Caring for Your Fabulous Aging Body is Easier with a Loving Attitude toward It
The Important Things: (in order)
The Thoughts we think (#1)
The Air we breathe (#2)
The Water we drink (#3)
The Exercise we get (#4)
The Food we eat (#5)
~ Yogi Bajhan
Attitude is Everything– The Thoughts we think (#1)
Attitude is everything. Like all beings, you do best in supportive conditions. If you constantly feed your body a diet of negative thoughts – especially about your body – it will respond from that diet of negativity. The better you feel about yourself, the better you age. You can ignite health and positivity by feeding your body gratitude, daily. At the end of each day, thank you body for all the things it did for you that day: digested your food; saw beauty and color; heard music and laughter; walked or worked; pumped your blood… The more I do this, the easier it is to notice improvement. For example, when the knee that sometimes give me trouble doesn’t give me trouble – I notice, and thank it! I’m noticing improvement in my digestive system and in my breathing and building on that instead of noticing dysfunction and building that way.
There are benefits and surprise bonuses to aging that you may not realize unless you hang out with older people who are aging well. Look for how you want to look and feel as you age. If you expect decline, you will get it. If you criticize your body, it will respond like an abused child, by shutting down. Seeing the beauty in aging will help you manifest that beauty.
It’s a good practice to hang out with people of different ages and/or with different levels of ability than yours. The contrast helps you appreciate how amazing our bodies and life are, period! It also affirms your place in the arc of human processes. You see by example what helps one lead a healthy life and what doesn’t. For example, If you grew up seeing how smoking cigarettes ruined your grandpa’s health, that might help you avoid the habit, yourself. If you know older people in fabulous physical and mental shape, look at their lifestyle, habits and attitudes to see what of their model you want to follow.
74 and gorgeous!
My friend Florence is 74 and gorgeous. Her long, wavy hair is naturally blond with no discernible gray. Her body is slender and flexible, with a keen and searching mind and huge curiosity about the world. She stopped eating refined sugar 40+ years ago, grows most of the food she eats, exercises daily, drinks pure water, and is constantly learning new and mind-expanding things. Her younger sister, with similar genetics yet a very different outlook on life, does not enjoy the same level of health and vitality. I look to her as a model of what I want to be like at that age.
A researcher on longevity and prolonged youth asked Florence what she’s done to be so “well-preserved.” Florence was taken aback, thinking of pickles and jam… She replied, “It’s not about preserving youth, it’s about connecting with the life force. But in our culture, we don’t recognize the life force, we only recognize life forms. And then we try to preserve the forms – which doesn’t work.“ Florence doesn’t focus on the forms (outward appearance) and that is part of what makes her so beautiful. She loves life and her body and her healthy practices naturally flow from that love.
See with Loving Eyes
Seeing the beauty that accompanies gray hair helps break through our ageist prejudices and programming. What about the beauty in an overweight older woman with brown spots and wrinkles? As you age, you are going to slow down – some, maybe a lot – but if you also adjust your expectations and attitude, slowing down can become a gift. Maybe you don’t stretch as far or jump as high as you used to. That may be a call to reevaluate what’s really important to you. If being flexible is really important, you can make that a priority – but you can’t take flexibility for granted as you might have when you were younger.
Take a look at yourself in a mirror and see what you can love there. Do your best to be kind and gentle and see through loving eyes. Look beyond the surface to the light that emanates from within. If that’s hard for you, picture someone your age or older whom you love deeply and unconditionally. Is that person lovely to you? With love in your eyes, you don’t notice saggy skin or brown spots or added weight, you just see the person you love, right? Now transfer that loving, accepting gaze to your own reflection and see the beauty that looks back at you. Maybe there’s more kindness in your eyes than there was 20 years ago. Maybe you have more compassion or generosity in your heart now. That’s beautiful, too.
Reframe the picture
A friend said she feels like aging is a surprise dirty trick. “It is a dirty trick,” I told her, “But not in the way you think. Advertisers tell you that it is possible to look and feel like you did at age 25 when you’re 55 if you buy their products and services. You didn’t make up that expectation, they did. But the premise is wrong. Aging well does not come from buying their stuff, and it’s not even about looking younger than your age. Aging well requires cultivating gratitude for your body (and whole self) and treating it with love and compassion. It’s not about the outward package.”
Do you really want to stay at age 25 forever? Think of all the ramifications. Would you want to be immortal and continually watch everyone age and die around you? Watch the 1976 film, Logan’s Run, in which everyone is routinely euthanized at age 30 to keep the population fit and beautiful. Staying young forever is not the game here on planet earth, no matter what big cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies tell you. Hang out with older people and see what they’d have to say about this. I asked my spunky, sharp-minded 100-year old friend, “If you could go back to any age, what age would that be?” She said 67!
Love your body
Do you show your body that it is worthy of care by giving it the gratitude, rest, food and exercise it needs? Are you kind with yourself with regard to your emotions? In my observation, kindness and gratitude toward self are every bit as important as the visible and external things it also needs. When you see aging as a gift (which it is, considering the alternative) the inevitable decline happens in a better, bigger context.
Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter. ~ Satchel Paige
Remember, aging well is a 2-part process:
- Part One: Attitude – Cultivate a loving attitude toward your body, yourself and Life (#1)
- Part Two: Care -Take the best care of your body and mind that you can (#2, #3, #4, #5)
Care — The Air we breathe (#2) The Water we drink (#3) The Exercise we get (#4) The Food we Eat (#5)
All the things you do to care for yourself add up. As you age, your body will let you know what areas of self-care you might need improvement. For example, you may drink plenty of clean water, but not exercise regularly. Your sore, tight hips may be asking you to dance or run more often. Living longer gives you plenty of opportunity to improve on your self-care and see the beauty in life and all of its processes.
I invite you to focus on what aging well would look like for you. If you like lists, check out this list of things to do to slow down the aging process.
Breathe from your belly. Cultivate a meditation practice. Slow down and spend time focusing on your breathing some way, each day.
We are made of water and need it for all of our physical processes. The quality of the water you drink is critical. If you don’t already have a clean source of drinking water or a really good filter for your tap water, invest in one.
As to quantity, drink at least half a gallon of clean, pure water per day. If you drink soda, coffee or other dehydrating drinks, you need more water. If you take medication or supplements, your body needs more to help process them through. Here are 6 Tips for Staying Hydrated.
Don’t buy or drink bottled water from individual-sized plastic bottles. That’s a huge waste of plastic resources (that often end up in the landfill) and you don’t want the BPA in your system. Bring your own water in refillable container made of glass or stainless-steel. This helps keep you hydrated, gives you a trusted source of clean water and reduces plastic waste.
I drink municipal water that has been filtered and then structured the way nature structures water as it moves through the water cycle or flows down a mountain stream. I’ve seen the improvement in my plants and in my body with what I think of as “happy” water.
“Exercise and movement are acts of self-love that only you can accomplish. When you are willing to touch into the place inside that is hungry for life-giving and life-enhancing movement, you develop a new habit that leads to longevity, health and to your natural exuberance.” ~ Seah Criss, Aging with Vitality, Fitness Trainer
Exercise regularly, 5 days a week on average. Alternate aerobic (heart rate-raising exercise) with something quieter like yoga, tai chi, qi gong or walking. If you work out at a gym, mix it with time outside, running, swimming or walking near trees and living things. This is one of those things that keep your body and mind functioning well. (period)
#5 Eat Well
You’ve probably heard enough about the effects of eating processed, junky food to know that what you eat has a critical affect on your health. Eat mostly whole, simply produced foods. Eat plenty of leafy greens. If you eat animal products, demand that the animals are raised in clean, humane conditions and fed good things. (They are what they eat, as well.) Limit junk food, soda, sugar and chemical additives. Buy from farmer’s markets rather than chain stores. If the food can sit on the shelf for a long time without spoiling, it has been heavily processed and doesn’t have much food value left. Real, fresh food spoils relatively quickly. Cook fresh. This is probably not new info for you. Look for ways to make small positive changes and build on them.
#6 Extras for Full-Function Vitality and Fun
If you have done the first five things on this list, you are probably aging significantly better than your peers. Here are a few other things yo might consider adding to your longevity repertoire if they’re not there already.
Here are some more resources that can help you along the way:
For Joint flexibility and function: Increase your magnesium intake. Start doing tai chi, yoga, qi gong, Pilates and/or swim regularly.
Touch – Receive Bodywork – Touch is important and it becomes harder to get the daily touch we need in our separated and isolating society. If you have lost a spouse, have an empty nest, or in any way get less touch than you used to or need, consider getting a massage once a month, taking a martial arts class, or get involved in some activity that brings you into (safe) physical contact with others.
Memory – Use it or loose it. Keep learning new things. In between, do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, play board or video games (in moderation), read up on modern things and talk to kids about them. I have a heck of a time remembering the names of my kids’ favorite bands – there are so many and I don’t have the connection to them all that they do so it’s challenging. Not only is it a good memory exercise, it helps me connect with them. Lumosity.com is an on-line source of brain and memory exercises to keep your mind limber.
Smile more –
Smile at everyone you see – especially kids; and puppies; old men and old women. The movement of Smiling releases endorphins that make you feel good. If you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyway. Fake it til you make it. A smile arranges your wrinkles into attractive patterns!
Play more – Let your Inner Child loose! Play games, play with kids, play with animals and adults. Put yourself in situations where you will laugh more; be silly.
Clear out the Issues in Your Tissues – There are many ways to clean your emotional closets. Get psychotherapy. If you are a man, experience The ManKind Project. Forgive anyone who you feel has wronged you. Read more about clearing emotions in the body on this website; and buy the book to start your inner healing journey.
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