"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-- Martin Luther King
Ayurveda, the great Indian wisdom, system of medicure, in its treatise avers "Aapthopase vibhavetaarogyam..." which translates to "love everyone as your own and good health shall be yours".
Of course western sciences care two hoots for this. Western sciences do not make sense in many areas. Scientifc findings, perforce keep changing faster than you can keep a tab on.
This is understandable. Even the concept of space and time of both Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein have been shown to be seriously flawed. When we think of the reductionist medical science of mostly statistics, one really wonders if medical science is a real science.
One reads in the newspapers and "so called" science journals about many studies that give at times diametrically opposite results.
"This makes one healthy" says a study, which is immediately overtaken by another which says: "Ha, it does not, wait, does it?" "Maybe, but alas no", and so on. These drips and drabs are making people lose faith in those short term. cross sectional cohort studies.
The longest study that we have to date is the MRFIT study which analysed the risk factor data in two groups of healthy men-one with intervention to set things right, and the other, a control group.
Alas, the study proved to be a boondoggle, making a mockery of the risk factor hypothesis which is being sold in our medi-business, netting billions of dollars. MRFIT showed that while the risk of premature deaths loom large, there are no true risk factors. This has upset out apple-cart.
Longitudinal observational studies running into decades and centuries are the bedrock of Indian wisdom. Indian wisdom has come up with certain aphorisms for a healthy and happy life which are for all times, and are unalterable.
Curiously there are a couple of very long term (In the context of western science) studies in western science which have been observing two groups of individuals for nearly eight decades- The Grant study of 284 Harvard sophomores which started in the 1930's and spent more than 20 million dollars over the years, overseen by more than three people at different times since the beginning of the study.
There is another equally long stanford study which initially gathered 1444 children selected from schools in the area with the idea of studying geniuses. This was called The Terman Study in 1921. Lewis Treman was one of america's well known child psychiatrists. Soo it became evident that the Terman study could throw light on how people lived to be happy and healthy.
Today when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal studyof human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years and often become more fulfilling than before.
This interestingly echoes the indian wisdom's salient ideas. Now George Valliant follows that cohort into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement years.
Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies and alcohol use (Its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study's subjects), "Triumphs of Experience" shares a number of surprising findings.
For example, " People who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife", and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, "memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical ageing after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.
The credit of growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.
What do these two studies show? "Quit smoking , stop drinking, exercise, keep warm and healthy relations with your friends and family, and know that money doesn't necessarily make you happy. But mostly importantly, keep in mind that you will transform and progress constantly until you die."
To sum up longitudinal studies mentioned above and Indian wisdom, these following conclusions could be drawn:
- Happiness is life. Full stop
- The only thing that really matters in life is your relationship with other people.
- Being laid back and lazy could kill you. Hard work helps
- A number of longitudinal studies agree on the quality most connected to a long and successful life: conscientiousness. Who lived the longest in the Terman Study? The conscientious people.
- A little worry is good for health and happiness. Good to be optimistic.
- Moderate worrying often confers real benefits to health. An example: James, tactful and sensitive, was some what of a worrier throughout his life. But it turned out that his concerns prompted him to take better care of his health, especially after the death of his wife.
- There is always hope in life.
- Time and Time again in the Grant study showed that those who come from loving homes do much better than the less fortunate.
These and other studies have given some tips for survival under difficult situations: So when life is daunting and we need resilience, keep in mind:
- "Percieve and believe
- Manage your emotions
- Be a quitter
- Be delusional
- Prepare...even if its too late for preparation
- Stay budy, busy, Busy
- make it a game
- Get help ad Give help."
All there read like the ancient Indian timeless wisdom which beats western reductionist cohort studies hollow.
Longitudinal studies take a holistic attitude unlike our reductionist sciences.
" I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
Martin Luther King Jr.