The Unexpected Secret To A Longer Life, According To Science

Photo: Miljan Zivkovic/ Shutterstock
older woman taking selfie

I know a young woman who is so closed-minded. She feels put off by anything out of the ordinary: décor that is not her taste, fashion that's not her taste, relationships that don’t look like hers, religions that don't mirror her beliefs, and "foreigners" that don’t look like her.

She is forever sneering. And her hostile, judgmental attitude makes her look hard and aged. 

I'm also lucky enough to know an elderly woman who truly loves life. She laughs out loud and holds hands with every person she meets. She has seen a lot in her nearly 90 years, and she's still as curious as she was in her younger days. She tries new foods, travels to foreign countries, and often spends her days feeding the homeless in their makeshift communities.

She asks a lot of questions when she's in new or uncomfortable situations to help her better understand others and their perspectives. And though I admit her face is considerably wrinkled, there is something about her that radiates youthful exuberance and happiness. 

And we all could learn a lot from her.

So what's the secret to living longer and becoming a happier person?

Like the elderly woman, focus on joy and stay open to new life experiences. It's as simple as that. And there's science to prove that it works, too. 

The National Institute on Aging suggests that those who see aging as an opportunity are more active, social, and successful than those who don’t. Additionally, researchers studying longevity say those who feel a sense of purpose and direction in life may live longer. In fact, positive people can expect to live as many as five years longer than their grumpy counterparts.

If you want to live longer, become a happier person, and bring these science-backed benefits in your life, you must embrace joy, curiosity, and positivity.

Make a point to accept others. Ask questions. Meet new people. Be engaged. Push your own boundaries. Try new things. And ultimately, don’t take yourself so seriously.

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Here are five things to do if you want to live longer and be happier, too:

1. Think before you speak

Is what you're about to say actually true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If you frequently use social media, please check your facts first. is a great way to fact-check.

Also, remember, not every motivational meme that supports your opinion is actually factual. Dig deeper. Get curious. Dive in and discover new facts.

2. Look for the positive in something you dislike

Why be all, "Darn kids these days!" just because the latest music or dance craze or humor or hairstyles aren't the same as yours? Lighten up and open your mind.

First, not everything requires your opinion. Second, some of these fads make for a good laugh later in life. Enjoy them.

And third, maybe challenge yourself to find something positive in the thing that (at first glance) you think you don't like. There is always something to appreciate if you dig deep enough.

3. Talk to people you normally don't speak to

Even the youngest of children can educate you about something. Want a great conversation starter? Ask a young person about their favorite app or video game. You’d be amazed at what you’ll learn. Technology is a great connector between generations. 

But you don't have to stop there. Ask them about school, their opinions on the news, and their passions. You'll be surprised by what you can learn — and how you can grow — as a result.

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4. Listen to new music

Val's List is a fantastic way to educate yourself about today’s music. Val Holler will guide you to new artists with sounds and vibes similar to your favorite oldie bands.

Without a doubt, expanding your taste in music helps keeps you young and relevant. And a new song can put you in a good mood, too.

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5. Push your comfort zone

Watch a documentary, volunteer for a worthy cause, try a new form of exercise, read a different newspaper, and deliberately hang out with people with opposing views.

Not a fan of a political candidate? Have coffee with one of their supporters.

No matter whom you chat with, be sure to leave your opinion at the door. Just listen, and see if you can empathize with the opposition’s concerns. Everything is not always about you. 

You know, a few years ago, I saw something on TV that had a profound effect on me. 

A television reporter interviewed a woman in her 50s at the scene of a riot. The reporter asked her why she was participating in the violence. She shouted with ugly rage, "What I don’t understand makes me angry!" 

Wow. Does anyone really want to age and become like that? Shriveled in mindset and spirit?

The secret to a longer and happier life is an open, curious mind. Don’t let a "Different is wrong" mindset age you before your time. There is far too much living and laughing to do.

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T-Ann Pierce is a transformational life coach who helps empower parents to create healthy relationships with their children.