So, good scientist that I am, I spent some time looking
into perceptions on aging. I discovered that despite the
scientifically validated vitality of a large swath of our
over-65 population, society as a whole has relegated that
group—and even more so, those over 75—to the land of the
“ooold”—useless, ignorant, and decrepit, if not downright
stupid. That is absolutely false!
So what does science have to say about this? What can
we do to thrive—mentally, physically, emotionally, and
spiritually—in those precious post-60 decades of our
lives? This question may be more important than we know
because according to genetics researchers, we may soon
be living a lot longer—possibly to 150 by the turn of the
century! Far better that we live our later years in optimal
health and joy rather than decline and despair.
First, the Science
Much research has analyzed how we age and what it
takes to reach the land of happy, healthy longevity. Most
of it shows a strong link between our brain and the rest
of our body. That makes sense. Every single one of the
major systems—our nervous system, hormonal system,
gastrointestinal system, immune system, and cardiovascular
system—are set up to communicate with one another. A
massive information exchange is continually occurring:
Our thoughts and our feelings release certain chemicals
from our brain. These chemicals, called neuropeptides, act
like messengers to specific receptor sites on our cells. These
receptor sites, upon receiving this mental and emotional
information, are now equipped to tell our cells how to
respond. The condition of our body is, to a surprisingly large
degree, a biochemical result of what we think and feel.
Study after study shows that positive emotions rule.
When we experience positive thoughts and feelings, like
appreciation, our brain operates more coherently and
efficiently, allowing us to function at our best. We have less
trouble focusing, our memory is sharper, and we are more
more easily tolerate the bumps and hurdles of life.
Gratitude, another important emotion, supports
cardiovascular health as well as our immune system,
according to a study published in the American
Journal of Cardiology. Researchers found that
cultivating gratitude significantly reduces stress,
which in turn boosts immune function and overall
health, both of which contribute to longevity.
A 2015 survey published in the Health Behavior
and Policy Review of more than 51,000 ethnically
diverse Americans between the ages of 45 and 84
showed that optimists are twice as likely to be in
ideal cardiovascular health as compared to pessimists.
(Optimist literally means best.)
The next step is to put appreciation, gratitude, and
optimism into action. An active and engaged lifestyle lends
itself to better mental acuity. A Dallas Lifespan Brain Study
of 300 individuals between the ages of 50 and 89 found that
the brains of people who were busy could reason better
and had better working memory, vocabulary, and ability to
remember specific events from the past.
For each of the studies mentioned here, numerous
additional examples exist showing similar results. The trend
is pretty clear: For many, if not most of us, how fast we age is
largely in our own hands.
Applying Unity Principles
If Longevity 1.0 is being mindful of such basic
information as the body’s need for healthy nutrition and
physical exercise, Longevity 2.0 is being mindful of our
overall need for positive thought and emotion. This is a
powerful spiritual principle, a core Unity understanding,
which can only be manifested through the living of it.
The simplest, easiest way I know to experience life
through positive thought and emotion is to focus as much
as possible on what we can appreciate about ourselves or a
situation, rather than to fester over what we can’t do or don’t
For many, if not
most of us, how
fast we age is
largely in our