Create a Positive Mindset About Aging
The shock you feel when what you see a woman in the mirror who is older than how you feel on the inside!
"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength."
~Betty Friedan, Woman's Advocate
The other day I was talking to a friend of mind about aging. I mentioned how there are days when I am shocked by the person looking back at me in the mirror. On the inside, I still feel like I did when I was a kid, and when I look in the mirror and see this old woman with wrinkles looking back at me, I think, WTF?!?
My friend, who is also in her 60s, agreed that looking in the mirror can be shocking. We had a long chat about the discrepancy between how we feel on the inside and how we look. I was disgusted with myself because the best I could come up with at the time was the platitude, "beats the alternative."
Yes, getting older does beat the alternative, but there had to be a better way to deal with getting older. The disgust I felt stayed with me for a while, so it got me thinking. As I was mulling things over, I started to regard my mindset about getting older. Generally, I don't think about my age unless I get startled by a mirror. I am a very youthful 60, almost 61. Most people who know me are shocked to find out my age. They think I'm a good ten years younger.
A year ago, one month shy of my 60th birthday, I took on a young off-the-track-thoroughbred rescue. I spend a good portion of my time taking care of him; I am starting a coaching business; I work full-time; I write a blog. I keep myself physically and mentally active. I'm not telling you this to brag, but this rant has a point. I love doing all of these things. They keep me feeling young, and I focus on the positive that I bring into the world. That helps me to feel youthful.
As I thought about what keeps me feeling young, I wondered what the research said about having a positive mindset about aging. I know that maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to resiliency; could it also play a part in healthy aging? It does!
A 2019 study by Lewina Lee et al found that individuals who had an optimistic attitude had a higher chance of living longer. The study stated that optimism is specifically related to an 11-15% longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of living to 85+.
This study suggests that living life with the expectation that good things are going to happen can extend your life span significantly. Think about that for a moment; expecting good things to happen not only makes your life feel better in the moment, it also increases your feeling of positivity, and it can extend your life! That's a twofer I can get behind!
In 2002, a study was conducted at Yale University; the study found that older individuals who held positive views about aging lived 7.5 years longer than their more negatively inclined counterparts.
I don't know about you, but the older I get, the more fascinating things I find that I want to do. If staying positive will help give me more time to do all the incredible things life offers, sign me up for the positive thought express!
Positive Aspects of Aging
There are many positive aspects to aging. I think the biggest perk is acquired wisdom and life experience. Unless you sleep-walked your way through life, you have gained some knowledge by the time you hit your 50s and 60s. I don't know about you, but I spent my twenties and early thirties walking around in a constant state of WTF! I didn't have the life experience to draw from, so I felt like I was winging it most of the time.
I regularly step outside of my comfort zone, so there is still a hint of that sense of winging it, but I can make educated guesses with my acquired life experience. I have also learned to trust my intuition, a skill I shut down in my twenties. Honestly, I may gripe about the wrinkles and the turkey waddle that appeared on my neck, but I wouldn't trade my twenty-year-old skin for my 60-year-old knowledge for any price!
After spending a lifetime working, seniors often enjoy their retirement engaged in activities that bring them a sense of enjoyment, purpose, and fulfillment. This perk is something that I am eagerly awaiting; I can't wait to build my horse sanctuary!
Another perk? I'm looking forward to this one, the senior citizen discount! Just because one has the privilege of living to age 65, many stores and businesses offer a discount on all kinds of things, food, and movie tickets, and I honestly can't wait for that one!
How to Increase Your Positivity
There are several ways to increase your positivity levels. My favorite and the one I recommend to all of my clients is to start a gratitude practice. This practice can take many forms; it could be a gratitude journal, a gratitude walk, and mine is a gratitude drive. Whenever I get in my car, I start to list all I am grateful for. More often than not, I begin with gratitude for my car.
Make your gratitude practice your own; make it something you enjoy so that you will keep doing it. When I started my practice, I did a journal. Gratitude journals were all the rage, so I felt it was what I should do. The physical act of writing is very trying for me, and I almost gave up on doing it. I moved next to doing my practice during my morning walk with my dog; it then transformed into a gratitude drive, which works for me. If you don't do your practice, you can't get the benefits, which can include an improved mood, a positive mindset, and better sleep.
You can also increase your positivity by building connections and deepening bonds with the people in your life. When you have a deep sense of connection with people, you have a feeling of belonging, and you may have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Studies show that people who feel connected have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative.
You can increase your sense of connection by making eye contact with the people you are speaking to, focusing on the conversation, and not being distracted by your phone or other things in the environment. A good way of building connections is by engaging in purposeful activities, which also happens to be an excellent way to increase your positivity.
Engaging in purposeful activities allows you to engage in your life in such a way that aligns with your values. Living your values is a crucial element in building resiliency. There is also the added benefit of increased heart health and living longer. Engage in activities that are meaningful to you, and you will find an unlimited supply of fulfillment.
Another way to increase your positivity is to be open to and engage in new learning. Keeping your mind active and curious will keep you engaged. This engagement is also interconnected with building connections, in that by engaging in further education; you could meet new people and build those bonds.
The field of positive psychology has resulted in abundant research about positive emotions. This research shows that having a positive mindset is beneficial not only for your mood at the moment but also for your health in the long run. Take an honest look at your habitual thinking. Do you run positive or negative? If you are a positive person, review the practices you engage in that help you to stay positive and add more to your repertoire. If you tend to be negative, look at the list of suggestions I gave and decide which one you could start to implement. Take baby steps to build your positive mindset. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, but you can make significant changes one step at a time.
Remember that if you look for the negative, you will find it. If you look for the positive, you will find it. Choose wisely; your happiness is up to you.
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