When faced with a crisis we have two options – cave in and feel sorry for ourselves or rise to the challenge and seek ways to gain the courage to grow stronger and overcome them.

With the current situation, you may be regularly told to “be strong”.  I am sure you would agree that this may be easier said than done but, growing strong is worth it.  Here is some food for thought as to why.

I am blessed to live in a special location where my backyard faces 38 hectares of parkland.  Looking outside of my window I can see the breeze swaying massive and robust eucalyptus trees. Most of them are over 20 metres tall and each year they continue to grow. 

Each one has a strong trunk that supports dozens of huge branches creating a beautiful canopy of lush green vegetation.  Their sight is powerfully majestic and as I look at them, I am awestruck by their sheer strength as they overcome the elements of at times, strong winds or heavy rains.

And yet these massive trees started out as tiny saplings that you could have trodden on and killed.  I remember 30 years ago when this region was first developed the council planted these tiny little trees that were no higher than 15 cm each, positioned two metres apart.  Looking at them against the vast parkland they looked weak and almost comical, yet in time they grow not just tall, but strong and formidable and now they dominate the scenery.

But this took time….

In other words, it takes time for strength to develop. These trees constantly remind me that growing in strength is not an instantaneous thing, it is a lifelong process and it is often governed by our thoughts and our perceptions and interpretations of the events we face in our lives.

The centenarians

Recently, I watched an amazing TV program on centenarians – people from various parts of the world that made it to 100 years and beyond.  Many of them live in certain parts of the world. These communities are regularly studied by scientists to determine the common elements that contribute to their longevity.

There are five so-called “blue zones” in the world, where people consistently live—nursing home free—all the way up until a ripe old age. 

These are:

  • Japan’s islands of Okinawa
  • Italy’s Sardinia
  • Costa Rica’s Nicoya
  • USA’s Loma Linda and
  • Greece’s Ikaria.

Studies have concluded the seven key characteristic habits to which centenarians live that contribute to their long and healthy life. 

So here they are:

  1. Never act your age – they never mention or consider their age an excuse for not being able to do anything. They live their life as if they will live forever.
  2. Shut down stress – they maintain a happy disposition and a positive mindset and never take life too seriously.
  3. Eat quality not quantity – they avoid sugar and eat wholesome food that is homegrown and high in nutrients – mainly vegetables, fish, seeds and grains and a little meat.  They always avoid overeating and prefer to have a few small meals a day.
  4. Sleep well – adequate sleep is a must for centenarians.  They take naps during the day and make sure they sleep adequate hours at night.
  5. Move every day – they are constantly moving, exercising and involved with regular walking and physically active doing their daily tasks.
  6. Connect with others and share love – centenarians are very community minded.  They love family and friends and enjoy social interaction, singing, laughing, supporting one another and sharing their resources with others.
  7. Just believe and have faith – most centenarians live with a simple philosophy of believing for the best in life, having faith and taking time to appreciate the good that is happening in their life. They don’t dwell on what is wrong with life.

And talking about centenarians, have you noticed that many are also found in our returned soldiers having fought wars in the service of their country.  During Anzac Day I love to see these brave souls proudly displaying their badges and marching in remembrance of when they defended their country. Many of them are sometimes over 100 years old.

On the other hand, we are also familiar with returned soldiers who didn’t cope so well. On returning from the war they have falling into depression and suffered from repeated nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of these brave men and women have experienced early death, often only living until their early 60s at the most. 

So, why did some grow their longevity genes, while others died prematurely?

One key component has to do with mindset and how we choose to focus on and interpret the challenges we face.

I have had several conversations over the years with centenarians, and they all had the same philosophy about the wars they participated in.  In recollecting them they grieved for the mates they lost but spoke with pride about the privilege to defend their country and fighting for freedom and a better future for humanity.  While they acknowledged that there were unfortunate casualties, their focus was on WHY they went to war. They spent more time contemplating and talking about their contribution to a better world and not about the atrocities that happened.

In comparison, those who focused only on the atrocities and were not prepared to see the bigger picture were not able to get over the trenches of death and the toxicity of these thoughts led to PTSD and their early death.

Now, what is your strategy for staying strong? I am sure you have one, but I trust that the above recommendations may give you a few more options.

So, stay strong, your life is important and the rewards are worth it.