This culture, in general, has a deeply rooted fear of getting older. Think about what’s been ingrained forever in fairy tales, movies, social media, and the way we see ourselves. The good news is that this is changing. Growing older is inevitable, (if we’re LUCKY enough to have that opportunity), and it really doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, it can be an opportunity to deepen connections with ourselves and others, to try new things, and experience more freedom. Here are some great ways to make the most of this rich time:
1.Be curious. No matter what age you are, staying curious is key to living a fulfilling life. What were you interested in but never had time to pursue? What did you love to do as a child, but then had to take on adult responsibilities? If something catches your attention, don’t just ignore it. Instead, pause, and respond to that. A curious attitude says , “Is there something there for me? It could be a new place to explore, a new cuisine, a new activity, whatever draws you – just approach it with curiosity, and see where it leads you. There’s the drive for security and the drive for surprise. Too much security and life gets boring. Too much surprise and life gets chaotic. Have a foundation of stability, but always leave room for serendipity, and unexpected joy.
2. Cultivate gratitude. Besides, the research showing that practicing gratitude increase life satisfaction 25%, we have choices. We can complain about what isn’t working, or be grateful for what is. Life is not perfect – it was never meant to be. As we get older, we encounter both despair and joy. But how we hold it matters. We learn through challenges and so-called failure – it makes us stronger, more aware, more nimble, maybe even more accepting. Reframe your problems as challenges. This can immediately reduce stress and get your inner problem solver into action. PLUS having gratitude, even for the tough stuff we’ve emerged from, is a game changer. Little slices of gratitude, little moments or beauty, of peace, of contentment all count, and they are cumulative. When we fill ourselves with gratitude there is less room for fear, or sadness, or regret.
3. Engage in creativity and generosity: You might just love the ACT of creation, and that can be anything – from painting to gardening, to sculpting your body through exercise, to cooking for friends. Immerse yourself in the flow state, when hours feel like minutes, or share part of yourself with others through what you are creating. This is an act of generosity and most definitely a pathway to self-generated joy, and part of your purpose. So, don’t let others define your success or your worth. Find what makes you happy, what gives you joy, what makes you feel alive. And do it.
4. Stay connected to others. Whether it’s your family or friends, or people you see regularly, it is important to have a circle that we interact with. We are social animals – we need connection. Scientific American reports “A meta-study covering more than 300,000 participants across all ages reveals that adults get a 50 percent boost in longevity if they have a solid social network.” So even if you move to a new location and lose your friend group, if there’s an empty nest, if you change jobs, or retire, put some effort into maintain old connections and developing new ones. Join a club, volunteer, take a class, or join an online community. Isolation leads to loneliness, and there’s an epidemic of loneliness, so make sure to engage with other humans, of various ages, and pets are pretty good too.
5. Keep moving – you know the old expression move it or lose it. It’s real. Not only for our bodies, but for our energy: mental, emotional, and physical. Exercise is nature’s antidepressant – it releases endorphins and literally boosts our mood. By getting active you raise your vibrancy. Find a way to move your body every day, in a way that’s fun and suits you. It could be walking, dancing, gardening, yoga, or anything else that gets your blood pumping and your muscles working. And if you are having aches in one area of your body, do something that doesn’t impact it. My friend had some surgery on his foot, so had to stop running, even walking didn’t work; so he starting to swim – first a few laps, then more, now he’s hooked! Also, don’t forget to eat well, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Your body will thank you for it.
6. Create a vision for yourself that includes fun, expansion, engagement, and fulfillment – and don’t be afraid to set a vision and intention for each day, week, year and decade. Set an intention each day for thriving. What would it take to be comfortable in your own skin? A shift in perspective? Ask “How do I want to experience this next decade – what do I want to learn, to give, how do I want to participate?” This is where helping others, mentoring, or sharing your gifts come in bigtime.
7. LOVE more: First, love yourself more! This includes being at home in your own skin, and with the changes life brings. Life is too short to be in judgment of ourselves or of others. We are all perfectly imperfect humans. Inject some laughter, playfulness and wonder into this crazy and unpredictable journey. Look for the humor and for the good in every situation, even the difficult ones. Let that be your lens. You’ll feel lighter and happier. Love others and be loved, with whoever makes you happy. This is where you’ll find the greatest joy and the deepest meaning in your life.
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