Motivation Matters for Longer Life

Staying motivated is essential for staying healthy well into older age. Some keys to achieve this are passionate attitude, community support, eating healthy foods, and adequate sleep.

By Paul McGlothin.

Preventing age-related decline is challenging. Getting enough exercise and ensuring proper food and nutrient selection are vital.

Senior man doing pushups on dock to mitigate age-related decline

But keeping this up consistently also requires a personal characteristic: motivation. If you aren’t motivated to slow the rate at which you age, you will fade away.

The brilliant brain researcher Ann M. Graybiel and her colleagues have shed some light recently on why motivation can wane as people age.1 They found that the brain circuit that governs motivation declines with age, at least in mice.

That seems to happen to some people too.They initially proclaim a strong commitment to slow their rate of aging yet lose their zeal as the years roll by.

But not everyone.

Some stand out and continue to maintain their motivation in their later decades.

What sets them apart?

Lifelong Motivation

Portrait of Ralph Cornell who motivated Paul McGlothin as a centenarian role model

To answer this question about motivation, my partner, Meredith Averill, and I looked for centenarian role models who were motivated to embrace the aging challenges they faced—and to overcome them.

One of them is Ralph Cornell.

Back in 2008, Meredith and I published The CR Way, our guide to how calorie restriction can improve health and extend lifespan.

We were lucky to have had Ralph as a mentor.

Ralph was a happy centenarian from the heartland town of Massillon, Ohio, who lived to 104.

Staying Positive

One of the keys to staying motivated is finding joy in life.

He was unfailingly optimistic. Even during his last months, he was motivated to plan diet and lifestyle changes with the hope of living to 112, the age of Ohio’s oldest person at the time. Ralph was still working too, having been honored on NBC’s Today as the oldest living realtor in the U.S.

Meredith and I had the privilege of celebrating several Thanksgivings with Ralph. Before we would start our Thanksgiving dinner, he would often say a few words that included how happy he was to continue experiencing life.

Ralph also had a deep passion for living. This is a characteristic we have observed in everyone who maintains their motivation to optimize health when they are advanced in age.

Although he did not have a scientific or medical background, he figured out a natural way to extend his life through what’s come to be known as intermittent fasting.

He also practiced hara hachi bu. A Japanese phrase meaning “eat until you’re 80% full,” this practice was developed by long-lived Okinawans who stopped eating when they began to feel full.

It was inspiring to spend time with Ralph and to adapt ideas from his natural approach to longer life to our own philosophy.

Community Support

It’s hard to stay motivated on your own. As the CR Way has progressed, we’ve developed a support group. Members can come together by telephone and share their aging successes and challenges.

The support group provides some of the same personal interaction and support that we got from being with Ralph.

Everyone benefits from hearing how others achieve their goals and what holds them back. And when someone encounters a challenge, the group is ready to pitch in and help them solve it.

Finding Fun in Food

Eating right doesn’t have to be a chore. We recently held a class on making healthy foods irresistible while motivating ourselves to look forward to the taste treats that meals provide.

It’s important to plan healthful meals with interesting tastes and textures that delight you. While varying dietary intake is fun, it is also important for a healthy gut microbiota,2,3 which has been associated with positive emotions.4,5

Your gut microbiota changes rapidly to adapt to the foods you eat. Enjoying a variety of raw and cooked vegetables helps make your microbiota more diverse.6

This morning I began my day with a Farmers’ Market Soup made from a variety of fresh vegetables from a local organic farmer. The vegetables combine to make a rich, savory taste and their contrasting textures add interest.

It’s delicious, and it is wonderful to know that the benefits of eating this way—better glucose control and a cardiovascular system that functions as if I were much younger7—will help me feel good all day.

Here’s a recipe for the CR Way Farmers’ Market Soup. The idea is to make it easy to enjoy a healthy variety of vegetables and sprouts in your diet, to develop a more diverse gut microbiome, and to have fun doing it.

Farmers’ Market Soup*

Green bowl of Farmers' Market soup that match to the CR Way diet

Use this recipe as a template for a delicious soup made from the vegetables you get from an organic farmer. Substitute or add veggies you prefer.

One 115-gram serving, 23 Cal. per serving. Prep time: 4 minutes

20 grams One large leaf of kale, chopped to bite size

10 grams Two green onions, chopped

15 grams A few tablespoons mixed sprouts (Sprout Lady Rita)

50 grams One stalk wild celery, chopped

20 grams Fresh microgreen mix, your choice of amount

Directions:

Add ¾ pint to 1 pint water to a saucepan.

Add all the ingredients.

Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes.

Serve in your favorite soup bowl with walnuts, as desired.

* P. McGlothin & M. Averill. The CR Way to Great Glucose Control, 2020.

This recipe can be changed on a regular basis, throughout the year, to include other fresh, organic ingredients that are in season.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Spread of green vegetables that are a key to the CR Way diet and a longer life

The Key to a Healthier Life

  • To continue to live a healthy life well into older age, it’s vital to stay motivated.
  • There are a few key ways to achieve this. Being positive and passionate about life, finding support in a community, making healthy foods as tasty and fresh as possible, and getting enough sleep are just a few.
  • Many people who have lived to be 100 years old or more live by these tenets.

Contributing to the Greater Good

Another level of emotional satisfaction from eating this way is the joy of contributing to a better community.

By purchasing from a local organic farmer that we know and trust, we help a deserving person who works long, dedicated hours and does everything possible to preserve the land that their farm is on. We want to lend our support to people like that whose work makes a better community for everyone.

Unhealthful comfort foods may provide short-term pleasure, but they will increase your risk of age-related disease and shorten the time you have to spend enjoying this planet. Eating delicious, healthy meals will likely make it possible for you to enjoy the things you love far longer.

Long and Satisfying Sleep

Staying motivated takes energy. Every successful ager we have known sleeps as well as people in their 20s or 30s.

Sleep quality is often reported to decline with age.8 But it doesn’t have to be that way. Strategies for better sleep are part of the CR Way to Great Glucose Control, the starter course for CR Way living.

Simply setting your circadian clock by walking outdoors in the early morning sunlight and at sunset9 is a good start toward getting better sleep. It can also increase mood-elevating neurotransmitters like serotonin10 and dopamine11 and help you manage glucose levels more effectively.12

Emotional Empowerment

Mature man putting googles on before swimming for his enjoyment

Satisfying sleep, delicious food, a healthy gut, and community support are all part of an approach to help people be happy naturally.

Happiness empowers you to make healthy lifestyle choices because you experience how good it feels to optimize your health. We encourage people to consult with doctors before embarking on major lifestyle or diet changes.

As I write this article, I’m looking out my window at the sun glistening off leaves of the trees in the woods. It’s a beautiful day, the kind of day I hope to enjoy again and again. I can hardly wait to walk outside and set my circadian clock.

No one can predict the future, but I know that I’m grateful for what I have and imagine that you are grateful for the things you enjoy, too. If you have read this article, it’s likely you are motivated to make the effort to enjoy your life for as long as possible. It’s worth it.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

About The CR Way Paul McGlothin and Meredith Averill wrote The CR Way (HarperCollins, 2008) based on decades of research showing that diet and lifestyle can produce favorable changes in genes and other aging biomarkers. They later created the online community Living the CR Way. They are currently collaborating with scientists at Harvard Medical School and The Forsyth Institute (supported by Zymo Research) to focus on the immune system, microbiome composition, and DNA methylation as gauges of aging interventions. To learn more about the authors and the CR Way, call 877-481-4841 or visit www.livingthecrway.com.

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