I recently came across an author who, due to the loss of one dear to her in only 37 days (from diagnosis to death), has been exploring the nature of this question deeply. Her name is Patti Digh and her website is: www.37days.com I encourage you to explore the ideas and exercises she offers to bring your full awareness to what is important in your life and how you wish to interact with those you care about. It is heart-opening work, creative and thought-full, but ultimately the most rewarding kind of research any of us can do -- to face honestly and humbly our own humanity, frailties, foibles and capacity to love.
Another book which caught my attention, from a different perspective is John Robbins' Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. He pulled together all sorts of research done over a period of several decades on centenarians of four different cultures and geographical locales. He sought to evaluate the intersections of these diverse groups to see what factors contributed most to their extreme good health and longevity. Diet & exercise were, unsurprisingly, very close to the top of the list. However, the other factors were more intangible: respect of the younger generations for their elders, joy as exhibited in exuberant living through singing, dancing, sharing stories, etc. And a fairly amazing lack of stress. Hmmm. So how does a 21st century body translate this wisdom into action? A good starting point for open discussion. I'm listening. Here's a link to his video about the book: