World’s oldest man, Walter Breuning. (Photograph by Fred Pfeiffer.)
“Everybody says your mind is the most important thing about your body. Your mind and your body. You keep both busy, and by God you’ll be here a long time.”
This is a quote from a man named Walter Breuning. I came across Walter’s words while researching something totally unrelated to age and I had to find out more. At the time of his passing Walter was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest man. He died of natural causes April 14, 2011 at the age of 114. What I found interesting in reading his story is his attitude on this connection between the mind and body for living a long life.
The mind body cliché is something that science has quantified in many interesting ways. One of these is a series of experiments I read conducted by Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer. This study and other experiments and research suggests that many of the things we consider as the inevitable consequences of aging, less energy, lower physical strength and endurance and memory loss might be significantly influenced by our perceptions and our mindset.
In other words, what science tells us about aging is that while there is some truth to that saying, you’re only as old as you feel, there may also be real truth to the notion that you’re as young as you think you are.
I’m not sure about the science, but one thing that I can attest to personally is how I think about my own age really matters for how I feel (I believe it does for everyone). Every morning I purposefully set my mind for the day and most mornings I run or walk several miles. I have been doing this for many, many years. And throughout every day I surround myself with and seek to engage in youthful activities. I find that when I enthusiastically train my thinking every morning I feel good and put myself into a good frame of mind. And when I engage in young at heart activities everything I do throughout the day becomes a little easier. The benefits have become tremendously real for me, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
News stories about Walter Breuning say he had four secrets to a long life: embrace change, eat two meals a day, work as long as you can and help others. I’m still way too young in comparison to really think about my life like Walter. But if I am given the chance to live as long, as healthy and as well as he did I’m sure that someday I’ll be asked about my own long life modus operandi. When I am there is one thing I will note for sure, there is real truth to the notion that when you feel young in many ways you are younger. And to feel young it most assuredly does help to think young.
William “Bud” Hart is a certified “Mindset” Coach, Accountability Partner and Business Consultant. Visit Hart Group, www.hartgroupma.com for more on coaching.