When my grandma passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, it became even clearer to me how important it is to spend time with your loved ones while they are still here. This is why I make sure I visit my mum and my granddad in Poland as frequently as I can. My granddad is almost 95 years old and he is a lovely man. He lives with family, who have work and school commitments, so he is still quite independent and has to look after himself during the day.
My granddad was 16 years old when WWII started and he can still remember exactly where he was when he found out that Germany invaded Poland. Just like most people of his generation, my granddad has been through a lot. He has often talked about having to eat rotten potato peels and such like when there was nothing to eat for long periods of time during the war. He was lucky to survive a German concentration camp. I should add that he grew up in poverty and had to work as a child so I think we can safely say that his long and reasonably healthy life has not been due to cushioned upbringing or lack of trauma.
So what are his longevity secrets? When I asked him, he laughed and said: “blackcurrant juice” but I have observed him for years and I can tell you with some certainty that his success is not dietary.
Of course, when my granddad was growing up there were nowhere near as many chemicals in food as our bodies have to contend with today. At the same time, you should know that Polish diet is based on meat and potatoes with a small amount of vegetables, plus copious amounts of bread and dairy. Besides for the last decade or so, he gets to eat what he wants (within limits) as everyone in the family agrees that at his age entitles him to do so. It just so happens that some of his favourite things for a while have been milk chocolate and marshmallows. So no, it is really not the diet!
I would like to add that my granddad undergoes routine blood tests and every time his doctor says that his results are better than hers and jokes that they are good enough for him to re-join the army. He had a minor stroke last year from which he recovered remarkably well and very quickly.
Someone could say it is genetic. Perhaps that is true to some degree. But if you listened to my interview with Dr Bruce Lipton during the summit, or read his work, you will know that the epigenetic factors are much more powerful in determining our health than our genes are. Besides, my granddad was one of four and only one of his brothers is still alive. The other two brothers passed away many years ago. So let’s agree it’s not genetic.
So why is my granddad doing so well at almost 95? I have given this a lot of thought and here are a number of factors I have identified that I believe are massively contributing here:
One thing my granddad has NEVER done is try to control things he can’t. When he does not like something, he quickly figures out if this is something he can take action on and change (control). If it is not, he accepts that “it is just the way things are” and he finds the way to adapt to the situation somehow. That is why I believe he survived the war, concentration camp, etc. and never suffered from PTSD or had his health majorly affected as a result of those traumatic experiences. Trying to control things that are beyond our control is one of the most common ways to created chronic stress and ill health. There are so many different tools that can help us learn to be more acceptant (mindfulness, meditation, BWRT, Havening Techniques, EFT, hypnotherapy, psychoanalysis, NLP, etc.) but we first have to be aware that we are contributing to our own stress levels by trying to control things that are beyond our control. The best thing we can do for our health is to aim to become an emotional chameleon.
This one is very characteristic of how my granddad has always been. It comes naturally to him to shrug things off and he NEVER gets worked up about silly things, which is what so many people do every single day. That of course is another source of chronic stress. He was the first person who said to me: “When you are upset about something, ask yourself if it is going to matter next week, next month, next year, and if not, you may as well shorten your suffering and let go of it right now”. It is true that for some people it is easier to do this than others. If you are familiar with the Warrior, Settlers and Nomads personality types then you will recognise this behaviour as “Nomadic”. But even though some people do that more naturally, it is something we can all learn to do using the methods mentioned previously.
This, as we know, is a big one for anyone who wants to be healthy and live a long life. My granddad has always said that as long as he lives in alignment with his own ethics and morals and does his best, then he feels worthy as a human being. But how many people these days live by this simple code? Most people, particularly in the West, find endless ways to put themselves down, be excessively self-critical, and have ridiculous demands and expectations of themselves. We need to be more realistic with our expectations and of course we need to be kind and gentle with ourselves. There is a reason why we hear this time and time again. It is because it is the most important piece of work we will ever do in terms of self-development. True self-acceptance is THE ONLY way to achieving inner calm and peace.
This is not the same as not caring about other people’s feelings. This is about being congruent with yourself and your own values rather than live your life according to other people’s wishes, desires, likes or dislikes. My grandma’s favourite thing to say used to be: “but what will people say/think?” She was scared of doing anything without considering if she was going to be judged by other people, and my granddad always asked “why on Earth would you care about that?” This of course links to the previous point of not accepting yourself because you will ONLY be scared of being judged (not being accepted) if you are already judging (not accepting) yourself.
My granddad has always been a spiritual man and I do believe this has helped him be more acceptant, and therefore live a more stress-free life. We were all concerned that my granddad was going to become sick or worse after my grandma died. He was very upset and cried a lot but because he believes there is more to this life than our physical form, he was able to accept her passing. Again, not trying to control things he can’t.
On a more practical front, my granddad has always insisted on getting enough sleep. This of course was not possible during the war so perhaps the fact that he had been incredibly sleep-deprived through that period of his life made him value sleep more after the war had ended. We all know the importance of sleep but how many people prioritise it? There is enough scientific evidence informing us about the stress the body and mind is under when we are sleep-deprived and of course that adds up week after week, month after month, eventually leading to ill health.
So what do all these factors have in common? Quite simply, they reduce the overall stress on the body. The less stress we put our bodies through, the longer we are likely to enjoy our life on this planet. Like I said, those may not come naturally to you but you can develop those new behaviours if you choose to and it will be time well spent. I realise this is not new or revolutionary in any way and you have heard it before but have you taken action to make these changes? Remember, until you act, nothing changes.