That is the basis of research* which has established that people who saw the things they did as being worthwhile, were healthier as they aged. They had a higher concentration of vitamin D in their blood, healthier cholesterol and lower levels of inflammation. It is claimed the findings could help efforts to ‘tease out better ways to promote a good life in middle and older age’.
“The power of positive thought is hardly new,” says a Tonic forever young therapist. ” Even the Government recognises the dangers of loneliness and that too much time on your own, or in front of the television, makes life feel less meaningful.
“In fact, therapists have been preaching for decades that positive thinking is a key to staying healthy in old age. The problem is no-one is listening. And there is no point in trying to teach old dogs new tricks, as by the time you get to retirement age it is too often too late to make lifestyle changes. NOW is the time for action”.
How to stay forever young
So does this latest research add anything new? No – all it has done is put numbers to the misery. Those who judged life most worthwhile were 16% more likely to be married and 13% less likely to live alone. They were 13% more likely to see friends at least weekly, and much more likely to be a member of an organisation, from church to Neighbourhood Watch or a social club.
The study also found those whose lives held least meaning spent almost twice as much time alone during the day – more than six hours on average. They spent 50 minutes more a day watching television.
The power of positive thinking to keep you forever young
The lead researcher said: ‘Social engagement is a vital component of living a meaningful life. Being a member of an organisation may be meaningful in itself, but it can also provide social contact.
“Finding meaning when you are sitting on your own is quite tricky, since for most people this is linked to their relationships. We were struck by how important this feeling of meaning was, with people who saw their lives as meaningful being much more healthy as well as being socially engaged.”
Get rich & be happier
These people were around a third less likely to be depressed, were less obese and were a fifth more likely to sleep well. They walked faster, ate better and were less likely to be disabled or suffer from chronic illnesses.
The conclusion is that a sense of meaning can give people the motivation to live more healthily, with those who see life as most worthwhile are more likely to exercise.
To get that sense of meaning, it is important to spend time with other people. And that is the rub. People need people for change to happen. In this country the elderly have less and less value, with far too many dumped into God’s Waiting Rooms (sorry, the polite term is ‘retirement homes’). In other cultures the extended family is the norm where all ages stay together.
Now that would be a Government policy worth trying, though it is unlikely the younger generation would vote for it! Meanwhile, there are two saving graces >
- There is always Tonic.
- Failing memories protect the elderly. In the words of Norman Wisdom …. ‘as you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two‘!