News & Events

36 Questions to Help You Live Longer

This article was originally published in Forbes. Check it out! “36 Questions to Help You Live Longer” By Kalina Silverman and Diana Rau


2020 marks the 82nd year that researchers at Harvard University began following 724 college age men as part of the longest running study in history on human development. Their objective? To determine what factors lead to healthy and happy lives. Key results suggest that happiness and health do not result from fame and fortune. Instead, as the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development Robert Waldinger put it, the clearest message to emerge is, “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Based on converging findings from this study along with several others reporting related results, we designed 36 questions to spark conversations to help you deepen your present relationships and build meaningful new ones — which in turn may help you live a happier, healthier, and longer life!

Build Strong Relationships

“Close relationships…are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.” – Harvard study on adult development. Our first set of questions is dedicated to sparking conversations that may help you strengthen your relationships. 

1. How many close friends do you have that you could turn to in a crisis?

2. Is there anyone you would like to have a closer relationship with? How might you create a closer relationship with them?

3. If your relationships were flowers in a garden, which ones are blooming from care? Which ones are withering away from lack of attention?

4. Are you afraid of letting others get close to you? Why?

5. Who in your life do you trust the most and what did it take to build that trust?

6. What places or communities do you turn to for peace and comfort?

7. What do you do to create a strong community that you can call your own?

8. Are there any relationships that matter to you that you’re unhappy in?

9. If you could choose one person you could strengthen or improve your relationship with, who would that be? What’s a small action you can take today to do that?

Live Your Purpose

Research from University College London found that people with a greater sense of purpose in life lived longer than those with the lowest sense of purpose.

10. What is your purpose in life? What are you meant to do in this world?

11. What do you do daily that strongly aligns with your sense of purpose? What doesn’t align?

12. What have been your greatest failures? What have they been preparing you for?

13. What, to you, is a life worth living? Reflecting on the last week, what comes to mind as moments where you felt strongly you were living your best life? What are moments when you felt you were wasting life?

Help and Support Others

study conducted with the elderly showed those who helped others lived longer lives.

14. How are you helping others? How can you do more to help others?

15. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

16. When was the last time you served someone at great cost to yourself without keeping track of the cost?

17. In what ways are you using your gifts to help others? In what ways are you not?

18. What causes are you most passionate about?

19. How have your difficulties equipped you to serve others?

Laugh Often

Researchers from Norway found that women who rated high for humor had a 48 percent lower risk of death from all causes.

20. Who is the funniest person you know? What makes them funny?

21. What made you laugh or smile today?

Stay Young At Heart

Research from University College London showed people who felt younger had a lower death rate than those who felt their own age or older.

22. What activities make you feel younger? 

23. What was an activity that brought you incredible joy as a child that you don’t do anymore?

24. What have you learned recently from someone from a younger generation than you?

25. Do you seek to cultivate friendships with people of all different age groups? What do you find most rewarding from your friendships with people younger than you?

26. How are you getting better every day?

Nurture Optimism

A Harvard study found the most optimistic people had a 16 percent lower risk of death from cancer, a 38 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and respiratory disease, and a 39 percent lower risk of dying from stroke

27. What are you excited about? What gives you hope? What are you optimistic about?

28. Can you share a personal experience that has given you hope in humanity?

29. Think of some negative things that happened to you recently. What were the silver linings?

Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

Research from UC Berkeley shows that experiencing awe can actually impact health by reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

30. What gives you a sense of awe?

31. What’s one thing you experienced recently that made you feel a sense of wonder or awe?

Practice Gratitude

Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and many others have shown that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

32. What are you most grateful about in your life right now?

33. Who are 3 people you’re grateful for? Why?

34. How do you practice gratitude in your everyday life?

35. What about today has been better than yesterday?

36. What choices have you made in the last five years that you’d thank yourself for making?


This article is the brainchild of Kalina Silverman, founder of BIG TALK & Diana Rau, cofounder of twine. Together, we’re hosting LIVE, short video convos between amazing humans from around the world on the 36 Questions above, to help us ALL live longer. 👉🏾 Join us for conversations, happening now!

How to make meaningful social connections while social distancing

My motto during this quarantine and time of encouraging social isolation is inspired by Christopher McCandless’s (Into the Wild) realization after living in social isolation for 114 days: “Happiness is only real when shared.” And as we struggle at home through the anxieties that quarantine life may present us, Anna Draper’s sentiment in Mad Men also strikes a chord with me: “The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone. ” Despite this temporary period of “social isolation” we are all going through, we are actually experiencing an unprecedented reign of global social solidarity and togetherness!

I’m often reminded that loneliness kills. Compassion saves lives. So please remember, no matter what you’re going through right now, you are very far from being alone. We can use this opportunity to check in on one another, build new relationships, and strengthen existing ones in spite of physical social distancing.

I am happy and relieved that most people I know are so far healthy, in some sort of company and safe with access to food and shelter (see below this article some ways to help those who aren’t). While we are together alone, here is a list of “Big Talk” questions we can ask our quarantine buddies at home/while on a walk – or friends, family, lovers, classmates, and co-workers over video calls (perhaps people we haven’t caught up with, in a while) to help us remain hopeful, connected, reflective, and strong:  

  • What are you looking forward to?
  • What have you started but never finished, and why?
  • How can you care for others right now? Who in this world do you love most and what are you doing about it?
  • What curiosities can you explore from the comfort and safety of your home? What’s something you have always wanted to try that now would be a good time to try? 
  • What gives you hope?
  • What does this world need more of? How can you help?
  • Where do you find peace?
  • What little things in life do you take the time to stop and appreciate?
  • What have you witnessed that has strengthened your faith in humanity?
  • What is your greatest strength? 
  • What do you fight for?

So far the only known model to prevent the spread of Corona is serious social distancing. But humans are meant to be social! So here are ideas that have worked for me that might work for you to help you continue to deepen and diversify your relationships – to become more socially involved while isolated:

  • Writing/illustrating hand-written cards and letters to loved ones and friends far away (or even in your own city since you can’t see them in person)
  • Hosting virtual happy hours, brunches with your best friend group or coworkers
  • Calling an old mentor or teacher and soaking in life wisdom!
  • Talking and engaging with local people and workers you do come into contact with; I asked my cashier at Chick-fil-A what’s keeping her going, and she broke out into a big smile and showed me her best dance moves – the highlight of my day! I struck up a conversation with my mail woman and we talked about our families. I bonded with my Uber driver over music and he said our conversation inspired him to take up the piano. 
  • Sometimes, cuddling next to your quarantine circle – I love sitting in bed and watching comedy / funny memes with my sister and laughing our ears off.
  • Cooking new meals with friends and family (the other night we made home-made Chinese dumplings, and I see my friends post the yummiest meals on social media)
  • Painting and making art – My friends in Australia and I have a FB group where we share a new watercolor piece each week
  • Taking lots of walks! – Six feet apart or with your quarantine buddies or alone to clear your head or call a faraway friend/family member
  • Singing and playing piano/guitar – My dad and I sang Karaoke songs from the ‘60s… and early 2000’s the other night and had a blast!

I’ve found that taking part in these activities has shown me that we don’t need a lot of material things when it comes down to it – We just need each other!

Regardless of race, socioeconomic status, workplace hierarchy, geography, religion – we are all going through this unprecedented time together, experiencing similar life changes, and likely sharing common feelings. We have the same fears, concerns, coping mechanisms, and joys. Perhaps the kindest thing we can do right now is radiate hope, humor, inspiration, and compassion towards each other, and continue to strengthen our social solidarity and knowledge so that we can prepare for whatever comes next!

Some Big Talk related things I’m working on during this time:

  1. Sign up for a virtual Big Talk event hosted by the Riveter on Wednesday the 15th at 3 PM PST.
  2. The Big Talk Question Card Game is 20% off on Amazon (It’s great to play at home during quarantine or over Facetime or co-worker coffee chats).
  3. I’d love to continue to hear your stories shared through the Big Talk community on FB or @makebigtalk on Instagram

***For those who are less fortunate and more preoccupied with survival, there are programs to help people feed their children and save small businesses. If you are financially secure, consider donating to your local food bank / feedingamerica, buying gift cards to your favorite small businesses, or donating blood (there is a critical need right now), among other ideas. 

Big Talk for 1000 teenage girls for UN’s International Day of the Girl

On the UN’s “International Day of the Girl, St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia hosted a special day of celebration for 1000 teenage girls. Kalina was invited to speak about Big Talk and how it can enhance building more open and meaningful relationships both at school and at home. After the speaking portion of the event, girls “made Big Talk” in their homerooms and wrote down and shared their own Big Talk questions with one another.

Watch

U.S. Embassy Tashkent, Uzbekistan Hosts Kalina for Big Talk Event

6/9/2019 – The US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan hosted Kalina Silverman to present Big Talk to exchange alumni and local audience members at GroundZero Kitob Olami. Guests learned how to “make Big Talk,” answered Big Talk questions in small groups, shared videos and personal stories out loud, and wrote their own unique Big Talk questions.

See more 

 

Forbes features Big Talk!

Forbe’s features Kalina’s Quora response to “How can we make more meaningful connections with people we’ve just met?”

Read here.

Beautiful Big Talk Evening Event Hosted In Trinidad!

This morning I received an email from Trinidad! On July 4th, the lovely Lynn-Marie Edwards hosted a Big Talk event for 70 at the Kaiso Blues Cafe:

When I asked Lynn-Marie what organization helped her put on the event, I was touched by her answer:

“I am not attached to any organisation. I am just one woman who was so touched by an idea that I had to do something with it in in my community. In future, I want to have more events like these. I REALLY love Big Talk! I love what it does for people, almost giving them permission to let down their guards –

Many of the persons who attended expressed their desire to attend more events like Big Talk. We have a big party culture in Trinidad and Tobago. We are host to what some would say is the world’s greatest Carnival. As a result there aren’t that many fora where people can come together and engage in meaningful conversation just because. We also have a bad crime situation. The story of Trinidad and Tobago is quite an interesting one!

Maybe one day you can come here and we can have a grand Big Talk event and go around to schools and communities to Big Talk.”

The original message from Lynn-Marie:

“My team and I hosted a most successful and meaningful Big Talk evening called Big Talk- Conversations That Matter. We had about 70 people in attendance and held it on Tuesday 4th July, 2017

In promoting the event we interviewed some random people in our capital and made three promotional videos.

The evening started off with an ice-breaker called Find Your Big Talk Match. Questions were prepared in 3s and placed in a jar. Each participant had to choose a question and find the two other people who also chose that question and answer it.

After the ice-breaker I introduced myself as the host and explained the concept and flow of the evening. The idea was to have a relaxed evening of casual but meaningful conversation. My team and I prepared about 145 questions, using your questions as a base. We placed the questions in jars on cocktail tables throughout the space and groups were naturally formed and beautiful discussion flowed.

The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and we are looking forward to hosting more events.

Thanks again for this amazing idea and allowing us to use it to make conversations that matter.

Yours faithfully,

Lynn-Marie Edwards.”