Julia retired from a fast-paced corporate job about three years ago. At first, she had a difficult time figuring out what to do with all her time. She even slipped into depression seeking medical help and anti-depressants to help her through this change in her life.
Eventually, she became accustomed to having her time unscheduled, not producing for a company, and to low interaction with others. About two years into her retirement, she liked sitting in her chair reading the day away. She became fearful of riding her bike or walking as she might fall and get hurt.
Julia knew her aches and pains were contributed to getting older, and she accepted this. She exercised only with an occasional walk on nice weather days. Going to the gym by herself was not fun as she felt others saw her as frail and old. Julia found herself thinking about all her health problems, although they were minimal, wondering if this would be how she would die.
She attempted to learn a new language online but found it frustrating that she could not retain and learn new information quickly. By the third year of retirement, she felt old, acted old, and was treated old when she went out of her home.
Is it possible that Julia speeded up her aging process by thinking and acting old?
From the article, “Think yourself younger: Why positive thinking acts like Botox for the Brain,” by Leah Hardy:
As we get older, we might start to think we are too creaky of brain and body to fulfill our dreams of taking piano lessons, climb Machu Pichu or learn Italian. But hard evidence shows that it’s not our age that makes our brains less effective, it’s thinking we are too old to learn and do new things.
Julia began thinking and experiencing old age before she needed to. She was healthy and active, but let it slide. She had a brilliant mind that only a few years back directed and managed a large team of workers. Her mental attitude about her changing lifestyle affected her aging.
Negative stereotypes about the aging population are everywhere. They have been sneaked into our society. Many birthday cards for someone age 60+ are jokes about doing less, needing help of a cane or walker, or how funny it is to be old. We may even find these funny ourselves. Yet, this is an example of agism and damaging age beliefs that confront the older population today.
I’ve felt this attitude from others when waiting for someone to help me in a store. Often, the sales representative may head to a younger person before helping me. Have you experienced this too? Ageist attitudes convey a message to older adults that they are incompetent, repulsive, and a social burden. Do you also believe this about yourself? Is it affecting what you do every day?
Chhaya Nene states in her article, “How What You’re Thinking Right Now Is Aging Your Body,” that our own mental attitude affects how fast we age. Researchers have found that negative thoughts can lead to premature cell death – and that equals aging.
Research is mounting that your outlook, your personality and, how upbeat you are impacts not just how you feel but also how your cells age.
What is a positive aging outlook? Here are a few examples:
The years I have lived come with lots of wisdom. I can make good choices now that I’ve had so much experience. I can do so much to maintain my good health. Every day is a new experience, and I meet each one head on. I’m showered and ready for the day.
Researchers discovered that those believing in positive aging stereotypes lived 7.5 years longer than those who chose to believe negative stereotypes.
Let’s face it. We are presented with health setbacks, financial worries, and relationship challenges at this age as much or more than at any age. Facing them with simple optimism can change the trajectory of events. Believing you are helpless and frail, that you can’t do certain things due to your age, makes life stressful and overwhelming.
Over the long term, this heightened stress response could raise the risk of ill health. If you are in poor health, can thinking positive make you feel better? Try this for yourself.
If I think to myself, “I feel old and achy today.” Guess what? That’s exactly how I will feel. But if I have the same thought and switch it up with, “I think I’ll get up and move about a bit. Maybe I’ll take a walk or do some stretches,” my attitude will change and so will the outcome.
What positive statements can you say about your health, how your body feels right now, or how old you are? I agree that we feel the effects of our bodies aging, but is it possible we are making it worse? Studies show that if you see aging and all that comes with it, part of your own personal growth, you may enjoy better health into your 70s and beyond.
You may be asking, “How do I go about changing this negative view I have acquired over time? I can’t just turn into all optimism and rainbows overnight.” So true.
Start small. Take time every day to remember the good that the day has brought you. Meditate or contemplate what’s going right. You could try journaling about your own gratefulness. Find the good in the present situation if you can. Allow yourself to feel good about making it to this wonderful phase of your life.
Spend time with positive thinkers and people who help you feel good about life. Try a free yoga class. Seek help from a professional coach or therapist if you need direction in how to switch some of your thinking to a more positive view.
Find a few quotes to repeat to yourself instead of self-talk full of negativity about your age. Meditation is a documented way to reduce blood pressure and stress. There are many free articles to be found or library books that can help you turn negativity to positivity. Take time to smell the roses.
Let’s give ourselves Botox for the brain (see above). It doesn’t require a needle or injections, but simply requires thinking positive and mentally enjoying the bright side of our 60s, 70s and beyond.
Will you consider changing your self-talk on growing older? Does each passing birthday make you depressed? Do you feel the effects of agism when you go out shopping? Are you willing to try a different way of thinking?
Tags Getting Older