The band ‘Queen’ famously sang “Who wants to live forever”. We may not be there yet, but lifespan scientists say we’re not far off. And in fact experts say that we are about 10-15 years away from escape velocity. What they mean by that is that for every extra year lived, science will have advanced to keep you alive for another year longer. And so the first step is staying alive and healthy long enough for science to catch up. Master any ONE of the six keys to longevity and mental health and you are likely to succeed in ALL of them. Why? Because all of the 6 keys to improved lifespan, mental, and physical health have one effect in common. They help you feel good consistently. And when you feel good., you tend to make better choices. Better choices in what you eat, what you do, who you spend time with, and what is important to you. That said., the best strategy is always to focus on all 6 keys. And what will become obvious as you read on, is how interrelated the 6 keys are. Mental health is a topic that should be high on everyone’s list of things to get better at.
What are the 6 keys to a long healthy life?
The 6 keys: Diet – Exercise – Sleep – Meditation – Social interaction – Purpose
There is a ton of research supporting all of these 6 keys as being fundamental to health and lifespan. I’m not going to include stats in the main text. Because you can find them in the provided links if you so desire. Just know that the evidence is significant. All of these 6 keys will extend your lifespan in a way that includes a healthy body and brain. And in this article I am going to focus mainly on mental health and by association., longevity. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, medicine has done a good job at extending our lives physically, but mental health is lagging behind. And as we live longer, challenges like dementia and Alzheimer’s become more common and harder to treat. Physical longevity without mental health is pointless.
Secondly, mental health in general has been on a decline for the last few decades. Anxiety, depression, and disorders of the mind are more prevalent today than ever before. Life and change happen faster every year. And many people don’t have the variablity of mind, mental resilience, or energy to deal with that.
The connection between longevity and mental health
The subject of longevity and lifespan is a big one. And a lot of money and focus is being given to finding ways to live longer. It’s no surprise that when people have all their basic needs covered, that living longer becomes attractive. And as mentioned above, the biggest challenge in extending lifespan is in mental health. Because there is currently no reliable or proven drug or surgery that can significantly slow down or reverse cognitive decline as we age. Although science is getting close. And yet there are many more options to slow down or reverse physical decline. Therefore the two topics of longevity and mental health are strongly linked.
What is the role of Hormesis in longevity and mental health
Hormesis is a type of high adaptivity to mild and short stress. And is an important factor in longevity and sustained health.
Hormesis in the brain and body applies to most of the 6 keys to longevity and mental health. And in particular the topic relates to exercise, diet, and meditation. Hormesis in exercise is obvious. When you stress muscles, they adapt and get stronger in a way that extends health and lifespan. And interestingly, this same idea is showing promise within diet choices. Time restricted eating or intermittent fasting is the practice of only eating for a short period of time each day. Typically for a maximum of 8 out of every 24 hours. And current research suggests that this form of ‘stress’ could potentially improve health and lifespan. Also, short amounts of mental stress builds resilience and adds to a healthy lifestyle. And this is complimentary to meditation producing thought variability. Because this balance makes it easier to switch between active and passive thinking.
Increasing longevity and mental health through diet
KEY NUMBER ONE.
We all know that what we eat effects how we feel and our health. So there’s nothing new there. However, the effect of diet on mental health, has taken some interesting turns. And when you combine this with the subject of longevity., what is the ideal diet? The answer isn’t being vegan or vegetarian as some may think. In fact, without due care those options can result in deficiencies and sub optimal health. The leading researched diet for longevity and healthy life is what is referred to as a Mediterranean diet. And a longevity based mediterranean diet is one made up primarily of fruit and vegetables with some fish and olive oil., and only small amounts of meat. And of course red wine, haha. But it’s the antioxidants in the wine that are beneficial., not the alcohol. And the fish could potentially be substituted for making sure adequate amounts of omega fatty acids are consumed.
Vegan and vegetarian diets
It has been easier to study longevity with people living off a Mediterranean diet than vegan or vegetarian. As it takes a large population and at least a generation to do so. So, it’s possible that if a large enough section of people could be studied for generations, that vegan or vegetarian options might score well also for longevity and mental health. And there are certainly many reasons why a vegetable rich diet is better than a meat rich diet. One of those is the higher content of antioxidants in a plant-based diet. So that alone may lead to the discovery of vegetable based diets being as good or better than a Mediterranean diet. So far however, the evidence is thin. And there are challenges to be avoided with vegan diets that could lead to health problems if used long term. One example being an extreme raw vegan diet. This has the highest chance of giving problems long term because certain nutrient content is only available after cooking.
Does the microbiome affect mental health
Recent studies have shown a link between what you eat and how you feel emotionally. Specifically, what you eat influences the balance of bacteria in your gut. This gut environment is called the microbiome. And research has shown that the microbiome may be responsible for some of our most common mental health disorders. For example, Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite, mood, and even pain. And about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut microbiome. Therefore, It makes sense that this environment doesn’t just help you digest food, but also guides your emotions and mental health. We all know the expression to trust your gut. And this focus on a healthy microbiome leads also to increased lifespan. Ongoing studies are showing microbiome links to many common disorders like anxiety and depression. And even more complex challenges like autism.
Transferring bacteria from the microbiome of one organism to another has shown promise in transferring certain mental and physical health attributes as well. In other words, bacteria from a healthy person., could be used to make an unhealthy person healthy. And pro-biotics are being used with some success to help with mental health. An example is using pro-biotics to limit or reverse cognitive decline. Recent research even shows that mixing with friends is good for your gut health. In an experiment with monkeys, the more social they were., the healthier the microbiome was of those individuals. It seems that social interaction improves the microbiome by good bacteria being transferred and improving the strength and resilience of the gut.
Diet quick tips:
Science is showing that many of our physical, longevity and mental health issues are caused by inflammation. And certain foods can help or hinder this.
- Eliminate or significantly reduce sugar in your diet. Because sugar has almost no nutritional benefit and is a contributing cause of many health issues. And one of those issues is that sugar is pro-inflammatory.
- By contrast, Turmeric has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. And studies show it to be as or more effective than most medications for inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis. Adding Turmeric (preferably with black pepper) to food can help reduce inflammation. Although you may need to take it as a supplement, as it has a strong flavour so is not suitable for some cooking situations.
- Fermented foods and drinks have good live bacteria in them. Add them to your diet to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Foods like kefir, yogurt with live active cultures, pickled vegetables, tempeh, kombucha tea, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and live apple cider vinegar.
Increase longevity and mental health with exercise
KEY NUMBER TWO.
Just like with diet, it’s no secret that exercise improves health and increases how long people live. But what some people fail to understand, is that exercise doesn’t just make the body fit. Exercise also makes the mind fit. Exercise is key to metal health. And numerous studies show that exercise reduces stress, elevates mood and can halt age related mental decline. This applies to both aerobic type exercise and resistance training. And better sleep, energy and social interaction are also common effects of exercise. And the benefits don’t require spending hours in the gym either. What is encouraging is that even a small amount of exercise can give benefit. Even short two minute ‘activity snacks’ are enough to maintain muscle mass, which is an indicator of both longevity and mental health. Exercise and longevity go hand in hand. And it’s easier than you may think to get benefit.
Exercise quick tips:
In most cases the body responds better to more frequent shorter periods of exercise than fewer longer ones. And walking is still one of the best forms of exercise available for longevity and mental health.
- Walking is an easy and enjoyable way to get the benefits of exercise. And can easily be added to your day. Even if that means getting off the bus or train a stop before where you usually would and walking the rest. And try walking at a pace slightly faster than normal. More of a purposeful walk than a casual stroll. Because the idea is to get the heart rate up slightly from your usual level. Also, try walking in the early morning and you’ll get extra benefits. See below in the sleep quick tips.
- One of the most popular current forms of exercise is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This typically has short bursts of high effort with periods of rest or low activity in between. And using the idea in a more subtle way with walking can produce better results than staying at the same pace. For example, add short increases in pace to your walking. So for example, after walking at a steady pace for a few minutes, increase the pace for 2-3 min. And then return to the previous walking pace. You can do this for a quick 10 minute walk (HIIT walking), or repeat it as many times as you like. This idea is called recovery under load. Because your body is recovering while still exerting, and this results in better fitness gains and resilience. One easy way to do this is to walk where there are up and down hills. Because the hills naturally give you the higher intensity periods.
How does sleep affect longevity and mental health
KEY NUMBER THREE.
Thankfully most people don’t have any issues with sleep. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. And some neuroscientists would argue that sleep quality is the most important factor in cognition, longevity and mental health as we get older. Because there is a direct correlation between sleep quality and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia. So regular sleep is vital to longevity. And the lack of quality sleep becomes a cycle that makes the symptoms worse. Tiredness even in young people affects memory, concentration, mood, energy, and motivation to name a few. And with a lack of motivation., all the other 5 keys to longevity and mental health suffer also. I tend to agree with the science that says sleep and mental health are closely related and should be at the top of everyone’s list to master and improve. And I have written a comprehensive guide to better sleep to help with this side of health linked below. Included are many little-known tricks you can use to make big improvements to this vital time of each day.
Sleep quick tips:
The better sleep series on this website has many useful ways to improve your sleep. Here’s just a couple. Light and the timing of light exposure are a big key to sleeping well. And the body and mind like consistency.
- Morning light exposure resets your internal body clock (circadian rhythm). And your body clock is what helps you feel alert or sleepy at the right times. The effects of light on sleep and mood are well known. Light exposure can help boost your levels of mood enhancing hormones like serotonin (alertness, happiness hormone). And this in turn will also improve your sleep that night as serotonin gets converted to melatonin (sleep hormone) at night. Make time in your day to get up early and get outside to get maximum benefit. By contrast, light at night can disrupt your sleep. So, try to limit artificial lighting close to bedtime and use warm white bulbs that have less blue light in them. See the better sleep series for more on that.
- The body and mind like routine. Consistent bedtimes and consistent waking times will go a long way to helping you sleep better. So try to be consistent most days, even the weekends. The sweet spot for going to bed for adults is 10pm. Because this is when a healthy circadian rhythm has melatonin at it’s highest. Set yourself a routine of winding down an hour before this. And preferably leave phones, laptops and TV alone. Social media browsing although common, is not the way to prepare for bed. And research shows that the optimal sleeping time is 7 hours for most adults (30-70 yrs). Although 7-9 hours is more commonly stated. So don’t worry if you wake up early. Use that early time to do something for you. Like go for a walk.
How meditation increases longevity and mental health
KEY NUMBER FOUR.
The ability to switch off and let go of stress is fundamental to health. And unfortunately, in a fast paced world this needs to be something you do purposely. You can’t rely on stillness and silence finding you., you need to create it. But neither do you need to use traditional meditation methods to get the benefit. A walk in nature can do it. And this can add to your exercise also. Meditation practices can do wonders for your mental health. And added to meditative practice is the idea of gratitude. Being grateful for what you have gives power to the other keys of longevity and mental health. And another bonus of gratitude practices is that it encourages mindfulness. Because to be grateful, you need to be present. Longevity research has even linked mindfulness to changes in DNA.
Meditation quick tips:
There are a broad range of ways to meditate. And the best meditation method is the one that you use regularly. Even a 2 minute break from your usual activities can reset your mind ready for the next few hours.
- One of the simplest methods of meditating is focusing on the breath. Because this brings awareness into the present moment. And is often included in meditation and yoga practices. A more specific use of breath focus is breathwork. And this extends the practice of focus into purposely changing the breath. Try a mixture of pure focus on the breath without changing it, and purposely changing it. For example., try breathing in for a count of 4 seconds, and out for a count of 6 seconds. Exhaling for longer than you inhale, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. And this is known as the rest and recover state. So doing this will significantly reduce stress and improve energy levels.
- Nature is like meditation in physical form. Getting outside amongst trees and wildlife is an easy and enjoyable way to get meditation type benefits. And can be combined with exercise and gratitude practices. Plus, as mentioned above., sunlight exposure in the morning has a big impact on sleep and mood. Research shows that people who live near green spaces tend to live longer, have better mental health, and have lower rates of illness. And recent studies show that even just looking at trees can reduce the rates of cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality.
Longevity and mental health is increased by social interaction
KEY NUMBER FIVE.
Loneliness isn’t just emotionally painful., it’s also bad for your health and lifespan. Loving relationships and good friends are an important part of a long and healthy life. And married people tend to live longer than single people on average. We all need time alone. But connection to others feeds all the other keys to longevity and mental health. And research shows consistently that having a network of people around you for support and enjoyment, extends your lifespan and healthspan.
There seems to be a particularly strong relationship between exercise, social interaction, and purpose. Because the three feed off each other in a beneficial loop.
Social interaction quick tips:
A problem shared is a problem halved. Ask for help and support when you are struggling. Most people are more than happy to help and will often be grateful for company even if it’s to discuss problems. And you likely already know people who consider supporting others as part of their purpose in life. Even if they wouldn’t label it that way.
- There is a saying that ‘you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. Choose who you spend time with. That doesn’t mean you should abandon all your friends if they aren’t a match to your ideal future plans. But maybe you need to tip the balance toward people who are positive and active in pursuing goals. And those sorts of people will naturally have a balance of the 6 keys also, which gives you more opportunity to follow them yourself.
- Join a group. Find something new to learn and meet like minded people. Research shows that learning something new (like a language or dancing) can slow or reverse mental decline as we age. And the key seems to be that the new skill should be unfamiliar and mentally demanding.
A sense of purpose increases longevity and mental health
KEY NUMBER SIX.
Purpose and passion (or strong interest), are driving factors that motivate people to learn new things. And so purpose effects mental health. Because an active mind focused on achieving goals influences the development and maintenance of the neural networks in the brain. And learning new things keeps the brain in a neuroplastic state. Neuroplasticity is the brains’ ability to rewire itself and this happens constantly. The term ‘use it or lose it’ applies here. Because if you stop using your ability to learn and remember new things., you lose the ability over time. And the brain is clever in this way. That which you give attention to is considered important and is therefore given priority in brain function. Life purpose has been shown in research to predict longevity and mental health. Partly by building resilience and speed of recovery from stressful events. And also due to how having a purpose filters into the other 5 keys to longevity and mental health.
A sense of purpose results in a lower risk of death
In fact a sense of purpose has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality. IE: Having a purpose in life reduces your risk of dying from ANY cause. The linked study shows that at any time, people with the highest sense of purpose have a 15.2 percent mortality risk from any cause. This compares to people with the lowest sense of purpose who have a 36.5 percent mortality risk from any cause. There is a good chance that purpose will have you interacting with others and moving. And so, it’s particularly interesting that being more active in life reduces your risk of dying from any cause. Because it seems that trying to stay safe by not doing anything is risky.
Life purpose quick tips:
Purpose is created, not found. And this requires self-knowledge and experience. Because finding a purpose may take time and effort. Very few people ‘fall into’ their purpose. But this does not mean that your purpose needs to be grand and life changing work. It could be as easy to describe as providing for your family, or helping out in a food kitchen for the homeless. And often what you are passionate about leads to or becomes your purpose. And this can change with significant life events like career or relationship changes.
Viktor Frankl is famous for surviving a Nazi concentration camp where many others didn’t. And he wrote in his book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ that., “Those who have a why to live, can bear with almost any how.” “Equally, the absence of why can make unbearable almost any how.” What is your why? And what do you love to do? What gives your day meaning? Focus on meeting new people and trying new things. And consider why you do what you do. Adding mindfulness and gratitude practices will help you find and stay focused on your purpose also.
- For many people, a purpose or passion is something that gets them up in the morning and keeps them going into the evening. Research shows that there are four key factors that promote meaning and purpose in life. 1. Physical and mental well-being: Take care of our body and mind. Meditation and stress reducing techniques along with exercise are key here. 2. Belonging and recognition: Get involved in something larger than yourself. Something where you feel valued and get validation. Find your community. 3. Personally treasured activities: Find hobbies and activities that feel good to do. And spend time with family and friends. 4. Spiritual closeness and connectedness: Connect with nature and foster a sense of all living things being interrelated. And this may or may not include religion or spiritual practices.
- If you’re not growing., you’re dying. Having a purpose involves having a growth mindset. And a growth mindset is two things. An understanding that the solution to any challenge is added skills and knowledge. And a desire to acquire that skill and knowledge. Two of the biggest obstacles to finding your purpose are a need for consistency and certainty., and limiting beliefs. People with a growth mindset believe that success is determined by time and effort. And finding your purpose requires an element of risk and change. Goals are great. But they lead to short term satisfaction. Long term satisfaction comes from constant steps toward a larger purpose that requires many goals. So make learning new skills and knowledge a habit. And share what you learn with others. When you share what you learn, you get a deeper understanding of the knowledge. And it’s more likely to become part of who you are and how you act. Because knowledge with action is what will improve longevity and mental health.
How to use Roxiva to enhance longevity and mental health
So how does using audio visual brainwave entrainment technology like the Roxiva RX1 apply to the subject of longevity and mental health? I mentioned in the first paragraph that all of the 6 keys have in common that they help you feel better. And that when you feel better you usually do better. Technology like the RX1 can certainly help directly with meditation/relaxation states and creative/alertness states by producing altered states of consciousness very quickly. And certain frequencies and protocols can have a more indirect beneficial effect on mental health too. An example being increased blood flow to the brain. You can experience anything from a relaxing light and sound meditation journey to a drug free psychedelic trip. And this leads indirectly to positive effects on all the other keys to longevity and mental health. Because when you let go of stress and tension and elevate your mood., everything you do changes. And your mental resilience and energy improves. So now you have the energy, clarity and motivation to take positive steps in all 6 areas. So in that sense, Roxiva can be used as a type of psychedelic light therapy or psychedelic brainwave entrainment device.
A summary of How to live longer and healthier
What I hope you have discovered here is how all the 6 keys to longevity and mental health work together. As you make improvements in one area the others will naturally want to follow. Because momentum then takes over and the 6 keys become habits. And habitual practices are the only ones that will affect your lifespan and health long term. Sometimes making progress means freeing yourself from the past. And maybe the question you need to ask yourself is a more powerful why. Why do you want to live a longer healthier life? And the answer to this will fuel your efforts to master your diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, social interactions, and purpose. Part of that answer might be to live and experience as much as this life has to offer.
Or maybe it goes further than that…
Maybe it is your duty, to live a long and healthy life!