The search for immortality has long been one of man's greatest quests. Throughout history, we have tried everything to live a longer, more fruitful life; from ingesting various herbs, spices and even metals, to trying to find the Holy Grail.
For many of us longevity is in the genes, with centenarians becoming more and more common. However, most of us will have to be content that we are on this planet for an average of three score years and ten. If you're aiming for a longer life, you might find the hints and helpers below will help you live a happier, healthier, and hopefully, a longer life.
Nutrition and Exercise
Let them eat cake.
- Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI of France
This stunning piece of bad advice from this notorious French queen upon hearing that her people were starving is not the best piece of advice for leading a long life, especially considering that she was beheaded a few years later. A diet of cake won't do you any good, but good food and a healthy eating plan are certainly among the most important factors in achieving a long life.
We've all read the labels on the back of food packaging which inform us about how much of this mineral or that vitamin we're supposed to consume per day. Actually, those figures are for the average person. Before you start on any health plan, you should work out what your daily requirements are. The best way to do this is to go and visit your doctor for advice.
Some people ingest slightly less than their daily recommended dose of food. Apparently the idea is to hover in the state between peckishness and complete satisfaction, by eating a measured amount of food and exercising. That way you'll find that you're a little bit hungry at the end of the day, and strangely that you'll have more energy. This peculiar situation is supposed to be a fallback to ancient days. When Neolithic man was a bit hungry, his body would compensate by giving him extra energy for a better performance on the next hunt. In today's modern world, however, we can benefit from this extra energy by eating well and doing some exercise.
Changing your eating habits as well as adjusting your timetable to allow a couple hours to get the blood pumping around your body each day should put you on the road to long life. However, it won't help all that much if you jog, sword fight and take yoga lessons if you still insist on downing seven pints of lager a night.
Fluids play a major part in our diets. Some of us consume too much alcohol and not enough water. However, a little bit of alcohol won't do you any harm according to previous generations. Our grandparents' generation has sworn by a dose of spirits taken either at night, before going to bed, or just after waking up. A tot of rum or cognac should do the trick. This practice is said to encourage the heart to pump the blood faster and to improve circulation.
Inhabitants of Mediterranean Europe swear by a glass of red wine with each main meal. This has recently been proved to be beneficial to both the heart and blood - if taken in moderation, of course.
Water is the true elixir of life and its properties are well known. Many believe that a glass of water in the morning will help you live longer. It's worth bearing in mind that some believe that bottled water is actually more harmful than tap water as it denies your body access to the natural germs that are in tap water, thus weakening your immune system.
Starvation and Celibacy
In recent studies, rodents fed poor diets, from middle to late life, lived longer than those who were allowed to eat normally. Also male rodents who weren't allowed to mate also lived longer.
The point is that those life forms without an inherent penchant for sex would live longer, which makes a twisted sort of sense, since if you're not procreating then you need to exist longer than those who are.
Whether or not this model applies to humans is unknown, but why you'd want to live like this is something of a mystery.
A Few Wise Words
We all know that there are a few golden rules to observe to stay fit and healthy and thus live longer. For those of us who may have forgotten what these are, here's a gentle reminder...
Avoid cigarettes. Never take up the habit yourself, and never go anywhere that is going to be filled with smoke, ie places like the pub, an indoor concert or a sporting event.
About one third of smokers die of smoking related diseases. The detrimental health effects of smoking continue for years after you quit, so though giving up smoking is an excellent start on the road to health, it will be a little while before you are completely in the clear from diseases such as lung cancer.
You could give up meat entirely in favour of a vegetarian diet - it's possible that could help you live a long life. However, commercial vegetables come with preservatives, pesticides, and other chemicals. So, you're better off growing your own, buying organic or scrubbing really hard.
Excessive alcohol shortens the life span as well, and should be consumed in moderation.
Frequent long-term direct sunlight ages the skin and can cause cancer. If you absolutely must be out of doors in the sun, wear a large hat and copious quantities of sunblock.
Avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. The percentage of unhealthy fats is highest in red meat than in any other type of food.
Since eating unhealthy quantities of meat causes fatty deposits to build up in the arteries of the heart and the brain's blood vessels, and since these conditions are known to cause heart attacks and strokes (which together form the leading cause of death), red meat is probably best avoided.
Drive safely, and never drink and drive.
Exercise. This should be done for at least half-an-hour three times a week.
Eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink a decent amount of water.
Remain socially involved into your elder years. Keep in touch with family and friends.
The general rule seems to be everything in moderation. Combined with exercise, the above advice will certainly enable you to live healthily in this era of fast food and even faster living. Do all of these things, and you may live longer. Or, you may not, but it will definitely seem longer.
Positive Mental Attitude
While it is true that we can live healthily, and therefore longer, by watching what we consume, many believe that we should train our minds to think healthily too.
Long life is very much based on attitude. Who would want to live forever if they didn't enjoy life? The best way to live is to remain young at heart and mind. Laughter helps you carry on through life a day at a time, while in times of difficulty. Having people who care for you keeps you happy. Enjoying life and taking it with a sense of humour keeps you young. As long as you touch the lives of others, you will be immortal in their hearts and minds. Here is one Researcher's account;
When someone well-loved dies, that person lives forever in memory, going on for generations as long as someone can show you a picture and say 'That was your great, great, great (whoever)', or can tell a story passed down generation to generation about a long-gone family member. The thrill of my son's life was receiving something that belonged to his great-great-grandfather, then hearing passed down stories about him. Grandpa Charlie still lives on in all our memories.
The rule of thumb seems to be, focus on a good life in order to forestall death.
If you're too caught up with modern metropolitan life or just can't be bothered to do any of the above, here are some alternatives to healthy living and eating that may work. You never know...
In certain Chinese cultures, it is considered bad luck to celebrate the birthday early on in life, as this is seen as tempting fate. However, later in life, birthdays are marked with great celebration. Special noodle dishes are served and the length of the noodles is supposed to symbolise and promote longevity.
The Witch's Way
Mother Nature has supplied many herbs and plants which are said to promote general well-being such as lavender, red cedarwood, guta kola, rosemary and sage. Rocks are also used to promote longevity; try using agate, fossils, jade and petrified wood.
So, you've surrounded yourself with all the necessary rocks and plants, is there anything else you can do? Actually yes there is. Find a nice big elm, oak, or maple tree, and bury a penny among its roots. Chant the following to the tree.
I offer thee
This mortal coin
As gift and sign:
Guard my fate
Both soon and late,
And let my rust
Grow green at last.
Then set the burial with a stone, and don't go back until four weeks, or a lunar month, have passed. Then dig up the coin, and if it has changed to green, 'the forest's years will be your own'.