Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Chill Pill: The One Drug You Should Be Taking

I review studies almost everyday. Most are on food, exercise, or supplements and how they might better your life. But there’s one topic, far less popular, that’s a constant theme running through many of these, which leads to better results 100% of the time: chilling out.

Today’s post highlights an article from Dan Buettner and NY Times on some of the longest living populations in the world. The main character left the US for his native home on an island in Greece to die when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer nearly four decades ago. The laid back agrarian lifestyle not only cured his cancer but allowed him to out live all of his doctors.

Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, he reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight. The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.

It’s an amazing story that’s less unique that you might think. I can’t recall how many instances I’ve noticed the common theme of improvement in a study is linked more to a lifestyle change than whatever was being studied, especially when that change led to less stress.

Of course we can’t all move to an island. We can, however, chill out. It’s entirely within our scope, no matter what we do and where we live. Remember the Seinfeld (the show about nothing, aka everything) when George becomes the “opposite of every man you’ve ever met” and his casual dismissal of a car cutting him off turns on the woman he’s with? That was more than self-deprecating humor. It was a lesson.

We’ve become a nation of control freaks in the world that can’t be controlled. It’s a no win scenario. We look for distractions to ignore it but these things, like sports, TV, political nonsense et al, make it worse as they too are uncontrollable. We need to focus inward, on our day-to-day lives and what makes them rich, which is not money but our relationship with others around us. "It's not the end of the world," is a cliche we too often ignore. What are we in such a hurry to do, anyway?

In Samos, they care about money. Here, we don’t. For the many religious and cultural holidays, people pool their money and buy food and wine. If there is money left over, they give it to the poor. It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”

You don’t need to move to an island to do this. All you need to do is find a way to relax. Exercise and diet, both major elements in the story, are the best place to start because they force your body into a more relaxed and healthy-functioning state. The rest is completely within your control and you can start right now, by reading the article, which sufficed as my daily dose of chill. Now maybe I'll unplug my clocks.

Seeking to learn more about the island’s reputation for long-lived residents, I called on Dr. Ilias Leriadis, one of Ikaria’s few physicians, in 2009. On an outdoor patio at his weekend house, he set a table with Kalamata olives, hummus, heavy Ikarian bread and wine. “People stay up late here,” Leriadis said. “We wake up late and always take naps. I don’t even open my office until 11 a.m. because no one comes before then.” He took a sip of his wine. “Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here? No clock is working correctly. When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.

stamatis moraitis tending his vineyard and olive grove on ikaria. andrea Frazzetta/LUZphoto for The New York Times


Anonymous said...

Bruce Anderson

Anonymous said...

Everyone is so busy these days chasing their tail and trying to achieve it all they don't realize that they are missing the joy of the present moment. They also don't need to achieve it all but to enjoy life more. Maybe the next BB program should be 3 months of mediation with Denis.

Steve Edwards said...

That would be awesome. Not sure it'd be a big seller though.

Patrick said...

Good article. I need to stop teaching. The students are great, it's the adults that are the problem!

I'd meditate with Denis. As long as he had that sweet mustache.

Josh said...

so, moral of the story: walk more, sleep more, work less, drink more wine, eat less shit, eat more vegetables - preferably liberally tossed in cold olive oil, and screw more.

I'm in.


Reed said...

I think what most of us reading Steve's blog are missing is the social component. The guys in that article hang out with the rest of the locals daily. I pretty much never hang out with anyone else unless we're riding or climbing or something.

My best friends all live hours away, so I rarely see them. On that island, they see them multiple times a week and hang out together. Sounds perfect to me.

But I don't think any of us are moving, so I don't expect it to happen. I guess in leiu of that I just need to make another cocktail.

Anonymous said...

Awesome for him but not realistic when you have children .

Sherri Dobay said...

This is so true. I really enjoyed this article. I am an artist/author/winemaker and have embraced this theory as well. I have written a book called "Daily Decadence, The Art of Sensual Living" which is a collection of stories, literary recipes and wine tasting notes focused on living each day with "mindful fullness." Each day is full of simple inspiration if we open ourselves to it, and slowing down is the only way we may notice it. Chilling out now... with endless gratitude.

Anonymous said...

I definetly think it is a good idea. Hard to do when you have to work 3rd shift and have 2 kids! I do the exercise and pretty good on diet, but am still stressed out!

Gaby Her. said...

With kids, with 3rd shift hours, with an unhappy marriage, poor or rich. It's all about the attitude you see life with.

Anonymous said...

With kids, 3rd shift hours, unhappy marriage, poor or rich no matter the circumstances. It's all about the attitude we see life with. Loving people is free and fun, and fun eliminates stress.