Kwik Brain 212
January 22, 2021     |   244 VIEWS
How to Live a Better & Longer Life with Marta Zaraska

"Personality is something that can be trained just like our muscles."
Marta Zaraska

Marta Zaraska is a science journalist published in the Washington Post, Scientific American, New Scientist, The Atlantic, Discover, etc.  Her new book, “GROWING YOUNG: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100”, is a Globe and Mail bestseller. GROWING YOUNG was endorsed by Adam Grant, Dan Buettner, Emeran Mayer, among others, and named by The Wall Street Journal one of the best books of 2020 on longevity and aging.

Connect with Marta: Marta’s Website | Twitter | Instagram

How can we live a better and longer life? 

We often get questions from our community about anti-aging, and for centuries, people have wanted to know what it takes to live longer, fuller lives. 

While a healthy diet and exercise are an essential part of living well, it’s been found that the greatest influences of health are strong connections and engagement. 

To discuss this topic, I’m excited to welcome science journalist and author, Marta Zaraska, to the show! She’s the author of a brand new book, Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100. 

In this episode, Marta shares her captivating research about the power of optimism, the benefits of kindness, the advantages of conscientiousness, and how you can apply them to your life.


Show Notes


  • As a science journalist, Marta has always written about nutrition, exercise, and psychology. While doing her work, she started coming across more research that shows there are things that are just as important for our health that we do not pay enough attention to. 
  • One meta-analysis of studies showed that being socially engaged and having strong connections with friends, family, and community, can lower your mortality risk by about 45%. Diet and exercise are usually around 20-30%. 
  • Based on this new information, Marta began asking herself if she was really doing what was best for her health and longevity and for the health of her family. 
  • After reading 600 research papers and speaking to dozens of scientists, she wrote Growing Young and changed the way she lived her life, paying much more attention to social connections, mindfulness, optimism, and mindset. 


  • The vagus nerve is one of the links between how we live our lives socially and how our bodies respond. Also, our social hormones like serotonin and oxytocin are connectors between how we connect with other people and how our bodies respond. 
  • You have changes in gene expression based on how socially connected and kind you are. 
  • Conscientiousness is a personality trait that seems unconnected to longevity, but as one researcher put it, if conscientiousness could be put into a pill it would be the most powerful drug on earth. There are physiological connections between how conscientious you are and how long you will live. 
  • Personality is something that can be trained just like our muscles. 
  • When you are considering your own health or even the health of your children, consider that eating broccoli is important, but keeping their room clean is just as important for their future health and longevity. 
  • Although there are genetic components to personality, it is changeable. Neuroticism and empathy, for example, can be changed with “exercise.”
  • Similarly, we are not all born to be Olympic swimmers but we can all still improve through exercise. 
  • Research shows that it just takes 2-6 weeks to see changes in personality traits when exercised properly.
  • Starting small with changing one habit per day can lead to long term changes. 


  • Optimism can add anywhere from 4-10 years to your life. Optimism and kindness make life more pleasant. 
  • Research shows that kindness spreads, so it’s not only good for your gene expression and health, it is good for your community. 
  • A fascinating phenomenon happened in Canada at a coffee shop where a drive-thru patron paid for the driver after them — kindness spread until 200 people paid for the driver after them. 
  • Kindness is better for our health, mood, and mental well being. 
  • Numbers show that committed, romantic relationships are the most important thing for your health and longevity, beating diet and exercise. 
  • When we live with another person, we synchronize our bodies to a point that we synchronize our heart rate, pulse, finger temperature, and electric conductivity in the chest.  
  • In terms of longevity, it can lower your mortality risk by over 40% when you are in a highly committed relationship because it has effects on our HPA (stress) axis.
  • When we are in a happy relationship (marriage, family, and friendship relationships alike) our stress response goes down.  
    • Our brain sends signals down into our body that cause the release of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. 
    • When this system malfunctions, it has very negative consequences for our health in terms of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
    • We function the best when we are surrounded by others with whom we are close.
  • As social apes, we evolved to be surrounded by our tribe. If you were ever alone in the savannah, all your systems would be on high alert. You would be sleeping poorly and antibacterials and inflammation would go up because you were likely to be wounded. Many things happen to our bodies when we are away from our tribe. 
  • We still need our tribe just like our ancestors did. Many people today are living on their own and do not have time for relationships. This has had many varying effects on our bodies. 
  • The most important thing you could be doing for your longevity and health response is to make sure you are surrounded by people among whom you feel safe and connected. 
  • Chronic stress can shrink your brain and chronic fear could suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses and other illnesses. 
  • Little things to create loving, connected relationships, acts of kindness, and efforts to develop personally can make a massive difference in your life. 


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@MZaraska & @JimKwik), and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us.
  • Share one small act of kindness and tag us!
  • Get Marta’s book, here


Related Kwik Brain Episodes You Might Enjoy

Episode 211: Fasting for Better Brain Performance with Dave Asprey

Episode 208: 10 Things I Learned in 2020

Episode 202: The Greatest Virtue for Your Brain

Episode 187: Miracle Mindset with JJ Virgin



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