There's no denying that aging has an impact on our physical and mental health. But there's certainly still plenty to be positive about. In fact, positive aging is an approach that draws a clear link between the two, recognizing that our thought patterns and attitudes affect our physical and emotional wellbeing as we age.
Aging is often seen as something that will inevitably lead to physical and mental decline, but we can challenge this negative thinking and instead see aging as a new and fulfilling phase of life that offers a multitude of as-yet unexperienced joys.
From Jane Fonda to David Attenborough, to the seniors who still run marathons, there are so many examples of people who continue to get the most out of life in their advanced years. But don't worry, you don't have to be a famous actor or run a marathon to embrace positive aging!
By implementing a few key habits and practicing constructive thought patterns, you will create a positive feedback loop. Instead of seeing your golden years as the autumn or winter of your life, think of it as spring—the beginning of a new life stage full of opportunity!
The habits highlighted below are some simple ways you can encourage and practice a positive mindset in your everyday life.
Staying physically active is key to both physical health and happiness. Ideally, people over 65 should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week.
To make this really fit into a positive aging approach, try to find a kind of physical activity you enjoy doing. It could be going for walks in the park, swimming or water aerobics, gardening, or even joining a dance class. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you are moving your body on a regular basis. If you are currently inactive and not sure what your body can handle, speak to your doctor first.
Having an active and rewarding social life is another key element of aging with positivity and joy. Of course, aging does involve a significant amount of loss. You may have experienced the death of a loved one or feel isolated and lonely. Even in difficult situations, actively shifting your mindset can make a huge difference in the quality of your life.
Invite your family members to dinner, offer to take care of grandkids, or make regular plans with friends. And don't think that just because you're older you can't make new friends! Whether it's a neighbor, a church or volunteer group, or a pottery club, there are so many ways to meet new people and socialize, so get out there!
One of the most common struggles that older people face after retirement is a sense of purposelessness. This is only natural—our jobs take up so much of our lives that it is hard to know what to do with ourselves when they are over. You may have been told that it's important to stay active and take up hobbies to fill your time. That's true, but unless you can derive a sense of meaning and fulfillment from your hobbies, they probably won't do the trick.
Try to find an activity or project that you really care about. Maybe it's volunteering at your local animal shelter or soup kitchen. Perhaps it's something you've always wanted to do but never had the time for before, such as painting, carpentry, writing, or learning a language. Not only is this good for finding a sense of purpose in life, but it also allows you to exercise your brain (and sometimes even your body, knocking out your need for exercise in one fell swoop).
While behavior is often the catalyst for a change in attitude, it's also important to consciously practice positive thought patterns to shift your mindset.
Research consistently shows that one thing all happy people have in common is that they actively think about the things they're grateful for. When we think about something a lot, it gains power in our minds. It sounds cheesy, but by consciously focusing on gratitude, you can give your brain the boost it needs to tip the scale toward positivity and outweigh the negativity.
How do you do it? Start with appreciating even the smallest of joys—a smile from your neighbor, the sun shining on the flowers on your windowsill, or the flavor of your morning coffee.
Another mental pattern that sets the positive agers apart is a sense of curiosity. This ties back into taking up meaningful hobbies.
Although it's easy to get set in your ways, being in the latter part of your life is no reason to stop learning and trying new things. Whether it's a hobby, experimenting with recipes using foods that reduce the chances of age-related illnesses, or attempting a new form of exercise to improve your metabolism, a lack of stagnation is the goal.
Staying curious allows you to remain engaged with the world around you and to keep that brain muscle active. Don't be afraid to try something new. And when you do, approach it with curiosity and interest rather than apprehension and fear.
Many people assume growing older involves losing freedoms, and it's sometimes true that things like loss of mobility and weakening eyesight can limit the things you can do. However, there are many ways that aging affords you freedoms you may not have had before.
When we're younger, we're often fraught with worries about what people think about us and whether or not we are good at what we do. In contrast, many older people set aside their insecurities and worries about other people's opinions of them. After all, who do you have to prove yourself to? Your senior years can be free of external agendas and obligations and instead focus on embracing what makes you happiest, and not having a job or children to take care of leaves you with much more free time that you can fill however you want!
As you begin aging, you're really just entering the springtime of a new and exciting period in your life. Although aging has its ups and downs, a few adjustments to your habits and thought patterns can help shift your mindset so that you view the coming years with curiosity and joy.