Just take it from these centenarians who’ve been asked by reporters for advice about living long and well. Their language is simple, honest and direct. In a society in which many are answering the question about the secret to health with attractive gadgets and gizmos aplenty, the answers that elicit a “That’s it?!” are often the wisest to follow. Listen up:
“One shouldn’t eat too much in the evening, it may cause sickness.” – Stanislaw Kowalski, 106 years old, in the Daily Mail
This phrase could easily be attributed to a mother admonishing her 6-year-old before bedtime – and she, too, would have the right idea. If heavy eating is something you’re unwilling to give up, make sure to devote time earlier in the day to gluttony. As some studies suggest, when we consume food late at night, the body may be more inclined to store those calories as fat (leading to weight gain) than to burn it as energy. The timing of our meals can have an impact on health.
“I’ve got to get my hour in every day.” – Ida Keeling, 101 years old, in the New York Times
Incorporating exercise as a firm and non-negotiable part of your daily life – just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower – makes it routinized. That’s the case with any action – good or bad – you repeat over time and with deliberate practice since it causes the brain’s neural connections to become stronger and thicker. Making physical activity a natural part of your life will, like a muscle, make that habit stronger and simpler to carry out.
Set goals for yourself. Start simple and small, and once you accomplish them, you’ll want to set more challenging personal goals. For example, instead of aiming to run a marathon in the fall, plan to add one jog to your schedule each week. Or, rather than striving to lose 16 pounds by next month, set a goal to add an extra 45-minute workout to your weekly schedule. Attaining these smaller goals will motivate you to reach for something larger.
“Moderation, attitude, gratitude … that’s it.” – Lauretta Taggert, at 100 years old, according to USA Today
Mindset affects health. Our mental outlook influences everything from our cardiorespiratory health to our sleep patterns to our posture. Adopting a mindset focused on growing, learning and loving opens us up to new experiences, facilitates creativity and makes it more likely that we’ll take better care of ourselves and those around us.
“Family … makes me happy.” – Susannah Mushatt Jones, who lived to age 116, as reported by NPR
That’s what Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger has been saying all along. As the director of the Laboratory Of Adult Development at Massachusetts General Hospital, he’s spearheading a study on adult happiness that has tracked hundreds of American men for over 75 years. His main conclusion? Form good relationships and you’ll be alright.
“Sleep and eat well and you will live a long time.” – Misao Okawa, who lived to age 117, according to The Telegraph
Get a good night’s sleep, for goodness sake. Study after study shows us that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, muscle growth, memory, and learning, among other functions. Sure, if you’re a nursing mother or a chronic insomniac, getting sufficient rest may be easier said than done, if not impossible. But for the rest of us, excuses for getting less than seven or eight hours nightly aren’t worth the cost to health.
“I participate in lots of activities.” – Mae Lewis, born November 1912, in Real Simple
Immerse yourself in a new hobby or interest; something that stretches your body or mind and takes you out of your comfort zone. Research shows new experiences stimulate the brain in novel ways, and the physical demand of exposing yourself to new movement patterns is beneficial. Picking up squash, learning the harpsichord and taking up basket weaving are fine examples of (likely) new activities that excite the senses, challenge you and, in effect, boost your mental and physical health.
Don’t eat too much, move your body regularly, set goals, surround yourself with loved ones, sleep well and find new interests. Nothing sexy or new about it. Attractive for the headlines? No. But accurate? Yes.
Greg Chertok, M.Ed., is a certified sports psychology consultant, fitness coach and founder of Chertok Performance Consulting, which is based in New York. He has nearly a decade of applied sports counseling experience with athletes and coaches ranging from youth to professionals. His clients include high school and NCAA champions, Super Bowl champions, Stanley Cup participants and Olympic athletes. Greg has also been featured as a regular sport and exercises psychology expert on National Public Radio, SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio” and HealthRadio.NET’s “Sports Medicine & Fitness Show.” Greg has served as an expert media source for Reuters, ESPN.com, The Wall Street Journal, Outside magazine, CBS News, CNN.com, Runner’s World magazine and the Chicago Tribune, among others. While at Tufts University, he captained the baseball team and finished his career as an ESPN The Magazine Academic Regional All-American. He currently is the director of mental training at CourtSense, a high-performance junior tennis academy in New Jersey, and co-owns a youth summer sports academy called Pitch by Pitch Camps, one of the New York area’s larger specialty day camps that features both physical and mental skills training for 6- to 16-year-old athletes.
Nourish Your DNA
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, shield telomeres from damage. On the other end of the spectrum, certain foods act like telomere toxins. “Processed red meat and sugar stand out for their potential negative effects on telomere maintenance,” says Epel.
Minimize your intake of those foods and eat free-range, organic meats whenever possible. (Upgrade your diet with The 20 Best Organic Foods.) Finally, steer clear of supplements that tout telomere-lengthening benefits. These haven’t been proven safe or effective.
We’d love to peek inside Lewis Black’s cells because cynicism, hostility, and pessimism are hard on telomeres. “Daily stress is a part of modern life,” says Epel. “What matters is how we approach these situations and recover from them.” As you grasp at negative thoughts, you pump out stress hormones, which sabotage telomeres.
Try a strategy known as thought distancing: Imagine the stressful situation as a movie scene. You’re just in the audience watching it go by.
Run Away From Aging
Exercise is the single most important tool for protecting telomeres because it busts two bad influences: Inflammation and stress. “The very time when you don’t want to exercise is the best time to do it for your telomeres,” Blackburn says.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, done three days a week for 45 minutes, may even double the activity of an enzyme called telomerase that helps repair frayed telomeres. However, a warning to weekend warriors: Don’t save your exercise for one big mega-workout, since overtraining actually harms telomeres.
Skincare in Korea is a somewhat exhaustive multi-step process, a fact that seems to have sparked a ton of intrigue in the beauty world as of late. To outsiders looking in, the “million-step” Korean skincare regimen sounds a bit extreme, but it all boils down to cleansing, exfoliating, treating, intensely moisturizing and applying plenty of SPF during the day. I guess the real differentiating factor between how Koreans take care of their skin and more Western routines is that in Korea, you’re programmed to start early—well before your first training bra—while our more American version of skincare tends to be a sudden mad dash to Nordstrom to buy $100 eye cream, hoping it will reverse some of the teenage UV damage when we hit the age of 30. Thorough skincare is really just a part of Korean culture—it’s completely ingrained in your life since early childhood, when you’re dragged along to the communal bathhouses by your mother to have your dead skin sloughed off with bright green viscose cloths.
When I first got to Korea, I was motivated to start up with a Korean-style routine because my coworkers thought I was so barbaric for my complete lack of one. They would say (rather bluntly) in passing, “I could see your dark circles from way over there,” or, “What is growing out of your skin?” or my favorite, “brush your hair.” So they obviously didn’t get the whole wavy California beach hair look, but their well-intentioned rudeness did get me thinking about my skin. And I’ll admit, I was (still am) shallow enough to be influenced by the flawless-faced actresses in Korean dramas—and I watch them all in HD! How Jun Ji-hyun has better skin in My Love From Another Star than when she starred in My Sassy Girl 13 years ago is just beyond my comprehension.
To those who believe they aren’t high maintenance enough for that bright, dewy skin: I didn’t either. But, like our American moms always said while shoving (their version of) Korean stir-fry into our mouths: just try, you might like it!
Step 1: The Eye Makeup Removal
Remove your eye makeup gently with good makeup remover or Skinfood Rice Brightening Cleansing Tissue, because expecting a normal cleanser to do a detailed job is what leaves you with week-old mascara on your lashes. And the last thing you want to do is tug the skin around your eyes, because, like most things in life, it will hold up better if you treat it gingerly. Also, use it to remove any long-wear lipstick.
Step 2: The Cleanse
Rule of thumb is, if you’re going to spend 30 minutes putting on your face, you should spend the same amount of time and care when cleaning it off. Use an oil cleanser like Banila Co Clean it Zero Cleansing Balm and use gentle, circular motions with your fingers to massage and clean off that foundation and BB cream. Koreans (and Into The Gloss) believe that massaging the face increases circulation, which equals brighter skin.
Step 3: The Exfoliator
Exfoliating with a natural scrub like the Skin Food Black Sugar Wash Off Mask or the Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Wine really brings your skin back to its glory days when it was as soft as a baby’s butt. Twice a month is a plenty, just concentrate on the t-zone or where blackheads frequent. When it comes to facial exfoliation, Korean women often believe less is more.
Step 4: The Refresher
What we in America think of as “toning” is an essential step. It’s believed to help remove pollutants along with any residue from your cleansers, while also restoring your skin’s pH balance. It soothes and preps your skin to absorb the next step—the essence. I’ve found Korean toners are less harsh and drying than other kinds that I’ve tried, which is maybe why they’re called “refreshers.” And they’re made from more interesting ingredients—the SU:M37 Waterfull Skin Refresher contains fermented bamboo extract. Or the Son & Park Beauty Water that double as a toner and gentle exfoliator. Dispense the toner onto a cotton pad and wipe your face and neck—and don’t be surprised at the dirty streak left on the pad.
Step 5: The Essence
Considered the most important step to Korean women, yet still a mystery to many. Soak your face in Missha First Treatment Essence, which many compare to the popular SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. It affects skin on a cellular level, speeding your cell turnover rate which makes skin smoother and brighter. I’ve had the most noticeable results from adding this to my regimen.
Step 6: The Ampoule
Ampoules are super-concentrated versions of essences and are often referred to as serums and boosters out West. The Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule contains the key ingredient bifida ferment lysate, (As does the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair! See, we’re not that different.) which helps brighten skin, fading sunspots, and smoothing fine lines.
Step 7: The Sheet Mask
Sheet masks are a twice-a-week ritual, or more if your face is very dry. The wet, papery, Jason-like masks (I love Manefit Masks), are soaked in ingredients like collagen, which they, in turn, soak into your skin. The fun is in the variety; some masks contain avocado extracts (containing tons of antioxidants) or Vitamin E (anti-aging). The secret to sheet masks? They force your skin to absorb the nutrients and moisture better than if you just applied a cream or serum—before the product has a chance to evaporate. The immediate effects are addicting after one use your face is slightly plumper and much brighter due to all the moisture your skin just absorbed.
Step 8: The Eye Cream
This is a self-explanatory product, but take note of the technique. Gently tap Banila Co It Radiant Eye Cream around the eye area. This leads to better absorption of the product, and of course, eliminates any of that tugging and pulling.
Step 9: The Moisturizer
Really, another layer? If you haven’t noticed, Korean women are all about layering, to the point you feel your skin has been mummified. Again, generously massage the Goodal Double Bright Emulsion (the Korean translation for “moisturizer”) with gentle strokes so that it really, truly, penetrates into your skin.
Step 10: The Night Cream
By this point, your face feels like a 6-tiered cream cake and your skin has major shine—or as Korean women like to call it, a dewy, “moist glow.” The point is, your skin needs to stay hydrated as you recharge overnight. And because the next big thing in Korean skincare is the use of fermented ingredients, pat in a cream that contains fermented snow lotus extracts, bamboo sap and fruit water like the SU:M37 Timeless Moisturizing Cream. If it’s morning time, skip this and go straight to a BB cream like the Missha Signature Essence Cushion, or a product with plenty of SPF.
Intimidating, much? Like I tell all my girlfriends, this routine only takes about 15 minutes out of my evening (sheet masks and exfoliating packs are not really a daily thing), and it’s actually a bit therapeutic to pamper my face as I wind down for the night. The key is daily prevention and nurturing, which eliminates any need for expensive facials. Sure, if you’re stumbling home a bit toasty, barely able to take off your triple-strapped sandals, do yourself a favor and at least wipe off the day’s makeup with some cleansing tissues. Sleeping in your makeup is the universal ultimate skincare sin—whether you’re in NYC or Seoul.
Charlotte is the co-founder of SokoGlam, a retail site with a mission to bring Korean beauty products direct to women in the US.