Research has definitively shown us that our lifestyle is the major determinant of how we’ll age. That lifestyle is not just about our physical self — how much we move, what we eat, or how much we sleep, the intellectual, the social and the spiritual. Are we continuing to challenge our brain by learning new things? Are we staying engaged with others across all generations? Do we have meaning and purpose that’s bigger than us and gets us enthusiastically out of bed in the morning?
Being the Conductor of Your Life
Like a symphony orchestra, where strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion all come together under the guidance of a maestro to be something more than the sum of the parts, each of us must be the maestro of our lifestyle. That is the sure way to ensure that all components are nurtured and contribute to the overall symphony of a healthy longevity. Failure to do this can result in a cacophony in quality — and possibly quantity — of our lives. We do not have to be graduates of the Juilliard School to be the maestros of our lives.
Tuning Your Life’s Orchestra
1. Move every day. Make it part of your day rather than only as a scheduled event that you’ll forego if you get busy or lazy. In the Blue Zones, where people live to be old yet quite vital, movement is natural and part of everyday activities.
2. Learn something new every day. It can be a simple fact, or part of a larger undertaking, such as a new skill, craft, language or musical instrument. You’ll be building new pathways in your brain that could well protect you from developing the symptoms of dementia.
3. Reach out to someone everyday. It can be a smile to a cashier, a nod to someone on the street or reconnecting with people once important in your life. Whatever it is, welcome people into your life — people of all ages. Get rid of those defense mechanisms and biases that are isolating you and robbing you of the stunning health advantages of being connected
4. Do something that scares you every day. Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
5. Find something that will quiet your chattering mind. Unchecked thoughts and worry create stress that rots us from within. Music has the ability to do this, but so does nature, pets, art and crafts. Find your peace.
6. Find your purpose. Explore the essence of the current phase of your life’s journey — that one thing that makes you grateful to be alive.
This isn’t rocket science, dear reader. Paying attention to all aspects of our life’s symphony — the physical, intellectual, social or spiritual — will make this phase of our lives a masterpiece with a resilience to manage anything that attempts to put it out of tune.
Did You Know?
Music has powerful brain and body benefits!
We’ve learned through research that just listening to our favorite tunes can:
- Release the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine, into our systems.
- Decrease cortisol production. Cortisol contributes to stress and chronic illness.
- Support pain reduction.
- Help stroke patients recover faster.
- Help us preserve cognitive function with age.
Now, look at what happens when we pick up an instrument and learn to play. (It’s like a full brain workout.) Playing an instrument can:
- Facilitate our motor, visual and auditory cortices working together in intricate and integrated ways.
- Enhance executive function, which includes planning, strategizing, emotional regulation, memory and focus.
- Aid in problem-solving, language skills and creativity.
- Enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning and literacy skills.Make us more creative.