Beloved actress, activist, and “Golden Girls” alum Betty White is turning 99 this Sunday (Jan. 17). Like a fine wine, she seems to only get better with age. The landmark birthday has everyone wondering – what’s her secret to longevity?
In an interview with People, she said good genes have played a role in her long, healthy life. “I am blessed with good health,” she said, “so turning 99 is no different than turning 98.” While unfortunate, she will spend this milestone birthday quietly due to the pandemic but said that she looks forward to “visiting with close friends and bringing food to my animal friend” once everything goes back to normal.
In celebration of her near-centennial birthday, here are her top tips for living a long and healthy life.
Laughter is the best medicine. And White, who starred in many comedies throughout her longstanding career seems to also agree. “Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can lie to others — not that I would — but you cannot lie to yourself,” she added.
Why does it work? Laughing decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which in turn promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
2. Stay positive
In 2018, she told Parade that the key is to “accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.”
Related: Neuroscience Reveals: Gratitude Literally Rewires Your Brain to be Happier
3. Avoid complaining
“I know it sounds corny, but I try to see the funny side and the upside, not the downside. I get bored with people who complain about this or that. It’s such a waste of time,” she told Parade in the same interview.
Negativity is a downward spiral. The more you focus on problems instead of solutions, the worse it becomes. While bouts of negative thinking happen on and off, it’s important to let yourself vent, but quickly move on to solutions.
4. Keep busy
“First of all, keep busy,” she told Katie Couric in a 2017 interview. “Don’t focus everything on you, that wears out pretty fast. It’s not hard to find things you’re interested in, but enjoy them and indulge them, and I think that can keep you on your toes.”
There is quite good evidence from studies of people in nursing homes showing that those who have something to do and look forward to tend to be in a much better state.
“I just love to work, so I’ll keep working until they stop asking,” she told Parade.
5. Exercise your mind
White said she challenges herself with mind games and puzzles to stay sharp. And she’s not wrong.
Mind games engage different parts of your brain: memory, creativity, cognition, and language skills. Whether alone or with a group, challenge yourself (and your friends) to stay sharp. It can have long-term effects to stave off neurological diseases.
“Crossword puzzles!” she told Couric. “I’m addicted. An admitted addict. I just can’t put ’em down.”