If you are in Los Angeles and hop on the 10 Freeway heading east for about sixty-nine miles, you will eventually come to a town of twenty-three thousand people, called Loma Linda—Spanish for Beautiful Hill. If you get off at Anderson Street, you will immediately notice two things. One, the sprawling university medical center with the same name as the town. Their mission: “continuing the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ.” The other is the prevailing presence of the Seventh Day Adventists. It is the largest community of those practicing this Protestant-based religion in the country; about seven thousand attend the university’s campus church.
Candidly, despite its pretty Spanish name, unless you need to get gas, you will likely keep heading down the road. At first glance, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Loma Linda, California. However, if you know anything about the area, you will know that this is the only place, within our US borders, where people live, on average, about a decade longer than the rest of us, many hitting one hundred years of age.
Of course, this begs the question. How does this landlocked, average-looking suburban community manage to be part of the 0.02% of the US population that reaches their centennial? Well, it starts with their faith, which informs how they live.
If you visit Loma Linda on a Saturday, good luck finding much of anything open, other than the church. Similar to the Jewish religion, Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) observe God’s day of rest on the Sabbath, from Friday at sunset through Saturday. The Sabbath is their weekly time for worship, family, community and being in nature. All work is set aside for twenty-four hours. When not at church, these folks are out hiking, bike-riding, having family meals. They are recharging their mind, body and spirit.
Next, the SDAs take their dietary lead from the Bible, Genesis 1:29, “God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you, it shall be for meat.” Which means they mainly eat a plant and nut-infused diet with little to no dairy, processed foods or refined sugar. Some are pesco-vegetarians who eat a bit of fish. There is no smoking, no alcohol.
While the dietary habits of the SDAs living in Loma Linda are noteworthy, what drew me to researching them is their faith and how that seems to correlate to their increased level of happiness, which arguably helps them to live longer.
Research that was done by nearby University of California Riverside’s Happiness Expert, Sonja Lyubormirsky, indicates that those who have a spiritual community—however, you define this for yourself—and are active in it, tend to be happier and live longer. Why? Because being engaged in a spiritual community gives people a sense of belonging, being needed, which uplifts one’s sense of purpose, that life has meaning, that there is a reason to get up every day.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Maria Baltazzi