The Dalai Lama celebrated his 85th birthday on July 6. His goal is to live to the age of 110, he says, and that kind of longevity can only be imagined by someone who prioritizes their health. Born Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama has dedicated his life to sharing the importance of mindfulness and spirituality. And his own self-care practices play a huge role in keeping him centered, sharp, and healthy.
Though we can’t all meditate for several hours a day, there are a few things the Dalai Lama does regularly that we can add to our own lives. If you’re looking for ways to extend your own longevity, take a cue on self-care from the Dalai Lama.
The best tips for longevity from the Dalai Lama
1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
The Dalai Lama wakes up every day at 3 a.m. and goes to bed at 7 p.m. Not only is he getting a solid eight hours of sleep a night, but he’s also keeping his sleep schedule consistent. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule (yes, even on weekends) is one of the best ways to feel well-rested.
2. Meditate daily
Meditation is a huge part of the Dalai Lama’s daily routine. Every day after his morning shower, he spends roughly seven hours a day on mindfulness. He begins his days with a few hours of prayers, meditations, and prostrations. Following breakfast, he spends another three hours on prayer and meditation. After his 5 p.m. tea, he finishes his day with about two more hours of meditation and his evening prayers.
As the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s meditation schedule is way more rigorous than that of most people. However, even if you only dedicate five minutes a day to mediation, you can still reap the benefits. Studies have shown that meditation can help slow aging, sharpen your mind, and reduce stress.
3. Stay active
Staying active doesn’t mean that you need to do a HIIT workout five times a week. The Dalai Lama gets his steps in through daily walks. Every day at 5 a.m., he takes a 30-minute walk before eating breakfast. When it’s nice out, he’ll take a stroll around his residential premises. But if it’s raining, he’ll hop on the treadmill. Walking is a great low-impact way to get moving.
“Walking is a fantastic cardio workout that is low-impact, while at the same time, can be a heart-racing, high-intensity exercise when done properly,” says Aaptiv master trainer John Thornhill. “Brisk walking, and more specifically, walking with incline, torches calories and builds and strengthens the muscles in your posterior chain, AKA the muscles from your calves up to your back.”
4. Follow a plant-based diet
When the Dalai Lama is at his home in Dharamsala, India, he follows a vegetarian diet. But when he travels, he eats meat. Reducing your meat intake is good for your overall health, but especially good for your heart and gut health. It may also lower your risk of developing cancer. Some of the world’s longest-living people follow plant-based diets and, similarly to the Dalai Lama, still occasionally eat meat.
“Eating less meat and filling in those gaps in your diet with more plant-based foods can definitely provide benefits,” says registered dietitian Amy Gorin, RD. “One study in [the journal] Public Health Nutrition found that flexitarians had healthier diets on the days they ate meatless diets.”
5. Practice compassion
According to the Dalai Lama, compassion is one of the most powerful tools we have for happiness. During a 2016 talk that celebrated his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama said: “Compassion…opens our heart. Fear, anger, hatred narrow your mind,” according to Huff Post. He explained that doing acts of compassion helps you cultivate your own inner peace. Practicing compassion is also a great way to feel more connected to others.
“Compassion activates the areas in the brain that are in involved in prosocial activities,” says neuroscientist Julie Brefczynski-Lewis. “Which is why it’s so important in this time of isolation that we maintain that sense of connectedness with fellow humans,”
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