Want to Increase Your Life Expectancy? Change Your Life Expectations!
Do you think about the future with a sense of excitement, hope or positivity?
Research suggests that how we think about the future influences our life expectancy. In one study, people with positive perceptions of aging were found to live an average of 7.5 years longer than others.
Yet when we think about growing older – and look to the media for positive visions – we’re often disappointed, if not depressed. We read about the risks of losing our health or our minds. Where in the media do we read about what we might gain, and how to do it?
What Images Does Your Future Hold?
In the early 70s, the futurist Frederick Polak, in his book Image of the Future, described how, throughout history, cultures collapsed when they lost a compelling positive image of the future.
Without positive images about the future pulling us forward, we ourselves risk collapsing as well!
Yet so many images of what lies ahead for us as we age are dreadful and bound to instill fear. Is bad heath, dementia or financial problems going to be our fate in old age? That’s not a picnic to look forward to!
What if we knew we could always choose to be learning no matter what happens? That we could focus on even more possibilities of finding deeper connections with our families, expanding our sense of meaning, and relishing the simple pleasures of every day with a greater sense of joy and wonder?
Those images would give us a different reality to wake up into each day. Our choices are critical because the pictures we hold about tomorrow will shape our lives today.
Becoming More Present
In his classic book Be Here Now, spiritual teacher Ram Dass suggests that we aim to live more in the now, in the present, as an antidote to a way of living where everyone is always rushing and thinking about the next thing. He invited us to explore just ‘being.’
It’s easy to add a little more ‘being-ness’ to our lives with practices you may already know:
Slow down. Take more and deeper breaths. Give yourself more moments to nurture your senses. Take breaks from the to-do list. Cultivate your awe and wonder. Fill up on the scent of a rose or the miracle of a bright yellow dandelion.
Watch how the squirrel in your backyard performs a pirouette just for you. Feel the cool spring air on your skin, the soft flutter of new leaves on the trees. Pause. Enjoy.
Here’s a new one: Notice, as you focus on today, any sensations or emotions that come up when the future comes to mind. Are you happy? Excited? Calm? Reluctant? Worried?
How We Feel Today Is Shaped by What We Anticipate About Tomorrow
I love to practice just being, but what I feel in the present is colored by my anticipations. I’m a lot more relaxed anticipating lying on the beach in three days than when I’m going in for surgery.
I need a vision of the future that gives me space to thrive today.
A Positive Future Doesn’t Have to Be Problem Free
A future that is hopeful can accommodate the fact that much of the world is not as we would like it to be. Martin Luther King gave us a big dream for our children and their futures, without denying the reality of racism today.
When we expect a positive future, we’re motivated to find signs of good, signs of progress, signs that will reinforce our hope.
We’re more capable of productively dealing with difficulties when our life feels meaningful. We trust that our biggest challenges often bring gifts, and that our losses will come with unseen gains. We strive to keep learning,
Create Your Vision for Aging
The media is full of stories about the problems of getting older. It’s time to turn the dial and find some new stories! You’re more beautiful, aware, creative, and capable than ever. Why not soak that in? Together we can build a set of positive images about being 60 plus that reflect the futures we want.
Tomorrow is going to offer you something that will fill you with wonder, I guarantee it. As you gaze into that crystal ball, why not expect to see a future that’s awesome?
Do you think you have realistic ideas of what the future will be like? What is your vision for your positive future? Please share it with us below!
Sally Fox, Ph.D., is an author, podcaster, consultant and coach who helps businesses and individuals shape and tell their best stories. Her passion is to show how working creatively after 60 is key to thriving and helps others find and follow their callings. She also loves Zumba and horses!