What is the secret to long life?

“Discouragement cannot live in a grateful heart.”  —Anonymous

My friend is celebrating a birthday today. She is 103.

What is her secret? I can’t say for sure, but I suspect it might have something to do with joy and gratitude.

Three years ago, at the time of her 100th birthday, she wrote down some of her memories to give as a gift to her children. (It was her birthday, and she was the one giving gifts.) She asked me to prepare the printed manuscript of the stories, so  I received the lucky task of transcribing her memories from handwriting to computer.

At the age of 100 her handwriting had not deteriorated; I could read every word clearly. They taught penmanship in school in her youth.

Often, in the telling of a tale, she wrote, “That puts me in mind of a poem.” The poems followed, word-for-word perfect, as remembered from her school years 80 or 90 years earlier. When I searched the poems on Google, I discovered that, not only was every word perfect, she laid out the poems on the page exactly as the authors had decades ago, and every punctuation mark was in place. They did memory work in school in her youth.

But what I noticed most about her writing was this: joy and gratitude on every page. Story after story ended with, “How fortunate I am!” Or, “Why is everyone so good to me?” They taught humility and gratitude in school in her youth.

The formative years of her life involved World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, and yet her memories overflow with joy and gratitude.

Are joy and gratitude the secrets to long life?

I can’t say for sure, but they make the time that we’re here—however long it might be—a lot more enjoyable.

10 thoughts on “What is the secret to long life?

  1. Jennifer

    I learned an important lesson watching my parents and in-laws live their lives. My parents are (at 81 and 82) young at heart, excited about the world, curious, love to laugh, play, see the up-side of a situation and engage in what is around them. My in-laws lived the opposite life. They died at ages 69 and 70. If you are excited about life then you want to live it – and people want to live it with you.

  2. Benjamin

    Fabulous post Arlene! Penmanship isn’t en vogue anymore in schools, and these days memorization just means until the test is over. I think schools need to play into what students are passionate about, rather than what the state wants them to know on standardized tests, if we want the kids to succeed.

    1. Arlene Post author

      There is some truth to what you say. But it takes time and maturity for people to figure out what their passions are. In the meantime, schools have to lay the groundwork. Sometimes we have to learn things that we aren’t passionate about, but that provide us with valuable life skills anyway.

  3. artboy68

    A breath of fresh air! Thankfulness and contentedness- rock on!! I think honestly these values have to come from the parents first (sometimes with great effort)- unfortunate how this seems to have become more rare over the last decades….

  4. Rob

    Great blog Arlene. I came here from Wondercafe. I liked your Northern lights pics too. I often wonder waht life will be like when Im 103 and it should be even more interesting at 206.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Hello Rob, You’re the first person to find me through Wondercafe. That makes me happy! Between me and you and your really cool profile picture, I’m not sure I would want to live to 206. I think people would be good and tired of me long before then . . .


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