3 Ways To Increase Joyspan, The Longevity Factor No One's Talking About
Longevity isn't just about adding years to your life—you may want to live to 100, but you also want to be healthy, sharp, and active for as many years as you can. So you'll want to think about increasing health span in addition to life span.
But if you're serious about optimizing your health, allow us to introduce the next phase of the longevity conversation: increasing joyspan, or the amount of purpose and joy in your life. After all, what's the point of living to 100 if you don't actually enjoy it?
Colleen and I set out to answer this very question with our new book, The Joy of Well-Being (officially out today!), which we discuss in today's special mindbodygreen podcast episode, featuring integrative medicine doctor and four-time New York Times bestselling author Sara Gottfried, M.D.
After 14 years of learning from the best doctors, dietitians, and scientists in the game, we compiled every actionable health and well-being tip into this handy road map. The kicker? Each of the practices we share meets three important criteria: They're easily accessible to everyone, they're science-backed, and they offer the possibility of joy. If it doesn't do all three of those things, it's not in the book. It's as simple as that.
It would be impossible to gather every single piece of advice into this article (that's why we wrote a whole book about it!), so we highly encourage picking up a copy. In the meantime, find three easy ways to increase your joyspan below:
Prioritize IRL social connection
Look, nutrition and exercise are paramount. I'm all about diet and exercise, but it's all too easy to ignore emotional well-being—and sometimes that is the silver bullet to optimizing your health.
In the process of writing this book, I came across my all-time favorite study: the Roseto study1. Essentially, Roseto was a small town in rural Pennsylvania in the 1950s with a thriving Italian American community. Many people were smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating lots of pasta and meat, yet heart attacks occurred at half the rate of the nation among those under 65—and in men under 55, heart attacks were virtually nonexistent.
What was protecting them against heart disease? It turns out, these individuals had incredibly strong social connections. Multigenerational living was nonnegotiable; they frequently celebrated with parties and parades; they enjoyed food and wine with family and friends. Then in the 1960s, the community starts to disband—and heart disease arrives.
This link between social connection and health is difficult to measure, but it's certainly there. "When you are connected with other people, you're sharing your lung biome2 with them," says Gottfried. "There's a way that it creates health. It changes your genetics3; we know this from social genomics. It creates this upward benevolent cycle that is hard to measure."
The takeaway? You cannot underestimate the magic of meaningful, IRL social connections. It's a concept that isn't emphasized enough in our world, and it's something I think about whenever I start to feel overwhelmed about my diet or exercise regimen.
Make social investments
Now, prioritizing IRL connections is crucial, but we'd be remiss not to mention the power of our digital world. You should still connect in person if you can, but a single text or phone call can go a long way.
It can be as simple as a message saying, "Hey, I've been thinking about you. It's been too long! Would love to reconnect." I actually received this tip from psychotherapist and world-renowned sex and relationships expert Esther Perel on her mbg podcast episode, and I've been thinking about it ever since. According to Perel, you'll likely get a sense right away if the person is open to connecting, and you'll probably receive a positive response. If you don't, that's OK. At least you tried!
The key is to focus on fostering your relationships now so that you can pave the way for a full, flourishing life later on. "It's about thinking long term," says Colleen. "What do you want your life to look like in your 70s, 80s, and 90s? Do you envision yourself having friends over for tea? Do you envision yourself getting together with loved ones, or seeing your kids' kids growing up? If you want that type of flourishing life in your 70s, 80s, and 90s, you have to start making the investments now. You have to start thinking intentionally in that way."
Strengthen spirituality muscles
You can do all the "right" things for your health—like eating well and exercising—but if you don't have a sense of purpose and belief in something bigger than yourself, you will miss out on a critical piece of well-being. Just take it from award-winning researcher Lisa Miller, Ph.D., who shared on her episode of the mbg podcast that individuals with some sense of spirituality have enhanced mental health, immune function, and longevity.
She even has some fascinating research4 that shows when a mother and her child were both high in spirituality, the child was 80% protected against depression, compared with mothers and children who were not concordant for spirituality. In other words: A child was 5x less likely to be depressed when spiritual life was shared with a mother.
Not to mention, there's a very generous definition of spirituality, beyond religious beliefs and practices. In a nutshell: It's about believing in something bigger than ourselves. That's why "my mission right now is to raise well-adjusted girls, to create joyful experiences in my life, and to build a strong body and mind," says Colleen. I couldn't agree more.
Essentially, joyspan involves identifying the "why" of your wellness journey. What's the point of all the bells and whistles if you aren't enjoying the process? Ultimately, it's up to you to discover your personal mission, but these science-backed tips above can help you get started. For more actionable, no-fuss tips to enhance longevity and health span, make sure to pick up a copy of The Joy of Well-Being today!
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or YouTube!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.