You already know that it’s important to eat your leafy veggies and blueberries, rich in antioxidants. But did you know that hope is the ultimate superfood?
A superfood is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Hope offers emotional nourishment that improves emotional and physical health and lengthens life. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the health benefits of an optimistic outlook. Dr. David Snowdon found that positive emotional content in essays written during young adulthood predicted lifespan—those who had a more positive outlook lived 6.9 years longer than their pessimistic counterparts. Similarly, other research has shown that optimism is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower death rates.
When imagining aging, most middle-aged people look ahead with trepidation. But take heart: the best is likely yet to come!
Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe. Referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data show that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery around age 50, reaching its peak at the end of life.
I was fortunate to spend this Independence Day hiking in Golden, Colorado. While delighting in our purple mountain majesties, I was reminded that taking frequent walks is one of the best strategies for maintaining independence as long as possible with age.Continue reading →
One of your most important senses is one you’ve probably never heard of: proprioception. You can experience your proprioception by closing your eyes and trying to stand balanced on one foot. Without visual input, proprioception is the inner awareness of your body that allows you to keep your balance. You might take for granted that your brain knows where your feet are, but without ongoing stimulation into this feedback loop as you age, this sense begins to fail and the risks of falls and injury increase.
Most people think of exercise as a weight loss strategy. But, weight is about 50% genetically determined and, in some cases, exercising might even cause you to gain weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so as you get stronger, your weight might go up rather than down. Also, the body’s metabolic system slows down to conserve energy as we burn more calories through exercise. If we only exercise to lose weight, then people who are slim genetically might think they don’t need to bother, and heavy people are left discouraged.
Humans are pack animals. We are biologically designed to connect with each other and generally have longer and healthier lives when we are social. The benefits of relationships are further enhanced when we internalize the love that surrounds us. Keep the kindness you receive alive within you by savoring these experiences.
By the time you walk from one room to the next, you’ve forgotten what you intended to do once you got there. You meet someone new and have lost track of his/her name before the first conversation is over. You sit down to your computer, get sucked into your incoming emails, and then can’t remember whom you intended to write to in the first place. Sound familiar?
These experiences might leave you worried that you are on the scary slide to dementia. While it’s true that memory and brain functioning are generally strongest in our 30s and then begin to falter, there is much that you can do to prevent decline and regain cognitive functioning. Also, epigenetics (the study of the interaction between genetics and lifestyle/environment) has shown that even those with genetic vulnerability for dementia can prevent those genes from being activated by making healthy lifestyle choices. Continue reading →
Make exercise as enjoyable as possible so that it becomes a lifelong habit. Some people naturally like exercising and savor the experience itself. However, for most people, including me, working out can feel like a chore. I exercise regularly because I know that most of what we think of as the effects of aging actually are caused by sedentary lifestyle. But I prefer the carrot to the stick, so I try to make exercising something I want to do rather than focusing on it as something I ought to do.
If you could hand-pick your family, whom would you include? Would your birth family make the cut? If the answer is yes, cherish these relationships. Having supportive parents and siblings provides built-in social support for the ups and downs of life. If the answer is no, then now is the time to build your own family.
Usually we think of selecting family only in terms of picking a spouse. Finding a supportive life partner is wonderful, but other types of relationships can be just as important for a happy and healthy life.
When you imagine the possibility of living to the age of 100, do you feel dread or excitement? Most people shutter at the thought of living past 90, because we are surrounded by bleak stereotypes about aging.
Studies have consistently shown that these perceptions may well create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Middle-aged people who have negative views of aging die an average of 7.5 years earlier than those with positive outlooks. This finding holds even when the effects of health and socioeconomic variables are removed. Other commonly targeted health risks, such as smoking and sedentary lifestyle, only make an average 1 – 3 years lifespan difference. Outlook seems to have the most dramatic impact upon longevity of all known factors.
Be sure to develop your Optimistic Aging Mindset. One of the best ways to foster your positive outlook is by actively seeking Optimistic Aging Role Models. One of my favorites is Martha Loats. At 92 years old, she has a more adventuresome life than most young adults.