To embrace and live a long life, compassion towards yourself may be one of the most important tools. Compassion allows you to digest and integrate suffering. You will not be able to escape suffering, but you will be able to weave that pain into a beautiful tapestry called life.
Once you have given yourself space for compassion, there is space for grief, for suffering, and for joy. In every moment, you have a choice to see things as generally positive or negative. You may feel “negative” emotions such as anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, judgment.
Your health arises not from your ability to push away or shove these negative feelings into a corner or out of sight. Rather, it arises from giving these feelings space and a voice.
Your resilience comes from quiet introspection and understanding all of the emotions and experiences of living.
There is darkness and there is light.
Healthy aging and longevity require deep wells of inner compassion. When you feel and not just pay lip service to that compassion, you are ready to move on to the next journey of life.
Yet life rarely presents clear forks in the road. Life is full of complexities and shades of gray.
The brain or the mind has a job, and that is to keep us safe. Fear and negativity had a role in our evolution and survival. Vigilance and seeing things through a negative lens helped us survive at one point. Those who were fearful and vigilant survived more often than those who may have been more carefree. When humans anticipated a threat or attack and that was a correct assessment, negative thinking helped people to survive.
As humans, we are always growing, learning, and watching out for danger. Our brains are wired to look for things to fear. But this is not the only way of looking at things.
A positive outlook, even in the face of not so positive life circumstances, seems to be a personality trait that may be associated with longevity.
And to survive eighty years and beyond, a certain kind of resilience and reframing will be necessary.
In 2017, Sardinians age 90–101 were interviewed about their life histories and beliefs. Younger relatives of this group of nano and octogenarians were also queried on their long-lived family members’ personalities.
Researchers found that these older adults exhibited better mental health than younger people. Despite a decline in physical vigor, older adults of Sardinia had a mostly positive outlook. They were filled with hope and optimism, despite what life had dealt them.
It seems that to live to be 100, one either becomes more positive or perhaps optimism helps one survive past a certain age. In Ayurveda, the last part of life after the age of 50, is influenced by the air element which is expressed through a positive attitude and inspirational point of view.
However, if you spent the whole life in worry, anxiety, and negative thinking, you’ve laid down the neural pathways, like deep grooves, so that you will step into the older age and continue to feel in the same way no matter what circumstance – even when you retire, even when all around you is calm – your personal experience of life will still remain strained and not enjoyable.
To make your later years and your todays happy and healthy, you need to start to intentionally cultivate your predisposition.
Here is the little mindfulness practice you can begin with today.
It is a Gratitude practice. I love those!
Two easy steps to do each day:
- When you wake up give thanks and blessing for three things in your life that come to mind – it can be as simple as thanking your yummy bed, or welcoming the morning rays of light, or someone you love who supports you, or thanking your beautiful body for one more day on this Earth… whatever comes to mind!
- Before you go to sleep, give thanks and blessings for three more things – something that happened, something that you experienced, some inner growth that happened, a person that you love who supports you…… it can be anything.
Do this every day, and see how your outlook begins to evolve!