“You cannot stop the changes of time, but you can modify
lifestyle and activity as you age, and it is good to know
that help is available to maintain the efficiency of
your healing system.”
— Dr. Andrew Weil
Have you ever seen a family member, neighbor, or family friend who never seems to age? This individual just seems to skate through life as though time stood still. Every time you see them, you cannot help but comment on how this person has not changed one bit.
Do you think that aging gracefully is something that you are genetically predisposed to or is it something that is available to just a lucky few?
Well, perhaps this was true many decades ago, but today we know better. There certainly are ways to age gracefully, and the choice is ours.
Attitude and Lifestyle
Attitude plays an enormous role in how we age. Getting older can be rife with emotional landmines, gerontologists say, including fears of losing your independence or becoming seriously ill. Aging gracefully isn’t always easy, but attitude matters a lot, experts say.
Many people believe that decline in function and quality of life is an inherent part of aging. But is that really true? Perhaps we should review the years of our lives and be brutally honest with ourselves. You may come up with an answer similar to this one. “Many of the problems we face as we age are not related to the natural process of aging; rather, they are the effects of a lifetime of stress and poor health habits.”
But better habits can become your norm and stress can be reduced, or even eliminated. It’s never too late to change. And you can start with the two most essential ingredients to graceful aging – attitude and lifestyle.
Before you can change your attitude and lifestyle, you must take responsibility for yourself. But before you can take responsibility for your actions and thoughts, you must know what they are in-depth.
One way to gain a better understanding of yourself is to keep a journal or a self-evaluation log. Your journal should contain information about significant self-observations, emotional responses to events, new insights based on readings, experiences, and similar recordings. Some areas to contemplate and note in your daily journal are:
- What were my dominant internal themes today or over the past week?
- What feelings (glad, mad, sad, scared, or other) made the most impact on me and why?
- What inner quality do I have that I really like?
- What behavior (thoughts or actions) would I like to change?
- What internal tensions did I notice and what caused them?
- How did I handle a stressful situation?
- What did I learn from reading (books, newspapers, magazines, etc.) today or during the week?
- How much did I exercise and what types of exercise did I do?
- How often did I meditate or completely relax?
- What did I do to nurture myself and how do I feel about it?
The Physical Body
The notion that, as you age, you should expect your health to decline is nonsense. You’re the guardian of your temple, and your actions determine how you age. It’s the effort you put forward that makes the difference between aging well and not. You’re in the driver’s seat. Although some effects of aging are genetic, much of the way you age depends upon you. You can decide to stay young in body and heart and make an effort to do so.
It makes sense that if you take care of your physical body now, it will take care of you later. If you eat properly, exercise, and get enough fresh air and sunshine, you will more than likely be healthier as you age. And learn new things every day. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. The more you challenge your brain, the better it performs.
Your physical body is like a temple that houses your being. You are responsible for what enters that temple. Eating nutrient-rich foods is the perfect way to protect yourself from the pitfalls of aging. Everything from your eyesight to your muscles and joints will respond to the natural course of aging. However, the more positive input such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, the better chance you give that physical body of aging gracefully.
And let’s not forget regularly exercising. Exercise is a preventive measure that will enhance your quality of life. Hop on the exercise bandwagon, even if you think you’re too old or too out of shape. The benefits you will gain are:
- Feeling better and enjoying life more.
- Improving mood and relieving depression.
- Preventing or delaying certain diseases (like some types of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes) and disabilities.
Make physical activity a part of your everyday life. Do things you enjoy. Go for brisk walks. Ride a bike. Dance. And don’t stop doing physical tasks around the house and in the yard. Trim your hedges without a power tool. Climb stairs. Rake leaves. Live life in balance.
The Spiritual Body
Just about everyone has some type of spirituality – not necessarily a religion, but a spiritual point of view. For example, doing the right thing, helping others, being part of a family and a community are all spiritual habits. Look for opportunities to care about other people. Volunteer in a program that resonates with you. Tutor children in an after-school program. Deliver meals to seniors who are shut-ins.
Taking part in being a spiritual being is an excellent way to stay in touch with and give back to your community. It provides many health benefits as well. Just because you are aging or have aged, does not mean that you are not still a vital part of a community.
Also important to your spiritual self is to surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. And don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity. Your home is your spiritual refuge.
Making a difference in other people’s lives will make a difference in your life too – a positive difference. If you continue to reach out to others (your family and your extended family), especially as you age, you will be the ideal model for aging gracefully.
The Mental Body
Having a vital and vibrant mind depends on how you treat it as you age. If you fill your head with negative talk or surround yourself with negative situations and individuals, your body and your aging process will show this.
Exude confidence. Don’t do anything with the idea that you’re trying to look younger—that can cause huge missteps in your sense of style and how you maintain an attitude of aging gracefully. In an earlier study from Yale University, people who had more positive beliefs about aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with more downtrodden attitudes.
There is something said about those who take a “glass-is-half-full” position in life—they are happy. And the more you smile and focus on the positive, the more you avoid stress and banish drama, the longer you will remain looking and feeling younger than your actual biological age.
If you keep a positive attitude, read daily, stay abreast of news in your community and around the world, and stimulate your mind with puzzles and games, you will find that your mind will age better – and you will feel better as a result.