We don't have to become spiritual gurus to live a long, healthy life, but attempting to stay in the moment helps us to achieve quality longevity. Mindfulness or mindful awareness -- the subtle process of moment-to-moment awareness of one's thoughts, feelings, and physical states -- is key to sharpening memory, expanding our minds, and staying mentally fit. Initial research suggests that this ability not only reduces stress and anxiety, but it also boosts the immune system and promotes health and healing for a variety of medical illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic pain.
This underlying principle of mindful awareness can be applied to nearly all of the Eight Essential Strategies. Having an awareness of our bodies and what is going on around us helps us maintain balance and avoid danger. Awareness of our internal sensations reminds us to stop eating when we are sated -- the key to maintaining target body weight. By integrating mindful awareness into our daily lives, we not only enjoy ourselves more and live longer, we take better care of ourselves, have a more positive outlook and feel more empathy for others.
Mindfulness often fosters a sense of spirituality, and several studies have found that people who pursue some form of spirituality live longer. Recently investigators found that visiting a house of worship just once a week can extend life expectancy by nearly a decade. Studies of patients with chronic physical illnesses have found that those who believed in God had a 30 percent lower mortality rate compared with those who felt abandoned by God. The increased longevity benefits of spirituality result from many forms, including religion, meditation, the personal belief in a higher power, and more.
Keeping our minds sharp is vital to quality longevity (Essential 2). Mental aerobics can improve memory skills, and when combined with the other essential strategies, it may extend life expectancy. A recent study found that mentally stimulating leisure activities like reading, doing crossword puzzles or playing board games, lowers the risk for Alzheimer's disease by nearly a third.
Many of the benefits of The Longevity Bible's Eight Essentials can be achieved in a remarkably short period -- as little as 14 days. My research team at UCLA conducted controlled studies to test how well volunteer subjects could improve their brain and body fitness by focusing on just four of the essential strategies: mental aerobics, physical fitness, stress management and a healthy diet.
We found that after just two weeks, the volunteers who followed the healthy longevity lifestyle program (as opposed to the control group who merely continued their usual behavior) experienced improved memory performance and brain efficiency. They also reported greater relaxation and lower levels of stress.
We observed significant physical health benefits as well. Many volunteers on the program lost weight, and experienced a significant decline in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.