When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see? Do your eyes dance quickly over your reflection, too quickly to settle on any one body part? Or, perhaps you pull in your stomach, hold back your hair and pause to evaluate yourself. Are you happy with what you see?
The answer to this question has everything and nothing to do with happiness after 60. It has everything to do with happiness because we cannot help but evaluate ourselves. It is a part of human nature. It has nothing to do with happiness because our body image is an invention of our mind. Becoming happy with our bodies requires an acceptance of this essential paradox.
On the one hand, we must accept the reality that our bodies are our own responsibility. Eating right, exercising and taking care of our health will improve every aspect of our physical and emotional lives.
On the other hand, learning to accept what is beautiful about ourselves, regardless of, or perhaps, because of our imperfections is an essential skill. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
In every aspect of our lives, from money to beauty, we look to others to tell us how we are doing. Unfortunately, comparisons are always poisonous to happiness. And, this is doubly true when it comes to evaluating our physical appearance. Why? Because, in a world filled with enhanced images and special effects, we end up comparing ourselves to an illusion.
The beauty that we think we see in magazines and movies does not exist. The only beauty that exists is the beauty that we create – in our minds and through our actions.
Are you unfairly comparing yourself to others? More importantly, what can you do to find your own beauty and get back on the road to positivity?
What part of your body do you love? Do you have sparkling teeth, lovely fingers or fantastic ankles? Do your eyes light up with fire when you are excited? Do you love your beautiful grey hair? There is always something about our bodies that we can be grateful for.
What about the parts of your body that you cannot see? Do you value your active mind, strong heart and hard-earned talents? You are more than the person that you see in the mirror. You are unique, beautifully so. If you want to be happy, learn to honor your body in its totality – body, mind and spirit. What parts of your body do you love?
Fortunately, you have a secret weapon, gratitude. Why not start each day with an affirmation of your beauty? Say to yourself, “I love and honor my body. It is beautiful, intelligent and important.”
It brings your dreams to life. It has the power to create life. It can express your emotions. It is beautiful and precious and deserves your love. Take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of your body. Move your awareness to your hands. Can you feel how sensitive they are? Now, move your awareness from one part of your body to the next. Pause as your consciousness reaches each amazing part of you. Now, slowly open your eyes and consider the miracle that is your body. You are unique. You are beautiful.
Your body image may be shaped by your mind, but, that doesn’t mean that your body is an illusion. It is a wonderful machine that needs to be nourished, respected and improved. This is especially true in our 50s and 60s, when our bodies have already supported us for so long! Letting go of false expectations allows us to focus on the important work of creating bodies that are radiant, healthy and effective. If your body could talk, what would it say?
Feed me. Be kind to me. Nurture me. Respect and celebrate me.
Do you respect and celebrate your body?
Respecting your body is not difficult in theory. By this point in our lives, we know how to be healthy. We understand the importance of exercise. We know that fresh vegetables are better for us than fast food. We recognize the importance of fresh air and drinking water. So, if we know what to do, why don’t we do it?
Perhaps we feel that we are too old to change our bodies. Maybe we don’t believe that change is possible. Or, perhaps, we just lack the motivation or a place to start. No matter your level of fitness, the path to a healthier body is simple. Small, positive changes, applied consistently. Can you drink a glass of water, first thing in the morning? Can you replace your daily bus trip with a 15 minute walk? Can you join a yoga class once a week? The important thing is to make one change at a time.
On your path to a happier, healthier life after 60, don’t forget that your brain is also a part of your body. Your mind is a muscle that improves with exercise. Embrace learning. Look for opportunities to socialize. Most of all, follow Aristotle’s advice and “know yourself.” Take time every day to turn your attention inward and explore your body and mind.
The universe does not charge you for time spent in self-reflection.
Can you think of one small thing that you can do every day to live a healthier life?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember that the secret is to take one small step at a time. Start where you are. Try not to make unfair comparisons of judgments. The only fair comparison that you can make is with yourself and your own potential. Do something every day that improves your body or mind. Happiness comes naturally when our bodies and minds are in balance with the world around us.
The good news is that our bodies are one aspect of our lives over which we have considerable control. We can choose to reject comparisons with others. We can decide to respect, honor and nurture our bodies. And, when we do, we will find that true happiness has been waiting for us the whole time, locked inside of our own potential.
Write down two things that you love about your body and one thing that you would like to change. When thinking about what you would like to change, try to focus on health and not superficial beauty.
What changes have you made to your exercise or eating habits recently? Please join the conversation.