When we talk about our health, we may think of what’s my blood pressure, how much should I exercise, I shouldn’t have had that cheesecake with beer. It’s OK; these things are important and this is what we have been taught. Although new research is showing again and again how things we may overlook and not think about are some of the most important things of all in attributing to a long healthy life.

First, we should understand a little about how our mind works. The human nervous system is about as primitive as a slug one of my teachers says. When it comes to making us happy that is. It’s really programmed to keep us alive. It’s done a good job for a long time, but we don’t live in an environment where we have to worry about outrunning lions and tigers anymore. There are no fighter planes flying overhead, but our minds have a way of making things like the bills, or a visit from our mother-in-law seem just as life-threatening and stressful. Much of what we do in life is based on trying to accumulate more so we feel safe. The truth is that once our basic needs are met we’re OK.

Striving to accumulate more is OK, but doesn’t actually make us happier. Practice seeing you have enough. When you see you have enough, you start to act more for others and want to help others. When you act from a place of lacking, life is a struggle and it’s all about you (stress).

Research has shown that the more people accumulate (money, status, etc.), the less empathy they have for others. Empathy is an important part of healthy relationships. One can start to forget that they actually need other people, and should appreciate other people. They may think I’ve done it all on my own.

People live much longer when they feel that their spouse really loves them, and have good friendships with people who really listen. These interactions release happy neurochemicals and reduce stress chemicals. These far outweigh issues with blood pressure, exercise, or getting a flu vaccines.

Practice being grateful. It’s good to take time every day to remember the things you have to be grateful for. Remember we have a mind that basically is perpetually searching for everything that is wrong and threatening. Be aware of it and try to take time to see what is really great in your life.

Sit quietly and breathe into your belly. Think of someone who was kind to you recently, think of your spouse or friend, think about how you have legs that work, you have a brain that functions, you have food in the fridge, the sun is out, the birds are singing, you woke up in a bed this morning or anything you can think of that you are grateful for.

Then in your mind say thank you. Really feel thankful and grateful, and see how it feels in your body. This releases neurochemicals through your whole body that are associated with being happy. These far outweigh gluten-free and low-fat diets.

Statistics say that one-quarter of people say they have no one to talk to. This is the real secret killer in our society. It really does seem obvious when you think about it. The fountain
of youth has been right in front of us all along with all the people around us. What we need most of all for a long happy healthy life is each other.

Omkara Kevin Wicks is a yoga and Qigong instructor, Ayurvedic astrologer, Thai bodyworker, musician, artist, writer, and handyman.