Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Elixir of Life

219 years before Christ a Chinese alchemist, Xu Fu, took 1,000 young people on a trip to discover the secret of immortality.  He never returned.

In 1567, Ming Dynasty Emperor JiaJing is believed to have died from an overdose of the poison mercury.  Jiajing believed that mercury was the elixir of life and would enable him to live forever; instead he died aged 45.

In 18th century Europe, the Count of St Germain claimed to have found the elixir of life and to be 500 years old.  He is believed to have died in 1784, probably in his 70's rather than 500 or more, although some Theosophists and Rosicrucians claim he never died and is still living even today.

Throughout history people have been searching for the mystical elixir of life, for the magical anti ageing secrets that will help them to live forever.  I may not have quite found that magical elixir, but I do have perhaps the next best thing - knowledge of changes you can make in your lifestyle which could significantly extend your life.  And you can relax in the sure knowledge that my anti ageing medicine is not going to give you mercury poisoning!

According to Rose Anne Kenny, Professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, the three most important factors that will help you extend life and live longer (obviously subject to you not having a fatal accident, suffering a terminal illness etc) are:

1 Properly managing your health;
2 Working on your personal development, continuing to develop your skills and abilities no matter what age you may be;
3 Getting involved in your community, doing things that are a real contribution, helping those around you.

Managing Your Health

I guess everyone knows they should do this and that if they do they have a greater chance of living longer.

"Eat and drink healthily" is important if you want to live to a ripe old age.  But I do not mean you have to be extreme about this.  To me, moderation is the key here.  If you enjoy certain foods that you have been told are not healthy, then I think you should continue to eat them, but only now and again rather than all the time.

Many people get confused by the concept of eating healthily and think this means you have to pick "healthy foods" and only eat those.  The reality is that there is no such thing as "healthy foods".  Yes, read that again!  The concepts of "healthy foods" and "unhealthy foods" don't really exist.  Any food would be unhealthy for you if you ate it to excess.  There is no such thing as a "healthy food", but there is such a thing as a healthy diet.  Try to maintain a good mix of foods that will provide you with all the nutrients you need, and keep a good balance of those different types of food.

Although I have just said you cannot talk about healthy and unhealthy foods, there are, of course, some foods that are not particularly good for you.  Processed foods come into this category.  Especially the packs of "TV dinners" you can buy in supermarkets.  Fresh food is far better for you.  But again, if you are particularly fond of something that is processed (perhaps a fast food hamburger or hot dog) then by all means eat it - just not too often!

Likewise with what you drink.  Don't drink an excess of coffee for example, filling yourself with caffeine.  But unless your doctor has told you to avoid caffeine I do not suggest you drink decaffeinated coffee, and nor am I recommending you give up coffee altogether.  Again, moderation is the key.

Drinking alcohol is exactly the same.  Yes, alcohol is a poison, so you certainly do not want to drink too much.  But there is nothing wrong with drinking moderately.  In fact it is believed that very moderate drinking can keep you healthier and extend your life.

Try not to be a "couch potato".  Find something you enjoy doing that doesn't involve sitting or lying down.  In my case, that hobby is Ballroom and Latin dancing, which for me combines pleasure, exercise, and a social activity.  It also sometimes stretches my mind, forcing me to remember long combinations of steps.  All this is good for maintaining youth!  In your case, maybe it is a sport.  Or going for a nice long swim, run, or cycle ride.  Perhaps a combination of these.  I certainly enjoy cycling from time to time as well as dancing.  Whatever it is you choose, make sure it involves a good bit of exercise.

Be aware of your body and the signals it may be giving you.  This is a wide category.

For example you should remain alert for any signs that could indicate cancer.  If you are female that particularly means regularly checking your breasts.  If you are male you should check your testicles.  For both sexes, stay alert for any lumps anywhere in the body that start to change shape or size, or that start to bleed.  Also stay alert for any changes in the way in which you urinate and pass stools.  Be particularly alert for any blood in your stools or urine.  I have really only touched the surface here, and I suggest you do some research yourself on ways to detect signs of cancer early on.  If you spot anything that disturbs you, contact your doctor.  Doing this can identify a cancer at an early enough stage for it to be stopped in its tracks.  I am speaking with experience, as I suffered from prostate cancer, but recognized the symptoms before it had progressed far and received treatment that completely eliminated it.

These are not the only signals your body gives you.  If you start to overdo something that could impact badly on your health, your body will often tell you.  Perhaps you will start getting more frequent and more painful headaches than you would normally expect.  If so, this is almost certainly your body trying to tell you something.  Slow down and try to listen to what it is saying.

Personal Development

If you want to stay young, then you should do all you can to develop your personal skills and abilities.  This will really make a huge difference to the way you age.  The more you do this, the slower you will age.

This is a very wide field.  It certainly includes doing things that will help you challenge and expand your intellect, even if they are as simple as crosswords and other word games.  But it also includes finding what makes you really happy, and focusing on and developing that.

This entire site is devoted to personal development.  Browse through it and read or re-read articles that strike a bell with you.  If you are not already one of my subscribers, take the time to subscribe now - in just a few seconds you can ensure I will keep in touch with you giving you many different ways of improving your own personal development.  You can do this at

Getting Involved

The more you get involved, whether this is with family or the wider community, the slower you will age.  Give of yourself.  Spend time helping others less fortunate than you.

There are many reasons for this.  Firstly, it has been shown that this type of activity automatically makes you happier.  Secondly, the more you are involved, the less lonely you will be.  Thirdly, there is a real sense of fulfilment when you get heavily involved.  And finally, I believe the law of karma is operating here too - by helping others you find good things come to you.  Those good things include a slowing of the ageing process.

You Are as Young as You Feel

This really is true.  Do not be taken in by all the stereotypes about ageing.  If somebody says "You are too old for that!", don't believe them!  In fact, take that as a challenge to do whatever it was you were thinking about doing!  If you do believe the stereotypes you will tend to live down to them.  You may stop doing things you enjoy doing simply because you think older people cannot do them.  Do not allow this to happen to you!

This is not just me saying this.  "The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing" proved that the more people believe they will lose their abilities as they got older, the more this actually happens.  The reverse is also true - the more you believe you can continue to do what you enjoy, the longer you will physically be able to do so.  There was also a study by researchers at Yale University which found that a group of elderly people who had a really positive attitude were able to function physically as well as another group that had undertaken a six month exercise programme.

The Irish study also found that people who had positive expectations about the future as they got older lived on average 7 years longer than those who had negative expectations!  Read that again - it is very important!  What are your expectations about your future as you get older?  Are you resigned to dying younger than really need be the case or are you ready to enjoy that future to the full?

Positive thinking really works.  This is just as true about ageing as it is about such things as getting more money, finding love etc.  Start thinking more positively now about your age.  Change how you feel about ageing and you will actually change how you age!

None of us can avoid getting older.  Every day you are older - you are one day older.  That is a simple fact, and nothing can change that unless you have some way of travelling at or close to the speed of light, in which case Einstein tells us you will age slower.  But we can all delay the onset of "old age".  Use the anti-aging techniques I have outlined above.  Don't just do exactly what I have said, and nothing else, but rather use this article as a springboard to research all the ways you can stay young and healthy.  That is the real elixir of life.  Use it well, have fun, and live long!