The One Trick to Living Longer (No Diet Required)

In City, Farm by Alastair Ong1 Comment

I have a friend who moved out of New York City about a decade ago.  After a particularly wonderful morning when I was walking the dogs around my pond on a beautiful spring day I called him up.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I cannot believe how wonderful it is to live close to nature.
Henry: Yeah, fresh air and green is awesome.
Me: I can’t believe that you did not try to get me to move sooner.  It’s like you’ve been keeping a secret from me.
Henry: Well when it comes to moving from the City, you’re ready when you’re ready.  Before then, you’re just not ready.  I just never felt like you were ready.  Think about it Al, if I had asked you to consider moving five years ago, what would you have told me?
Me:  Hmm, yeah, maybe you’re right.

If you live in a city, ask yourself if you are ready to move to the country. Chances are, you are not.

What Henry was getting at, was that city slickers are super geo-centric when it comes to where they live. In fact, this goes so far as to Manhattanites being so geo-centric that they poo-poo those that live in other burroughs. I was one of those poo-pooers believing that Brooklyn was for younger Y geners that could not afford Manhattan rent prices.  If Henry had asked me to consider moving to the country five years ago, I would have probably responded with, “Why would I want to do that?” all the while thinking, “Are you friggin’ nuts?”  I would justify my reasoning by the same reasons listed in my first post under “Things We Think We Will Miss”

My buddy Todd, who also lived in New York City sent me a great article from the Washington Post.  The article documents a long-term Harvard study funded by the National Institutes of Health called the Nurses’ Health Studyand.  This study found that people who live in “greener” areas, with more vegetation around, have a lower risk of mortality.  For those of you who want to slog through the actual study, click this link to download the 32 page study.

The study determined that people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes — had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. Specifically, they found that the relationship was strongest for deaths related to respiratory disease, cancer and kidney disease.

This Wasshington Post article then lays out a few theories for why this is.  One that rang my bell is known as the “biophilia” hypothesis, which was proposed by renowned biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson. This theory embodies the idea “that we evolved as a species embedded in nature over most of our existence as a species, and something about that nature contact still resonates with us,” Frumkin said. “Something about contact with nature is soothing and restorative and thereby good for mental health.”

I have read multiple articles over the years that found the benefits of living by nature.  In fact, it is hard to find an article that does not list spending time in nature as a partial and potential cure to depression.  But living in nature increasing my life span? Sign me up.  From the researcher, “If we had a medication that did this — a medication that prolonged life, that addressed very different unconnected causes of disease, that did it at no cost and with no side effects — that would be the best medication of the decade,” Frumkin said. “But we don’t have a medication like that except for this ‘vitamin N’ — nature.”

 It is still too early to tell whether living in nature is improving my mental health, but I can say that I love waking up and seeing wildlife like birds, geese, ducks, deer among our pond and greenery of the forest around us.

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