Gratitude, Healthy Aging, and Community

I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately, and the connection between gratitude, appreciation, a caring community, and healthy aging. Some of these reflections were prompted by a beautiful and thought-provoking video that uplifts my spirits every time I view it. This video is all about mindfulness (or paying attention and noticing our blessings). Along with the beautiful time-lapse photography of Louie Schwartzberg, a young child and an elderly man speak. The man says, “You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift … and the only appropriate response is gratefulness … Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face … We all go back so far, and in this present moment, on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink…”

David Korten, in Change the Story, Change the Future, questions the dominant worldview that “time is money” and “material consumption is the path to happiness.” Instead he emphasizes an alternate worldview where “time is life” and reminds us that “A connection to nature and community is essential to our physical and mental health and well-being. It is our nature to care and share for the benefit of all.” Along these same lines, I loved this bit of wisdom from Katherine Center’s most recent novel Happiness for Beginners, “Having doesn’t make you happy; appreciating does.”

Then I received this incredible video about a young entrepreneur, Brice Royer, who started a gift economy as an experiment to build community and increase overall health. Brice explains, “For me, the gift economy is about family. It’s about … what people in small towns do naturally and how ancient human societies lived. They help their families and their neighbors, because they depend on one another … I suddenly realized that our dependence and need of money is correlated to our isolation from our community. The more I rely on money or trade to fulfill my needs, the more disconnected I become from others. Loneliness and stress is the most underrated health factor for disease, so for me, the gift economy is an important way to reduce social stress and isolation which leads to healing.”

And then I was listening to the TED Radio Hour this weekend on Healthy Aging and the importance of a caring, sharing community was again highlighted. Dan Buettner explained what he learned from studying populations that lived the longest is that “There’s no longevity diet. Instead, these people drink a little bit every day…They tend to eat a plant-based diet. Doesn’t mean they don’t eat meat, but lots of beans and nuts. And … they set up their lives so that they are constantly nudged into physical activity … And then the foundation of all this is how they connect.”

So taking the time to appreciate and to connect, to care and to share, is important for our own health and well-being and for the health and well-being of those whose lives we touch. And because healthy aging is also supported by a plant-based diet, please enjoy Washington Insider Salad from our Food for Thought—Healing Foods to Savor. This crunchy and colorful salad is rich in fiber and plant protectors – a perfect dish for summer picnics and potlucks.

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