Getting older can be an exciting and enjoyable experience. Here’s how.
Getting older is not for wimps.
After the age of 50, daily life can become more challenging in unexpected ways.
It can also become more joyful.
The trick to experiencing a meaningful and pleasurable life after 50 is to avoid the mental and physical rigidity of getting older – and this is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible, and the research proves it.
Nobody wants to turn into the you-kids-get-off-my-lawn senior who complains about ailments. And yet, it happens often – once-young people turn into rigid old grumps.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Life has its natural seasons, and we all get older. But there’s no reason for you to get older faster than what is necessary.
Habitually sour thinking creates rigidity in the body.
But an open mind helps create a supple body.
What follows are the 3 primary ways you can stay flexible, strong, and happy – and avoid the mental and physical rigidity of getting older.
1. Fight Getting Older By Making Your Brain Even Smarter
I have a smarter brain today than I did 3 years ago.
When I switched to an anti-inflammatory diet, my brain fog lifted.
But here’s the thing.
I hadn’t even realized that I had brain fog until it went away.
Let that sink in a moment: I didn’t know that I had brain fog until it lifted.
Had I known about the extremely positive impact of anti-inflammatory eating, I would have made the lifestyle switch much earlier in my life.
Each of us wants a smart mind and a healthy brain.
And we want to keep our mental acuity razor-sharp as we age.
The best way to protect from the negative impact of mental rigidity is to do what we can today to help make our brain tissues healthier tomorrow.
Get Your Omega-3s
High dietary fish intake is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease which is probably related to the protective function of the Omega-3 fatty acids in the fish.
Omegas can be tricky – you want to take enough but not too much. Ask your naturopath or doctor for the correct dosage of Omega-3 that will meet your unique needs.
Ask Your Doctor about Food-Based Supplements
Consuming excellent nutrition after the age of 50 is essential if you want to continue to have great overall health – including brain health.
If you are considering cholesterol-lowering or statin drugs, understand that they have been reported to cause memory impairment in a high number of patients (however, there are statin drugs that do not enter the brain; for example, the supplement red rice yeast). Ask your doctor about food-based supplements and other alternatives.
Switch to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is the leading cause of accelerated aging, and for many people, the easiest solution to reduce inflammation is through nutritional upgrades. Namely, eating fresh.
Whole foods are full of life-enhancing properties, and one of the best things you can do for your body is to stop buying processed foods, and head instead to your neighborhood farmers market.
What inspires me in the kitchen are simple-to-make, healthy recipes that utilize my favorite kitchen items: the blender and the food processor.
For example, green smoothies are life-changing – they make you leaner, stronger and give you sustained energy. I feel a buzz after each one, and energized to take on the day; I’m also finding that I enjoy the entire process – from selecting produce at the farmers market, to creating my own concoctions in the kitchen. It’s all fun to me (most of the time).
It’s important to find clever ways to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet. The easiest way I know to eat more leafy greens and veggies each day is: green smoothies.
By the way, you will need a blender that has an extended warranty and an extremely powerful motor – that way, your green smoothies will have the desired consistency of a milkshake (and your blender won’t burn-out from having to handle veggies, ice, nuts, seeds, and frozen fruit).
If you feel like you really want to try using green smoothies to lose fat, increase your energy, detoxify your body and improve your health, then I encourage you to ask your doctor, nutritionist, or naturopath before beginning.
Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, and the flavonoids found in berries and veggies are associated with less cognitive decline while getting older.
Caffeine is a brain stimulant but it does not increase cognitive performance above normal. Instead, caffeine has benefits for the damaged brain by protecting against further brain dysfunction.
Studies show that caffeine suppresses the action of the two enzymes responsible for the formation of the protein “tangles” described earlier and for the removal of the Beta-amyloid plaques which cause the brain inflammation of the Alzheimer’s patient.
Research indicates that Alzheimer’s patients show a lowered level of caffeine and an increased level of Beta-amyloid in the blood.
Black tea can be a good, safe source of caffeine. Green tea has proven benefits, too.
One glass of red wine per day when consumed with a meal has been shown to reduce the negative vascular effects seen with dementia and getting older – and over a 20 year period of time individuals doing this exhibit 50% fewer deaths over non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.
For the sake of your liver and blood sugar, consider – as an alternative to alcohol or fruit – a high-quality resveratrol.
Resveratrol is the beneficial ingredient found in red wine, and a capsule of it each day could prove helpful to you.
Be Curious about Inflammation
Inflammation speeds up the process of getting older.
It’s a complex process, but essentially inflammation is when your own immune system attacks the healthy tissue in your body, mistaking it for harmful obstacles.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to irritants, but when the irritants are relentless the body gets overwhelmed and the immune system spirals out of control.
Our modern lifestyle – eating sugar and flour, and a lack of exercise combined with a relentless amount of low-level stress – creates inflammation when getting older.
Take Glycation Seriously
Glycation is what happens when sugar reacts with your body’s proteins.
If I could go back in time, I would eat much less sugar during the earlier part of my life. I spent two years eating a ton of fruit thinking I was doing a good thing for my body, but by the end I became sick.
I’m feeling great now, and I learned a valuable lesson: fruit can be healthy in small doses, but too many carbohydrates of any kind – refined sugar, fruit, flour – can create insulin resistance when getting older.
Sugar is among the most common health obstacles in contemporary life.
Carbs can be so tricky.
You need to earn your carbs, and eat enough to support your activity level so that your body doesn’t cannibalize muscle tissue.
However, eat too many carbs and you can end up feeding cancer cells.
The trick is to find that narrow window of carb-consumption that is just right.
Move Each Day
Consistent exercise improves circulation, and good circulation helps to nourish the delicate tissues of the brain while getting older.
Research has shown that physical activity and exercise decrease the risk of cognitive impairment by increasing angiogenesis and neurogenesis – the development of new blood vessels and nervous tissue.
Learn a New Language
It’s important to remain mentally robust while getting older because it enables us to keep the Age-Associated Memory Impairment at a reduced level.
We now know that intellectually engaging activities increase neurogenesis and uniquely increase neuron synapse formation.
Pick up a new spoken language – or pick up a new instrument and learn the language of music. Your brain will grow new dendrites!
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Take a Weekly Yoga Class
Chronic stress has a destructive effect on brain function while getting older.
Do something specific to reduce your stress levels and do it each week.
If meditation sounds unappealing, try taking a yoga class.
Class participants typically find their minds are quieter and more serene at the end of class than they were at the beginning.
Can Your Brain Get Smarter as you Age?
There are cognitive changes while getting older which is called “Age-Associated Memory Impairment” or AAMI.
AAMI begins to affect us around 40-50 years old and is a relatively small cognitive loss involving primarily our short-term memory.
We normally lose about 3600 brain cells per hour.
Language skills, wisdom and judgment generally remain stable. AAMI is associated with getting older at a normal pace and is not a sign that Alzheimer’s disease will occur.
A simple example of this would be going into the kitchen and not remembering what you were going there to do (something that happens to each of us from time to time).
In the past, we thought that this normal brain aging was a given and something we had to accept. Today we have a better understanding of the brain.
I was taught as a student that the brain developed with a specific number of neurons or brain cells, blood vessels, and synaptic junctions, endpoints or terminations of the nerve cells with other cells. However, it is now known that within the brain we have the ability to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis), new nerve cells (neurogenesis) and additional synaptic junctions, even while getting older.
Risk Factors for Brain Dysfunction
Though no one likes to talk about Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that we understand that certain habits of living will help keep a brain healthy while getting older.
Alzheimer’s disease can be separated into three progressive stages of the brain’s functional deterioration:
- Early Alzheimer’s Disease: Associated with moderate short-term memory loss, language problems, and often associated depression.
- Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: Exhibits more severe short-term and long-term memory loss, more severe language impairment, wandering, aggression and sometimes hallucinations.
- Advanced Alzheimer’s disease: Virtually complete loss of memory and intellect with the individual being bedridden in a near vegetative state.
Certain pathology is present in the brains of all people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The affected brain gets smaller in size, loses nerve cells and synapses. These changes mainly occur in the outer layer of the brain or the cortex as well as in the hippocampus.
This makes sense when we understand that memory loss is a primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and the brain cortex is associated with long-term memory and the hippocampus with short-term memory, the two affected sites of change.
Within these same two parts of the brain, two enzymes start to cut or cleave short sections out of proteins within the nerve cells.
These newly formed abnormal protein sections eventually are able to migrate out of the nerve cells and unite together forming protein “tangles.”
These protein tangles, in simple terms, begin to strangle the nerve cells to death.
The third pathology, in these same two parts of the brain, is the formation of what is known as plaques of Beta-amyloid. The Beta-amyloid plaques result in brain inflammation.
The cumulative result of these three processes is the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have been able to identify particular risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease:
- the risk for the disease increases with age and peaks at about 90 years
- the next generation of an Alzheimer’s Disease patient is at greater risk for the disease
- head trauma increases the production of Beta-amyloid plaque formation and its deposition
- strokes induce Beta-amyloid production
- depression increases the likelihood of the disease by 50%
- sleep deprivation increases Beta-amyloid production. However, it is interesting to note that taking short mid-afternoon naps enhances memory recall for hours afterward.
- type II Diabetes with high blood sugar and insulin levels gives a two-fold greater risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s Disease. Some researchers go so far as to call Alzheimer’s Disease Type III Diabetes.
- additional risk factors are: high blood pressure, poor diet with low vegetable intake, low levels of the protein “leptin,” a high-caloric diet, elevated levels of LDL cholesterol.
Beyond the AAMI there is also dementia which is the continued and progressive decline in memory and intellect. Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of 70% of all dementia cases.
Potential Solutions for Healthy Brain Tissue
Today’s researchers believe that 60% of all Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s by the time they reach the age of 90 years. We all need to have as much of an understanding of brain health as possible and do what we can to protect our brains.
Prevention truly is brilliant medicine, and healing the brain is more possible now than ever before.
Only 10% of Alzheimer’s disease has a genetic linkage while a startling 90% is from other or unknown causes.
The genetic or familial form occurs prior to age 60 and that of the unknown cause or sporadic form starts after 60 years of age.
It appears simple. Workout, use your brain, eat cleanly and take appropriate supplements for a better chance of having a healthier brain while getting older.
What Science Says about Common Health Obstacles
The US is the most obese country in the world currently, with over 34% of Americans considered clinically overweight (see source citations below this article).
Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, Ireland, and Mexico are countries also experiencing a dramatic increase in body fat among its citizens.
Perhaps more concerning than the sharp increase in fat specifically, is the significant decline in overall health.
In the US:
- new cancer cases are approaching 2 million a year
- deaths from heart disease approach 1 million
- over 40% have hypertension
- diabetes is on a dramatic incline – with over 100 million people having either it or its precursor, pre-diabetes.
- significant rise in autoimmune disorders (1 in 5 people) in which immune systems become fatigued and overreact to irritants – creating unnecessary acceleration of aging process.
Seeing statistics are usually not enough to change negative obstacles into positive habits. You will also need passion.
2. Fight Getting Older By Living More Passionately
A life lived well is a life lived passionately.
To live passionately is to greet your daily life with a sense of adventure and gratitude while being guided by your intuition and your own belief that the world is full of goodness.
This is never more important than when getting older. Passion prevents rigidity.
However, to live passionately requires time and physical energy.
Use Organizing to Increase Spontaneity
Oddly enough, organization skills have become a key to thriving in the modern era – because when we efficiently manage our tasks and schedule, we open up more free time to spend on self-care protocols and to experience joy with loved-ones.
You are given 168 hours each week. So am I. So is everyone.
By using special systems, and a newly focused awareness, it’s possible to make the most of those 168 weekly hours while getting older.
I swear by to-do lists, but I also know they can be irritating to some – fortunately, there are ways to help make lists less daunting, and more fun.
Remember: to accomplish great things consistently, you’re going to need a productivity system; but to master any system, you’re going to first need to align with your to-do list.
When we work, we can work so effectively, that it creates more free time for other important activities – such as:
- improved self-care
- quality moments with loved-ones
- pursuing those interests about which we feel passionately.
We can opt-out of the low-value “signal noise” and busy-ness that plagues modern life. Our culture is changing so fast, and the smartest and strongest among us must learn to adapt and focus quickly.
Implement a New Self-Care System While Getting Older
Modern life in most first-world and developing countries creates an unnecessary psychological duress. After age 50, this process can happen even faster in the human body – and therefore the amount of time that needs to be devoted to self-care increases.
In order to age at a more natural pace, it’s helpful to have some sort of system in place for improved organization and time and energy management.
The big idea here is to offset the hidden daily effects of our current culture – the sedentary lifestyle, psychological stress, and environmental factors.
Sometimes, modern challenges require modern solutions.
Ask your own medical doctor what obstacles he or she thinks might be standing in the way of you becoming healthier while getting older.
To install more self-care protocols into your average week, you’ll need more windows of free time and energy, and a good productivity system can help with that.
Every Time you Fall off the Fitness Horse, Climb Back On
Being fit helps you live more passionately. It improves your flexibility and libido and raises your energy and potency while getting older.
We all fall off the horse from time to time.
We’ll have a few good weeks of eating almost perfectly, or exercising almost every day, and then… BOOM!
We’re sitting on the ground, looking dazed, wondering “what happened?”
The good news is, the longer you have a good habit, the harder it is to break it (and the easier it is to reestablish it if you do).
Once you’ve been extremely fit, then the visceral feeling of being fit will live inside your memory cells forever, forging a clearer path for you to find your way back to stellar health and fitness should you ever momentarily stray.
In the past, I’ve been able to enjoy workouts 70 days in a row (even if my day’s workout was simply a long walk).
When I’m on a winning streak like that, exercise becomes increasingly easier. It’s as if the habit becomes wired into my system and I find myself going to the gym almost on autopilot.
But then, life happens. I have deadlines for work, or I travel and get thrown off my exercise schedule.
At that point, though the habit of exercise was becoming easier, now trying to get back into the habit feels almost excruciating. Jerry Seinfeld calls that “breaking the chain.”
It happens to everyone. I used to beat myself up about it, but now I just accept it as the natural ebb-and-flow of self-care.
I encourage you, if you are on a winning streak with your own workouts but then lapse, release yourself from shame and guilt. Try to have a sense of humor about it and get back to the gym as soon as you can.
A good wellness regimen engages the full circle of fitness:
- cardio (power-walking, cycling)
- resistance training (weights)
- mobility (yoga and stretch)
- stress reduction (t’ai chi, qi gong, meditation)
- cross-functional exercises (sports).
I encourage you to take a look at your own fitness regimen while getting older – to make sure that it’s varied, and consistent, enough.
I invite you to remember: wellness is the ultimate wealth.
Do a Relationship Inventory
Being relational helps you live passionately.
I’m noticing that a common mistake while getting older is to get so caught up in current projects and then forget to allocate a little time toward cultivating new relationships and deepening existing ones.
Millions of people throughout history have shared insight as they’re on their final breaths for this life and preparing to transition to whatever lies beyond: it’s human relationships that matter most.
I encourage you to take stock of your own relationships.
“Who are the good people in your life who are deeply and authentically interested in your thoughts and feelings?”
The positive people in your arena are the ones to reach out to, new friends and old, and reconnect with.
“…ultimately, it all comes down to your relationships. Healthy relationships are what are most responsible for bringing joy and prosperity into your life. I feel so energized about bringing more of myself to the time I spend with my close friends and family. I hope I add something meaningful to their lives.” – Jared Knickmeyer
Relationships are what matter most – and the evidence backs this up. I encourage you to reach out and connect with someone today. Phone a new acquaintance or an old friend and ask them to lunch… or out for a brisk outdoor walk together.
The research is startling and proves time and again that we humans are – ultimately – relational creatures and that our physical health and psyches improve when we have many positive, intimate relationships in which we can reciprocate kindness while getting older.
“…sometimes we experience unhealthy or unproductive relationships that affect our well-being. It is imperative to connect with the ones that matter. It’s helpful to eliminate the “junk” that affects us, preventing us from growing and living our best lives.” –Doina Oncel
Frankly, I’m kind of understating it here.
The statistics reveal that many longevity factors are connected to relationships. For example, here are just some of the proven relational habits that help humans to live longer and healthier:
- laughing more
- having sex more
- owning a pet
- being married
Research shows that you’re at greater risk of heart disease without a strong network of friends and family.
Loneliness can cause inflammation within the cells of the body while getting older.
In otherwise healthy people, isolation can be just as dangerous as having high cholesterol or even smoking.
Become Relentlessly Self-Educating
Self-educating helps you live passionately – and you need more than just new information, you need inspiration.
Not many people like to think about getting older, but the smart ones do.
While most people enter their 40s and beyond on a sort of autopilot, reacting to the various demands and stresses of daily life, they’re simultaneously missing out on a prime opportunity to take back their health – to be better, feel better, and look better than they ever have before.
Visualize yourself 20 years from now. I don’t mean where you’ll be living or how much money you’ll have in the bank, but how your physical body will feel when you wake up in the morning:
- will you lunge out of bed with enthusiasm?
- will your body feel fit and lean, flexible and energized?
Do you want to live passionately, with excitement and purpose while getting older?
Healthier aging doesn’t usually happen on autopilot. It helps to have an actual strategy.
Prevention is More than just a Buzz Word
I urge you to disbelieve that it’s necessary to wait until you or a loved-one has a significant health challenge in order for you to be motivated to permanently improve your health. It makes more sense to create optimal health now.
Preparation is the Stage that People Skip Most Often While Getting Older
There has been an enormous amount of psychological research conducted on how people actually change. Several stages of lasting-change have been identified and among the most pivotal – and often skipped – is preparation.
Permanently improving lifestyle habits occurs when there is adequate preparation to support the desired change. People must undergo an internal process before they’re able to alter behavior in a way that creates lasting change.
We all need to be inspired toward meaningful lifestyle choices while getting older.
You can motivate yourself toward exciting changes that will leave you feeling stronger and more potent than you ever thought possible.
What matters to many of us today is having the opportunity to create:
- excellent health
- meaningful work
- caring relationships
Is this what matters to you, too?
To live a healthier life, you’ve got to prepare adequately to remove obstacles as you build each new habit.
For starters, you’ll need weekly inspiration. My suggestion is to find a couple of interactive, healthy-living websites that resonate with you, and then subscribe to their free newsletters and podcasts.
3. Fight Getting Older By Using Mind Tricks to Create Daily Serenity
Behind the scenes, longevity scientists have actually been having legitimate breakthroughs, identifying nutritional compounds and lifestyle habits that are proven to extend the human lifespan – but science has a downside, too.
Modern life in the era of technology sometimes makes it challenging to set aside time for the people that are most important in your life.
There are solutions.
You can create a new map for the next part of your life – a map that will help you to navigate so that your journey is joyful and rich while getting older.
This next phase of your life can have increased meaning and purpose, and be your most fascinating yet.
One of the lifestyle habits that has proven to be helpful is meditation and positive visualization. The goal of meditation, as you might already know, is a simple one: to be here, now.
It sounds so simple, yet when we take the time to actually witness our own thoughts as they occur, we recognize that they are often centered in the future or the past, which is not calming to our bodies.
What is healing: being present, fully – and a meditation practice helps that to occur, over time.
It’s interesting (and significant) to note that new research from a long-term aging study reveals that happy people not only enjoy life more but also have more life to enjoy.
This is why it can be enormously helpful for us to pay close attention to our thoughts, and then re-direct them when we witness ourselves thinking negatively.
The soundtrack of our thoughts can be what determines our ultimate health:
- how we speak to ourselves
- those imaginary conversations we have inside our heads
- the moment-to-moment mind chatter
To be healthy for the long haul, the words that play in our brains need to be as positive as possible.
Anxiety has become a challenge for many people in daily modern life.
When we hear the word anxiety we tend to imagine it dramatically – it makes us think of panic attacks.
In reality, it’s the low-level everyday stress that can often be the most problematic while getting older, because it sneaks up on us and erodes our quality of life in ways that might not seem obvious.
It’s important to understand that stress does more than just lessen our enjoyment. It also kills.
Stress impacts our body’s ability to function optimally – it can suppress immune systems and increase susceptibility to diseases and accidents.
We hear often the expression “manage stress,” but I also like the term “metabolize stress,” because metabolism is a process in which you take one thing and turn it into an entirely different thing that’s even more useful to you.
Therefore, to metabolize anxiety is to take the frenetic energy of daily modern life – all its sounds, color, texture and stimuli – and process it into something softer, more creative and thoughtful (instead of letting it pass through our bodies unprocessed, zapping our adrenal glands and frying our central nervous system along the way).
Happily, there are solutions for lessening that feeling of agitation and its negative impact on our everyday lives.
The 5-Minute Meditation
The goal of meditation is to be here, now.
Meditation is just one of several effective and natural ways to manage anxiety healthily while getting older.
It sounds so simple, yet when we take the time to actually witness our own thoughts as they occur, we recognize that they are often centered in the future or the past.
Chewing on the past or projecting into the future is usually not calming to the psyche and body.
What is healing: being present, fully, in this moment. A meditation practice helps that occur.
I call this method “5-Minute Meditation” because if you know that only 5 minutes is required, you’re more likely to actually do it.
Over time and with consistency, you may find that you gradually enjoy meditating for longer periods – my own meditation practice includes morning affirmations and journaling.
If you need a little help getting this ball rolling, you might find one of the many meditation smartphone apps helpful.
Positive Internal Dialogue
The soundtrack of our thoughts is what determines our ultimate health.
How we speak to ourselves, those imaginary conversations we have inside our heads, the moment-to-moment mind chatter – all of these are hugely impactful to our longevity.
To achieve excellent health while getting older, the talk that occurs within our own brains needs to be as positive as possible.
Immerse in Nature While Getting Older
Nature is one of the best soothers out there.
Fresh air, a little sunlight, a quiet walk – all of these have a subtle, but ultimately profound, effect on our bodies and minds.
Daily exposure to nature helps us to better manage anxiety.
It’s easy to forget that for thousands of years our brains were accustomed to using nature as a way to recalibrate the central nervous system.
Slam-cut to thousands of years later: we receive only a fraction of the daily exposure to nature that we used to.
The air is full of noise, signals, and synthetic chemicals that didn’t even exist before the Industrial Age. You had better believe that has an impact on our psyches and stress levels – even if the impact operates outside our day-to-day awareness while getting older.
As busy as most of us are these days, we still have time to get at least a few minutes of nature each day (and certainly each week).
In order to find the time for this, we need to look carefully at our typical day and build it in to our schedule: make it a priority, block it out on your calendar, and say “no” to people and invitations that attempt to infringe on your own self-care or quality time with nature.
If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will either.
Monitor Your Beverages
For Pete’s sake, if anxiety is an issue with you in any way, please limit yourself to one coffee a day, only, at most! Switch to tea instead. If you’re addicted to caffeine, taper down gradually so as not to get a headache.
Research has established that the caffeine within coffee can trigger unwelcome side effects, such as restlessness, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, and agitation – particularly in people who are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects (see sources below this article).
Talk Therapy While Getting Older
If you believe that anxiety might be impacting your ability to thrive in your weekly life, I encourage you to seek out a qualified counselor or psychologist. Talk therapy is proven to be helpful in the reduction of anxiety while getting older.
You probably will not have to go for very long to get results. Just 4 months of weekly talk-therapy sessions will often produce positive results – then you can take time off from therapy with the knowledge that you can always come back whenever you need a “tune-up.”
Talk therapy is an opportunity for you to discover – with the gentle guidance of a trained professional – hidden beliefs that might be blocking you from experiencing deeper meaning and greater happiness.
Ideally, we want to find the “sweet spot” where we can move through the day feeling that our innate talents are being utilized fully – yet without overextending ourselves to the point where small events feel joyless.
I invite you to experiment with these above methods for smoothing out the rough edges of everyday living and improving your quality of life. Remember, however, that these methods are most effective when done consistently.
- who do you know who would find this article helpful or interesting?
- what other natural methods have you used successfully to manage daily stress?
You will progress more quickly toward improved health and fitness when you remove some key psychological obstacles.
Make these subtle – yet profound – shifts in your perspective, and see if it helps you to look better, feel better, and accomplish more.
Stellar fitness begins in the mind!
While psychopathology is the study of behavioral disorders (and how humans unconsciously interfere with their own progress), positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing and how people can function optimally.
Both of these types of psychology provide clues on how we can live our daily lives with more physical energy and happiness.
Below are helpful statistics about the common obstacles people experience while getting older in our culture – some might be preventing you from being even healthier than you are right now.
Also included below are potential solutions to these challenges that can help you to thrive.
Psychological Health is Prosperity
Let’s face it, most of the time we take our health for granted.
We tend to get caught-up in the minutia of our daily lives and we think we’re doing the best we can – yet when our health is taken away, we then realize that we’d do almost anything to bounce back into good health.
Faced with significant health obstacles, we wish we’d been more respectful – more mindful – of our self-care.
When you have good health, you are pure potentiality. Anything is possible.
No matter how sour you might feel emotionally at any given moment if your body is vibrant with excellent health, your life is yours to create.
Good mental health helps you to be brilliant at work, show-up for your loved ones, craft new relationships, and fulfill your life purpose.
You can re-engage with your own desire to achieve life’s fullest potential.
In particular, many people experience a new peace of mind after age 50.
In part, this happens because after age 50 the struggle of trying to pretend to be something else is given up.
In the autumn season of life, you will be more likely to accept yourself as you actually are – including your faults.
Life after 50 can be either dull or adventurous – fraught or fabulous. What you experience in life is largely determined by the mindset you bring to it.
No matter what your age, there are ways to embark enthusiastically on a new chapter of your life’s journey.
As you begin to strive to see yourself more realistically – yet without shame – certain questions are bound to present themselves:
- when do you carve out a moment to inspect the contentions that cause unease?
- how do you know if what you’re uncovering has worth?
Byron Brown asserts “truth is not something to believe; it is a direct experience of knowing that ‘yes, this feels true, feels accurate, feels right.’”
“You know truth through a felt sense,” he said, “a settledness, a solid certainty, or perhaps a shifting or releasing inside of you.”
“You relax a little, you breathe deeper or feel clearer, even if you don’t like the truth you are experiencing.”
In other words, pay attention to the internal compass.
Even if it evokes unpleasant feelings, you can usually sense that there is something within a discovery that feels true.
When you have a revelatory moment and you realize something new about yourself, give yourself some time to metabolize the information.
Let it settle in and find its place in your growing awareness:
- in what ways do you notice it affecting your perceptions?
- is the shift subtle or more profound?
- does this new awareness affect your mood, your outlook, your response to others?
- is your interest in the process of self-discovery piqued, or do you feel like shutting it down?
The effect of tuning-in to these responses is it permits you to learn more about how you either defend stasis or allow shifts in your awareness to occur.
This will bring a greater understanding of where potential obstacles lie.
There is no gold star or big red “F” being handed out based on your reactions.
It’s simply a way of refining your understanding of yourself – a way of blowing away the clouds that obscure your view.
If you can move beyond your psychological resistance and habitual stances, you may move closer to a truth that can truly sustain you on your journey to remembering the wonder of who you are.
Asking yourself important questions is a smart start as you move into the next new chapter of your life.
Learn to Recognize the Feeling of Being Centered (Versus Off-Centered)
Perhaps life’s ultimate success secret is the ability to metabolize anxiety naturally:
- how do you manage the inevitable anxiety that arises throughout daily life?
- what do you do with stressful thoughts and feelings as they come up?
In this modern age, the vast majority of us experience varying degrees of anxiety every single day. How we choose to process these instances can vary greatly from moment to moment and from person to person.
For some of us, the various signs of psychological anxiety are a reminder that it’s time for some self-care.
For most, however, anxiety is a cue to check-out (disassociate), to self-medicate (sugar, booze, smoke, etc.), to dispel (get angry) or repress.
Some choose to calm their disquiet with mood-altering substances and drugs.
Others find comfort in food, television, romance novels, or relationships that create enough diversion to serve as a temporary distraction while dealing with the challenges of getting older.
Though these are common and completely understandable avenues to reduce anxiety, in all likelihood they cannot sustain our sense of ease and in some cases, they may even cause physical and emotional harm.
Fortunately, just as a plant uses the process of photosynthesis to turn the sun’s radiation into sustenance, so can humans take anxiety and use it as fuel for increased clarity and personal awareness.
One way to realize this possibility is to cultivate a different and more sustainable coping mechanism for those periods of time when you experience distress.
A healthier option is to create time to take care of your body (and subsequently your mind and spirit) through exercise.
This can take the form of utilizing all of the equipment, classes, and trainers that are available at your local gym; however, it can also be as simple as going for a jog in the neighborhood after work, heading to the tennis court with a friend, or just walking your dog.
It’s also possible that you may find it more enjoyable to de-stress in a calm and quiet way. In that case, mediation, tai chi, qigong, or guided visualization may allow you to tap an inner source of calm that helps you ride out waves of anxiety.
As you learn to recognize the physical sensation that inner calm creates in your body, you’ll find it increasingly easier to access it in times of heightened tension.
Engaging the creative process can also be a surprising avenue of stress relief. This can involve allowing your fingers (and mind) to become lost in a block of clay or pouring out your worries onto a blank canvas or sheet of drawing paper.
Even grounding yourself in the soil of your garden as you pull weeds and nurture your vision of the perfect patch of flowers and vegetables, can be a way to reconnect with your vitality (while sloughing-off the stressors that can mount during the course of a day).
If you happen to be more extroverted, simply increasing your weekly social interactions can have a calming result. Extroverts recharge their psychological batteries by being around other positive people.
Decide that You Want to Keep Learning While Getting Older
It’s easy, especially in response to the breakneck speed of contemporary life, to not feel like doing anything other than flopping on the couch with your close friend Mr. Donut and allowing the distractions from your television to carry you away. The only problem with methods like this is that they’re not truly sustaining – especially not while getting older.
Though they may provide a much needed moment of distraction, they often have the unfortunate effect of leaving you feeling like something is missing. When all is said and done, your natural vitality and vigor have been depleted rather than restored.
Shifting your coping mechanisms can have an enormous impact on your sense of well-being.
So why aren’t we all out there scrambling to implement healthier methods of stress reduction?
For many of us, our tried and true de-stressing stand-bys are not unlike a child’s nubbie or blankie, in that if you dare to take them away, there will be hell to pay.
We associate our current methods of self-soothing, even if unhealthy, with our means of escaping pain and discomfort – we don’t take kindly to having them tampered with.
This idea will make sense to those of you who have had a young child (son, daughter, niece, nephew) in your life; it’s likely that you’ve witnessed them very lovingly clinging to a beat-up stuffed animal or blanket that you would be mortified to donate to the Goodwill.
For that child though, that tattered piece of cloth stuffed with polyfill, symbolizes nothing less than their connection to a sense of serenity and security.
In psychological terms, that item is referred to as a transitional object and it becomes an external representation of that which brings them comfort (their primary caretaker).
Through healthy development, the individual becomes able to internalize the outer sense of aid so as to create a source of support inside themselves while getting older.
Seeing The Process of Getting Older with New Eyeballs
You can cultivate a feeling of compassion for yourself while negotiating the processes of reevaluating and replacing your methods of self-soothing.
It’s important to muster the patience and compassion for yourself that you would have for a child that you were asking to give up her object of comfort.
Yes, you’re a grown adult, logical and intelligent – but your need for self-soothing comes from your emotional self.
If you try to do it all at once, you invite the inner saboteur to the table, and you can wind up back where you started – only more distrustful of the process of change.
Navigate calmly. Weekly demonstrations of learning make for a good start as you move into the next new chapter of your life.
Many Eastern spiritual teachers have commented, time and again, that we in the West have an unfortunate pattern of going at things with “all we’ve got” once we’ve made the determination that we’ve found “our path.”
Often we wear ourselves down before we have really even opened the gate.
This just serves to feed the fallacy that we are permanently flawed and are incapable of change.
It’s both admirable and inspiring when one has thousands of steps ahead on his or her journey to adventure and increased self-awareness while getting older.
Additional Sources about Getting Older:
We All Have the Same Amount of Time – http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/168-hours-you-have-more-time-than-you-think/
The Benefits of Momentum – http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret
The Basics of Inflammation – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation
Is an Anti-inflammatory Diet a Natural Alternative to Fighting High Cholesterol? –http://www.docsopinion.com/2013/08/20/top-10-things-you-should-know-about-diet-and-inflammation/
Almost Everything We Eat Either Encourages or Discourages Inflammation –https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1395_foods-that-fight-inflammation-and-why-you-need-them
New cancer facts and statistics – Cancer.org http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/
Recent data on heart diseases and stroke cases – American Heart Association http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/4/e38
Insulin resistance and “fructose poisoning” – Life Extension Federation http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2013/10/Are-You-Suffering-from-Fructose-Poisoning/Page-01
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Inflammation – Medical News Today http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php
Autoimmune Stats – https://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/questions-and-answers/
Talk Therapy Works Even Better than Meds, Says Study – http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2014/talk-therapy-not-medication-best-for-social-anxiety-disorder-large-study-finds.html
New Findings Document Unappreciated Downsides for People Who Consume Too Much Coffee – http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2015/11/coffee.aspx