Daniel J. Levitin is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) in California, and the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal. He is the author of four consecutive New York Times bestselling books: This Is Your Brain On Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind, as well as the international bestseller A Field Guide to Lies; his fifth book, Successful Aging was released January 2020.
Before becoming a neuroscientist, Levitin worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer, contributing to records by Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and Blue Oyster Cult. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Billboard, and Grammy. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, Cris Williamson, Victor Wooten, and Rodney Crowell.
Levitin writes psychological stresses caused by life events, such as a loss of a job, divorce, caretaking for family, and deaths of loved ones, all contribute to how this can leave long-standing trauma (and a shorter lifespan) if not not resolved.
The alternative, to be active, socially engaged, and excited about life, mood-enhancing natural hormones (serotonin, dopamine) increase our immune systems and repairs at the cellular level.
Levitin writes happiness has a downward trend as people reach the age of 30, and sharply increases after the age of 54. (The Well-being score). This statistic holds true for every country in the world, from Albania to Zimbabwe.
The brain has an attentional mode called the “mind wandering mode” that was only recently identified. This is when thoughts move seamlessly from one to another, often to unrelated thoughts, without you controlling where they go. This brain state acts as a neural reset button, allowing us to come back to our work with a refreshed perspective. Different people find they enter this mode in different ways: reading, a walk in nature, looking at art, meditating, and napping. A 15-minute nap can produce the equivalent of a 10-point boost in IQ. – Daniel Levitin
As someone who has experienced age-related discrimination in the workplace, I’ve had to re-tool and reset my own personal skills by learning new things, and experiencing new social environments. After years of taking part-time classes, I obtained a degree in Journalism in 2017 and have increased my skill in being a musician. Levitin’s book embraces the notion of not staying stagnant – it is critical to continue to explore new things, and push yourself to do things you want to be doing.
By combining exercise, eating healthy food (not processed, fried, over-salted, over-sugared), and expanding one’s social environment, getting 8 hours of contiguous sleep, aging gracefully is achievable.