We all want to age gracefully and remain full of life. It’s a goal most of us have, but one that we ignore because it’s hard to grasp, illusive – defining healthy aging is hard to do. But I think we can all agree to a few things. We want to be able to reach our arms above our heads to grab things off the top shelf, we want to be able to sit cross legged once in a while, we want to be able to remember our own names and those of others, we want strong bones to keep us from breaking when we step off the curb, and we want reach or maintain a healthy weight and not develop lifestyle complications like high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and some cancers. More than anything, most of us want to live to see the next generation.
My own experiences have taught me to listen up to what I need to be healthy now and in the future. A few years ago, I developed a basal cell carcinoma on my face – right in the middle of my left cheek…and I was shocked! Why was I shocked? Most of my life, I’d never avoided the sun, never used sunscreen, and actually encouraged sunburn. As a friend once told me – allowing the sun and/or tanning booth to brown your skin and bake your face is both ignorant and arrogant (thank you, friend). I’m much more careful these days.
Perhaps many of the things we do like overeating, lying in the sun, leading a sedentary lifestyle….or, stated differently, perhaps the things we IGNORE are exactly the things we need to stop now to change the direction of our future. I recently heard a great quote about change “No matter how long you’ve traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around…” (someone really smart and I’m terribly sorry I did not write your name down to properly cite you). There are plenty of things we can screw up and do wrong to lead to an unhealthy life but here are 4 healthy aging blunders I can think of:
Stress is the devil. Stress affects our health in numerous ways. Super healthy individuals can drop dead of a heart attack because of stress. Stress wears out our adrenals and leaves our body unable to detoxify our organs. Stress affects our moods, our relationships, and our ability to work and live an easeful life. Have you ever tried meditation? Just start with two minutes – seriously – close your eyes, slow your breath, breathe long exhales and just quiet the mind. It’ll become a habit before you know it if you just do 2 minutes every day.
You forgot to move like a kid. Yep, like a kid. When was the last time you pulled yourself up the monkey bars at a park? When did you start having to use your hands to set your butt down on the floor? How about running to the mailbox? Or parking your car half way across the Meijer parking lot instead of right outside the door? Watch a kid for a few minutes sometime soon. Try to mimic her movement. Walk, skip, swing, roll, jump, spin, hop, crawl. We just forgot. Because we have to go to work and “behave.” Stop conforming. Who cares. Run up and down the stairs. Skip across the Meijer parking lot after parking far away. No one will judge. Actually, they will. They will wish they were you!
You lost your tribe. This is a big one. We need social support. We need it in so many ways. You don’t need friends like you did when you were a kid, but you do need a friend who will wonder where you are if you don’t show up for a walk. You need an ear to hear about your constipation. Or that you’re struggling with menopause symptoms. Or that you don’t have sex or even have the drive for it anymore. Your tribe will support you. If this resonates with you, pick up the phone and call a friend. Reconnect. Make a friend date. You’ll be glad you did. Your friend will be glad you did.
You thought you could keep eating like you were 20. If you’re 30 and you’re reading this, I mean you too. At 20, our bodies are at a peak state. Our metabolism is incredible. Our hormones are flowing all over the place. But as we age, metabolism slows…and our bodies begin to shift what and how much we can effectively metabolize and process the foods we consume. Eat more plants, lots of them. Did you know that “most” people in the second half of their lives eat approximately 300-400 calories more than they need? Eat less.
Don’t blunder your way through life. In Sanskrit, the word Samskara means “a recycled or stuck behavior or thought pattern as a result of perpetuating tendencies in the subconscious mind” (Cate Stillman – Body Thrive) Think about what your STUCK tendencies are. If you want to age gracefully and healthfully, know yourself and pinpoint your tendencies. Make small changes and before you know it, you’ll be 95 and kicking your heels up.