Some months ago, I wrote a column about aging as adventure, how to grow older, better. I listed my nine rules for healthy aging, based on an overview of scientific literature on longevity but very much reflecting my own point of view.
I’ve gotten many requests to reprint the article and I may do that in the future, but what I want to do this week is embellish the nine rules with some action steps that could lead you in the direction of healthier, happier aging.
Make no mistake. The most meaningful action steps are the ones you make up for yourself. But here are some suggestions to help get the wheels turning:
- Expect success: Learn to think positive. Optimism can be learned. Start giving yourself lessons today. Make up a story you can believe about the joys of growing older. Reframe the negative, accentuate the positive.
- Exercise: Wear a pedometer, starting today.This action step involves lots of little steps. Use a pedometer to keep track of the steps you take in a day. Wear it with pride, not guilt. Don’t judge, just walk, whenever and wherever you can.
Strive for 5,000, then 7,000, up to 10,000 steps a day or more. Daily physical exercise is what joy feels like and is crucial to successful aging.
- Nourish your body: Do an extreme makeover in your kitchen. Ask a conscientious friend to help. Go through the fridge, the shelves, the pantry, eliminating the bags and boxes of junk food you’ve accumulated.
If you need a nutritionist to help you, hire one. You’ll never regret it. Shop wisely and it won’t blow the food budget.
- Accept what is: Be mindful of the moment. Take this action step every day until being in this moment is something you are, not something you do.
To begin, try this several times a day. Tune into yourself in the midst of whatever you are thinking about and ask: Am I dwelling on something that happened in the past or thinking about something that might happen in the future?
- Rely on yourself: Be involved with your own health. Chances are you’ll need health-care professionals of all types as you age, but know this: Self care is the best care when it comes to health and happiness.
So starting today, get involved in your aging process. Assemble a medical team that respects and encourages your active participation. Ask questions. Read books. Subscribe to at least one health and wellness magazine or newsletter. Connect the dots between how you eat and how you feel.
- Vent in healthy ways. Use your breath. This action step is all about dealing with stress and anger in healthy, nondestructive ways.
Next time you feel your anger rising, pause long enough to inhale-exhale, inhale-exhale, inhale-exhale, feeling your belly rise and fall. Deep breathing truly is the pause that refreshes, whereas the twin evils of unresolved anger and uncontrolled stress get in the way of healthy aging.
- Take risks. Enjoy the edge. Boredom and stagnation make aging a drag. To help yourself feel young and vital - to grow older, better - get out of your rut from time to time and try something new and different, something that feels a little risky though not unsafe.
- Do unto others: Be kind and generous.
This action step is all about kindness, generosity and the good that comes out of being both. Many experts on healthy aging believe that being loved and loving others contributes to a longer, happier life.
So make time starting this week to help other people.
- Understand death and dying: Find your faith. We’re all going to die, and studies have shown that those people who approach it with some degree of faith and knowledge have an easier time of it than those who don’t.
The details of this action step will depend on your own beliefs and background, but at the very least, read one good book on death and dying in the tradition of your choice. How to Die is another part of this action step. When your time comes, don’t be afraid to ask questions abut how to die. There are answers for everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike.
Remember: We are all growing older. There’s no escaping it. How you grow older is less about genetics and more about attitude and behavior. Thanks.
Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.