How to embrace the changes that come with a life long-lived.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but there is something we are all doing, right now, no matter what we are doing. We are all AGING. I decided to look up some definitions of aging and here are 3, in order of my favorite to read to the one that made me shudder.
- a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.
- the time-related deterioration of the physiological functions necessary for survival and fertility
- the sequential or progressive change in an organism that leads to an increased risk of debility, disease, and death.
I like the first definition because it considers that aging is gradual and natural. That sounds pretty manageable.
We all experience aging in different ways, and we all have different notions about it. Even though you’ve been aging since the day you were born, chances are you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it until you reached some point in your adulthood. Early in life, we might want to rush things a bit, longing to be older, wiser, more established in our careers. Or thinking back to even before that, I remember sitting in my dorm room as some “expert” created a fake ID for me, stating that I was born a few years before my actual birthdate. Then come those years when you have a reunion and everyone says, “you haven’t changed a bit!” and it’s plausible, you can believe it. At least until you compare the pictures taken at the reunion with the pictures taken back in high school, or college, or whenever. And after that, you might be doing well “for your age”, followed by a period where you become less visible or relevant, and occasionally someone will relish the wisdom you can provide.
So, when the did topic of aging become a theme that took up residence in my thoughts and conversations? I always considered myself very youthful and loved telling my age and hearing people respond, “no way!” I felt young, was healthy and, while I had a few aches and pains here and there, mostly felt pretty good. And I still do feel pretty good. But…
Now I am 60, and, for the first time I understand that while I may not be “old”, I am no longer young. It is likely (hopefully) that I have lived more of my life than I have yet to live. And I’m okay with that. I’m trying to be okay with some other things too. Things like needing to turn the TV volume higher than I used to. Or feeling that I am not as strong as I once was. Seeing picture of myself as I am now. My progressive (tri-focal) glasses. And on and on.
As a teacher of wellness and mindfulness, I have studied the body and the mind and know that what I am going through is perfectly normal. Bodies wear out. Minds do to. I don’t want to be in denial, and I hope to embrace the inevitable changes a long life brings. It is my intention to be present with all the feels, even if I have a want to have a temper tantrum when I must take a break on a hike. And I’d like to support you in the process as well; because that’s what I do—hold space for people to do what they need to do to feel whole and healthy. So here are a few ideas on how to embrace the changes that come with aging and make peace with it all. These are all practices that you can cultivate. It’s important to continue the journey with all of these as there are no “one and done” solutions here.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose is vital in maintaining a positive outlook on life and staying connected to your inner self. In iRest Yoga Nidra, the mindfulness practice I teach, we refer to this as Sankalpa, or heartfelt desire, mission, or purpose, and we spend time revealing and nurturing it. You can begin to recognize sankalpa by considering things for which you have a true passion, or the think you can’t not do. It’s how life is living through you. And when you begin to connect to your purpose, you can spend your time in a way that is consistent with what is really important to you.
- Stay as active as you want to be. Physical activity is an essential part of overall well-being, and there are so many ways to do it. It’s important to find activities that you really enjoy, maybe even have a lot of fun with. There’s no reason to force yourself to run if you just hate it. Maybe hula hooping is your jam or taking walks or dancing Tango. Perhaps you just can’t get enough Yoga, and, in that case, you should call me! And, of course, we all know there is pickleball. Do something that moves you in every way so that you look forward to it and want to experience it on a regular basis. Then when you find it, just do it (I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…)
- Have friends of all ages. Surrounding yourself with friends of all ages can give you a fresh perspective on life and help you feel connected the world around you in every way. Younger friends can keep you up to date on what’s new, and older friends have wisdom and experience to share. If we only have friends our own age, we might miss out on a lot. You might also feel less inclined to compare yourself to your friends of different ages, so there may be more room to be yourself and be open to learning from each other.
- Learn something new. We already talked about keeping the body active, now let’s talk about the mind. Research shows that learning new things can slow cognitive aging and even make your mind “younger”! In addition to cognitive skills, learning new things improves memory and boosts communication skills. So, challenge yourself with a new hobby or class. Make sure it’s something that is of interest to you, and don’t be afraid to go “back to school” at any age!
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. Meditation and mindful practice can help you be calmer and more accepting as you navigate the changes that come with aging. These practices also help you cultivate perspective, support emotional and mental health, and reduce stress. Meditating with a group can help foster community and connection. A consistent practice can help you understand some of your conditioned responses and patterns and begin to find ways to release those that are not helping you. As you may know, I can go on and on about the benefits of mindfulness, I even wrote a book about it, A Year of Mindful Wellness!
So, join me as we age, and let’s together embrace the myriad changes that happen over the days, months, and years of our lives. Let’s stay purposeful, active, friendly, and curious. And let’s make time for mindful wellness to support it all. Please let me know how you are navigating the aging process. Let’s all learn from each other!
Be Well. ~Lisa