Living to 100 Isn’t Easy
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I recommend the Netflix series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zone.
“Aging expert” Dan Buettner visits areas worldwide, including one city in the U.S., with a disproportionate number of centenarians.
I don’t want to ruin the series if you haven’t watched it, but the essence of the “secrets” isn’t esoteric:
- Eat plant-based foods.
- Limit your intake of meats and processed foods.
- The more movement is part of your day, the better.
- Have a purpose for getting up in the morning.
- Surround yourself with loving family and friends.
- Limit stress to what you can control.
- Believe in a higher power.
There are some nuances.
It’s possible that a secret is consuming purple sweet potatoes (based on those from Okinawa), complex carbohydrates (Sardinia), or herbal tea and wine (Ikaria, Greece).
But the overall takeaway isn’t surprising: Engage in physical activity as a routine part of your day, eat in moderation, maintain a positive attitude, and avoid loneliness by surrounding yourself with a supportive community.
It doesn’t seem that difficult. Why don’t more of us follow this advice?
A significant hurdle in committing to a healthy lifestyle is our tendency to seek immediate gratification. When we’re faced with choosing a delicious, fatty burger now or the abstract reward of a healthier body in the future, the immediate pleasure of the unhealthy choice often wins.
It’s not entirely our fault.
The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a critical role in our decision-making process. Dopamine is released when we experience something pleasurable. The prospect of immediate rewards triggers a more robust dopamine response than delayed rewards.
We value immediate rewards because our brain seeks a dopamine “hit.”
Cognitive dissonance is the psychological stress experienced when simultaneously holding two or more contradictory beliefs. You may know that exercising is good for you, but you also enjoy lounging on your couch.
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Your mind tries to harmonize these conflicting beliefs, often resulting in rationalization. You might convince yourself that you don't have time to exercise or that one more “cheat” meal won't matter.
Before adopting healthy behaviors, we must learn how to overcome cognitive dissonance.
Fear of failure
Committing to a new diet or exercise routine involves taking a risk – the risk of failure.
Psychologically, the fear of failure can be a powerful demotivator. According to the theory of self-efficacy developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, your belief in your ability to succeed affects whether you will undertake a particular task. If you've tried and failed, you're less likely to try again.
A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity supports the idea that a higher level of self-efficacy (the belief in your power to make changes or affect situations) is associated with better adherence to physical activity and dietary practices.
Living to 100 while maintaining your quality of life is a worthy goal. But don’t be too hard on yourself (or your clients) if you can’t adhere to a healthy lifestyle.
Your behavior is motivated by more than laziness or lack of willpower. It’s a complex interplay of psychological and neuroscientific factors.
Understanding these underlying mechanisms and the power of self-efficacy offers insights into how best to motivate ourselves to make healthier choices.
Dan trains executives and employees in the lessons based on the research in his latest book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone. His digital marketing firm makes extensive use of artificial intelligence to help advisors increase their SEO rankings and improve their marketing and helps advisors integrate AI into their practices.
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