Mini love lesson #192
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Synopsis: Four major candidate categories of greater than yourself love and their quantity and quality of life benefits backed by research are covered in this mini-love-lesson that might just result in you adding more and better years to your life and the lives of those you love.
Want to Add More and Better Years to Your Life?The research results are in and they are very clear. The major way to a longer life that is healthier and happier can involve loving that which you understand to be larger, grander and greater than yourself. That is what we conclude drawn from a host of longevity, quality of life and love relational studies done in a wide variety of universities and medical centers.
Things “Greater Than Yourself”In the lives of those people considered to make a positive difference in their world, it often is found that they truly loved and gave much of their life to something they considered to be far larger and more important than themselves. Sometimes it was altruistic – helping the disabled, the disadvantaged, the needy. Sometimes it was political – helping the cause of freedom, democracy, oppressed minorities and those politically misused and abused. Often it was medical – administering to the sick, searching for the cure of a dreaded disease, preventing or limiting the spread of illnesses, building health care facilities.
Education in its many forms has been the greater than yourself cause of many. Nature is another cause – the environment and assisting the survival of many other species we share the planet with. For many others it is been one form or another of what we call the arts and humanities. A caring religion, devotion to a compassionate deity or a positive philosophy and set of principles frequently has been involved as has a general sense of loving in its broadest meaning.
Almost invariably the people who have given themselves to something they saw as greater than themselves have experienced a great many positive effects in their lives for doing so. May you also! Let us look at four main candidates for this life extending and life improving type of love.
Love of LifeDo You love life? Do you love living, experiencing the many awesome marvels and wonders of life itself ? Do you know how to be awesomely affected by this incredible gift you are given to feel, think, be aware of and to be a part of existence and its endless mysteries and miracles. Most things in the universe can not do that, so far as we know. In fact, of the many living creatures on our planet we are the ones blessed with being able to do that best, so far as we know.
There are people so enamored of life they truly love it and experience it much more fully than most. So, it is understandable that research shows those are the ones that tend to live life longer and healthier.
Those who more frequently experience awe and who find life wondrous (as in marveling at gorgeous scenery, being deeply moved by great music, being inspired by the astonishing phenomena of nature or heart-touched by viewing a newborn infant of almost any species) are aware at a high level. Then there is marveling at the world of different life forms seen via the microscope or the vast universe seen via the telescope; those may be the ones who have the greatest life experiences. Frequently the same life-appreciating people are the ones doing the most to affirm, preserve, defend, protect, improve and advance the causes of life itself.
Unknowingly for most, there is a great payback for loving life. These life-affirming and life-appreciative activists significantly benefit from greater production of cytokines in their biological systems. Cytokines are super important to all sorts of cellular health, growth and replacement in just about every part of the body. Without them serious deterioration and increased susceptibility to diseases of all sorts exists in the body and the brain. One recent source of research about this is from the University of California at Berkeley. You might want to check on what Dr. Dacher Keltner has to say about this and related health and longevity issues.
Love with a Higher Purpose or CauseClosely related to the love of life people are those that have discovered a greater than themselves cause or purpose in life. There are so many examples of people who just had to find and give their lives to something that mattered. Something it was to improve life conditions, advance or enrich our world or some portion thereof. Sometimes a life purpose has to do with the actualization of a talent as often occurs in the worlds of art but also for gifted intellects in science.
Sometimes it is labeled a calling and involves a passionate curiosity, interest or inner drive to create something of use, meaning, inspiration, etc.. Also, a calling to a cause can be to provide a service, defend against a threat, achieve a worthy goal or to maintain, conserve or restore something of impactful quality. Whatever it was, having a positive and constructive higher-purpose-love tended to make healthier, happier and longer living people who had a greater than self purpose.
Do you want to live at least seven good years longer than you probably otherwise would? If so, find and get busy with your purpose in life. Find something more important than yourself and love it (or who and what it helps) and you might extend your life quality and quantity for up to seven years. It has to be beneficial, constructive and positive for those it effects. Causes that are basically centered in avarice, negativism, the inconsequential, regressiveness, negation, entropy or are life harming do not tend to work. In fact, they often work in reverse harming their adherents. That is what the preponderance of research and clinical opinion points to.
Looking forward to what you can do for your cause every morning as you get up can make everyday feel worthwhile, more exciting, more enjoyable and considerably healthier. According to a study in the esteemed British medical journal, the Lancet, a strong sense of life purpose makes you 30% less likely to die of any and all causes (including accidents). That may hold true for every year you are actively involved in your life’s purpose.
Spiritual LoveHaving an active, spiritual, love relationship with whatever you perceive to be your metaphysical something greater (higher power, the force, the life force, nature, the universe, universal love, the great mystery, your deity, spiritual entity or energy or more simply God) probably will add between 4 and 14 years to your life depending on which study you read.
This longevity also appears to be rather dependent on how active you are in your spiritual life. Regular meditation and a sense of communicating with your greater something, plus doing various spiritual rituals and spiritually motivated acts of service, along with meeting with like-minded others all seem to contribute to longer and healthier life according to a passel of related research.
Love of People and Other Living CreaturesIf your love of something greater than yourself has to do with people in general, the human race or any other large group (i.e. children, the elderly, your country, identity group, etc.) and you are actively involved in what you are doing about that love, your life likely will be better for it. Furthermore, health benefits also accrue to those who actively love other species. This especially is true of the species who are good at loving back and those good at demonstrating behaviors exemplifying love toward each other. Dogs, great apes, horses, parrots, cats, elephants, dolphins and a host of others are all candidates demonstrating at least some of the behaviors and the brain chemistry that goes with love.
Love of people in general, various groups of people and other living species gets very similar positive results to loving particular people like spouses and family members and also having healthy self-love. Such love helps your immune system get stronger, makes for blood pressure improvements, lowers risk of heart attacks and strokes and has a wide range of other health benefits. Adding to your love of particular people, the broad scale greater than yourself aspect diminishes the risk of early death by about 45% according to a study in the PLOS Medicine Journal.
Love of smaller groups such as one’s family counts too but in somewhat different ways. Having strong, healthy, love connections with family and dear friends also can lower your chances of dying early unless those relationships are too often highly stressful and highly problematic. Adding a life purpose, greater cause or love of larger human or animal groups can add quite a bit to life expectancy and quality of life both, so long as other anti-health and anti-love factors are not overwhelmingly strong.
So, ask yourself how is your love of humanity, the human race or any big part of it? Check out your love of our creature cousins and how active you might be on their behalf. If you are doing well here, your quality of life mentally, physically, emotionally, and just about in every other way is likely to be better. You also are likely to have less illness, quicker recovery from illness, live more joyfully and have a far greater sense of life fulfillment. That is what the preponderance of research is showing.
As you can see, the above categories overlap and integrate, are expandable and are in no way exclusive of one another. Those who actively live their love for something they see as greater than themselves has given millions a better and longer life. Emulate them and you may do likewise.
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As always – Go and Grow with Love