Arnold Schwarzenegger recently stated that he disliked looking at himelf in the mirror and that it depressed him to see how he looked now, at 63. His reaction is not unique. Growing older is not easy for most people. Although there are many positives to consider, the changes to our bodies, our appearance, our health, our abilities to do things cannot be minimized. We do not look as we did when we were younger, nor can we do the same things we did when we were younger. There is a sense of loss in that, especially in a culture that really promotes youthful appearances and appearance in general. The fact is, change is difficult, and aging is all about change.
People may experience some feelings of depression when they begin to see the signs of aging. Let’s face it: Change is difficult. Everyone has different reactions to it. Some people embrace getting older and look at it as an opportunity to do new things and explore new opportunities. Other people really get paralyzed by aging, as they may be afraid that they haven’t accomplished what they wanted or done the things that they wanted to do. At some point, the aging process impacts everyone, generally when there is a sense of loss in things that they used to be able to do but can no longer do the same way.
Is it possible to avoid getting down about one’s age? Isn’t it more important to be proud of where we are in our lives? In my opinion, it’s not about being proud of our age, rather it’s about being proud of our accomplishments. Being proud of where we are in life, who we surround ourselves with: these are the kinds of things that are important to examine. Although the changes that occur when we age are difficult to accept, there is research that shows that our mood actually improves as we get older and we can be happier. Often, people have experienced the really rough times and had difficult experiences, and learned from them in healthy ways. There are fewer responsibilities in many ways, and it may be the time to really focus on doing the things that you want to do and will truly enjoy.
So, are we really only “as young as we feel?” Possibly. The truth is, the healthier you are, the younger you will feel, which allows you to do more and engage in more things, as well as promote positive feelings. As a society that is aware of how to be healthier, we are at an advantage to being younger longer. It’s just a matter of putting it into play consistently.
We are also fighting against a culture that focuses on the importance of youth. The media focuses a great deal on looking younger and feeling younger. The message being offered is that growing older is something to be dreading, rather than embracing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to avoid it, so you have to figure out how to fight the message. You can continue to do things to help yourself age gracefully, while beginning to accept the changes that occur.
There are also gender differences to consider, and there is a difference! Historically, men had handled aging better, especially when it came to appearance. They may have had more regrets when it came to financial success and accomplishments in the work world, which they had difficulty navigating, however. Women have, for a long time, worked to fight the aging process with plastic surgery, and other things like this. Today, men are doing more about the appearances, and women are working more, so the anti-aging rituals are coming more into balance.
So what can be done to manage the aging process with grace and optimism? Below are some tips:
- Take care of yourself: Exercise, eat right, and take preventative measures to stay healthy. It’s never too late to start any of these things and the positive benefit both to your physical self and your mental health are significant.
- Be optimistic: Having a positive outlook on life has been linked to longer, healthier lives. In fact, some studies have found that having a positive outlook can even decrease the risk of developing certain chronic conditions, like heart disease. Being able to make lemon out of lemonade, having that positive outlook can help you do more and feel better.
- Push your limits: Experiment with things that may take you out of your routines. What have you been really interested in trying to do? Maybe it’s time to take that cooking class or learn that language. Maybe you’ve been wanting to travel and finally have some time to do it. Trying new things will keep your mind active and fresh.
- Be social: Surround yourself with positive people. In fact, surround yourself with people. The more involved with others, the better.
- Accept it: Change is hard. It’s difficult to accept that you are not who you were at 20 or 30, and yet, there isn’t much choice. If you can accept the change as it is occurring (maybe not the minute it happens, but don’t wait too long), you can embrace it and learn to enjoy it as best you can.
Here’s the link to the segment I did with Russ Mitchell: