

    Prematurely bald men see themselves as older and, therefore, age faster.

Mario Martinez in his book Body Codes has interesting findings from his Centenarian Study

·       “Without expanded consciousness to match our lifespan, we are dying longer instead of living longer.”

·       Most Centenarians view themselves to be much younger than their age.

·       Most Centenarians enjoy and seek out novelty and wisdom when facing challenges.

·       They defied cultural norms that do not make sense to them their entire life.

·       When you meet healthy centenarians, you realize they don’t fit the stereotype of their age.

·       “Resilience, perseverance, creativity, and flexibility are all attributes I have found in every healthy centenarian I have studied, in cultures spanning five continents.”

·       They continue to plan for the future. When asked about his garden a man who was 106 told the interviewer “wait until you see next year’s garden. It is going to be bigger and much better.”

·       They do not hold grudges. They have an outlook that enabled them to forgive easily and often used an attitude of gratitude replacing anger. “I am so grateful that my guardian angels were with me that day or things could have been a lot worse.”

·       Martinez found that Centenarians made “joyful choices” rather than forced abstinence.

·       Centenarians followed the middle way having no compulsive behaviors; but knew how to savory pleasure. One man reported that he never smoked during the day, but he did have “a good cigar every night before bedtime.”

·       They experience the depth of emotional and physical pain with acceptance.

·       They continue to be curious and interested in learning new things.

·       They have the belief that it is never too late to engage in passion. Many singles are dating and seeking a new partner. Some marry again in their 100’s.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Power of Savoring

“We see God face to face every hour, and know the savor of Nature.”-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sky was warmly lit by the setting sun with colors of pomegranate pink and soft orange. I watched how the pink, orange haze cast over the waters of Clearwater Beach creating a paradise of beauty as I waited for the sun to set.  My skin felt a chill by a slight breeze as the air became cooler with the setting sun.  I was sitting at the Tiki bar and grill sipping an exotic drink called Shipwreck. Reggae music played creating an atmosphere of play.

Suddenly I found myself looking at the Triple Fudge Delight dessert being delivered to the table next to me. It looked luscious, and my fondness for chocolate kicked in immediately. I could smell the coffee being poured into her cup. It was my last night in Florida, and so there was something to celebrate; a guilt-free indulgence. The waiter dressed in casual garb and moving to the music smiled as I order the Triple Fudge Delight with a cup of coffee and cream. He beamed with even more enthusiasm when he brought it to my table. I decided to savor every moment of this experience by using Mindful eating for a perfect sense trip.

First, I observed the chef’s presentation of creamy chocolate drizzled on the plate. The chocolate torte covered in hot fudge and whipped cream was a beautiful sight indeed. There is something about hot fudge and the way it glistens when it is melted. Next, I noticed the incredible smell of a perfect cup of coffee. I cut into the decadent layers of chocolate and watched as it crumbled with each fork cut. Placing it in my mouth, the silky-smooth texture that came forth brought sensations of pure pleasure. The taste as it turned to liquid brought pure bliss. I savored each bite observing my feeling of anticipation for the next bite. I was in love with chocolate more than I have ever been before. The whipped cream was the perfect complement as together with the chocolate; they melted in my mouth leaving an irresistible taste and desires to eat more. Once the plate was empty, my heart was open and full of joy. I enjoyed something sweet and luxurious in the midst of a picture postcard beautiful environment, savoring every moment. This is what feeds my soul, a perfect sense trip.

Savoring is a concept that is used in the field of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on positive experiences and emotions and their effects on people’s lives.  Fred Bryant is considered to be the father of savoring research. He is a social psychologist at Loyola University, Chicago. He introduced the concept of savoring as” being mindfully engaged and aware of one’s feelings during positive events. By being engaged, one can increase happiness in both the short and long run. It is a deliberate effort to make a positive experience last.” When we think of savoring, we often think of food and taste. Fred Bryant’s research shows that any positive experience can be savored. Even the memory of a positive event can be savored. As I was writing the above narrative, I still can remember my sense trip of a few months ago and continue to draw pleasure from it. It is like eating your cake and having it too because there are no calories.

In his book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, Bryant says, “Savoring is like swishing the experience around in your mind.” He has identified several benefits of savoring; improved mental and physical health, stronger relationships and having the ability to find more creative solutions to problems. Here are some suggestions from the savoring researchers as ways to develop savoring as a skill. I believe these ideas can also help you develop a savoring habit just as Mindfulness practices rewire our brain for awareness, equanimity, and emotional freedom.

    “People who savor together stay together.” (Bryant) Studies about the way people react to positive events have shown that those who share positive feelings with others are happier overall than those who do not. Is this another benefit of Facebook to observe?

    Bryant says that we should congratulate ourselves whenever possible. Research shows that people who savor their successes are more likely to enjoy the outcome and be more successful in the future.

    Researchers tell us that by sharpening our sensory perceptions we are flexing our savoring muscles. By taking the time to get in touch with our senses, we are becoming more consciously aware.

    Get absorbed in a special moment by deliberately turning off thoughts and absorb positive feelings. Studies of positive experiences indicate that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or in play. Losing sense of time and place is a state psychologist call, “flow.”

    Expressing gratitude can make us happier. Bryant’s research suggests that saying “thank you” out loud can make us happier because we are affirming our positive feelings.  He states that thinking of a new blessing for which you have never given thanks before each night before going to bed, would be a good practice. Recalling the experience through being grateful will help us savor it.

    Positive experiences can help us to soothe and balance negative ones. When two things are held in the mind at the same time, they connect to each other. “What fires together wires together.” Painful feelings and memories can be attached to a positive feeling of comfort or closeness you feel when somebody is supporting you through a difficult time.

    Good feelings today increase the likelihood of good feelings tomorrow. Savoring can be used as a way to increase positive emotions. Positive becomes the norm rather than the brain’s bias for negativity.  Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has shown that positive emotions don’t just feel good at the moment; they have other benefits. Positive emotions increase resilience, optimism, and can counter the effect of trauma. They promote a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress.