Look younger! Feel more vibrant! Boost your stamina! Live Longer! Those are the promises made to us by marketing gurus about countless products from facial creams to dietary supplements, from the latest diet trend to the newest fitness fad. Psychological research, however, points us to a far greater (and less expensive!) secret to longevity. It is one that is often overlooked in our efforts to follow the advice of the marketing gurus. John Lennon may just have been right when he wrote “All You Need is Love.” Research suggests that love may be an important predictor of longevity.
Consider the fact, for example, that having strong social relationships predicts a 50% increased chance of longevity.
It is not just the strength of our relationships that predict longevity, however, but rather the attitude with with which we engage in those relationships that predicts a longer and healthier life. While many think they need to find someone to love them, research shows that the greatest benefits for longevity and well-being come not from receiving love but rather from giving love to others.
• A study by Stephanie Brown at Stonybrook conducted with an elderly population showed that those who engaged in helping others and supporting others ended up living longer lives. This was not the case for people who were simply recipients of care and support.
• A study by Sara Konrath at the University of Michigan supports and extends Brown’s findings by showing that volunteerism predicts a longer life. Interestingly, she found that volunteerism lengthened lives only when the volunteerism was done for selfless reasons. When we sincerely wish to help others we will reap the benefits thereof.
• An intriguing new study on loving-kindness meditation – a practice that involves generating love and benevolence towards others – shows that people who practice generating love on a regular basis have reduced cellular aging (telomere length). Who needs expensive face creams when meditation will do the trick?
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