As a Brit, and a keen ageing champion, while taking a holiday in Florida some years ago, I was taken aback by a party of men who were on a competitive sporting trip. They all looked late-40s or early 50s, being very active and energetic. I got talking to one of them about their trip, and he cheerfully admitted that they were all between 70 and 80 years old! I was blown away by this because I had never seen such an active group of people of that age, and it reinforced my own thoughts on how we actually age, especially after I learnt that the age group that fears ageing the most are young 27 year olds!
We all have to age, if we don’t die early. That is a gift. Hence there is only one alternative to ageing, and we either accept that fact, or its deadly consequences. However, how we age is mainly down to our genes and lifestyles. Our biological heritage gives us a foundation, and our lifestyle either enhances, or reduces, it.
It seems there are three main lifestyle elements that hasten our ageing process, and can damage our quality of life.
First, and most important, is the brainwashing people receive, from society and the media, around getting older.
There is nothing positive associated with ageing. Everyone is directly, and indirectly, taught to fear it, mainly because of its connection with ill health, physical degeneration, compulsory retirement, and often exclusion from the wider society. From birth, we soon learn about the negative things we can expect from being older, because of society’s fear of it. Everything is supposed to get worse, droop south, stop working, or just fall off! Not surprisingly, people come to dread getting older and precipitate it in more negative ways through their own attitude. Yet, if we were told we would live forever when we are born, we would have a very different mindset about getting older!
Second, we age through our thoughts first, and our bodies follow those thoughts.
We cannot get a positive life from negative thinking, especially through our negative labels. We need to get rid of that ‘old’ label and think in youthful terms. For example, a guy I spent some time talking with about ageing, kept saying, “You can’t teach an old dog like me new tricks.” Not only did he look much older than his age, but he acted it, too. Whatever he kept saying was gradually becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, because he certainly had a closed mind. If you see yourself as ‘old’ and ‘useless’, or ‘young’ and ‘energetic’, your body will happily oblige through your actions. That is why positive older people tend to be youthful and agile, because they refuse to conform to ready-made age boxes.
Additionally, many of the illnesses we have are induced by the mind. A long time back we started fearing getting older; fearing certain illnesses; telling ourselves that by a certain age some painful things are going to start happening. We focus on them constantly, dreading them daily, instead of on the positive options we have, and the great health we are enjoying. A few years later, our fears fall into place exactly as expected. But by then we would have forgotten the role our negative thoughts played in it; that we brought them into being by our continuous dread of them.
The powerful mind is what determines our quality of life, because we shape our lives with our thoughts. When we use it to think negatively, negative events are all we are likely to get. For example, every single thing we enjoy in our world today came out of someone else’s thought – like the technology we’re now using. Thanks to someone’s bright idea, we are the beneficiaries of it.
Third, we age through not sufficiently using our brain and other faculties.
Many people, especially when they retire, stop using their brains, memories and problem-solving faculties. They stop dreaming and aspiring, often living completely sedentary and fearful lives, some spending too many days in front of a passive television, rather than interacting with other humans. Of course, the quality of life without regular stimulus and challenges is likely to deteriorate much quicker. As the saying goes, if we don’t use it, we lose it, and the biggest cause of both mental and physical ageing is the way we CHOOSE to live as we get older.
On a personal level, despite being a diabetic with its own complications, I love each new birthday, and give thanks to see it, because it tells me that I am very much alive – otherwise I would be very dead! I have no desire to be younger than I am, because there is nothing I cannot do now that I used to do back then. For example, I used to go disco dancing in my youth, and I am still enjoying the disco regularly too! I might be a bit slower at some physical things, but I am healthy, active, and mobile, and younger people often find it difficult to keep up with my mental agility and prowess. Simple regular and consistent exercise has also given me a body to envy! Altogether, my increased confidence and experience, positive thoughts around my life, high level of activity, and phenomenal knowledge make this an age to truly enjoy, and I have never been happier. In fact, my smile says it all.
In the end, we might age physically, according to our natural years, but it is our thoughts, expectations, and actual activities that determine how much we age in every other respect, and how we actually look.
Are you 40 years old, or 40 years young? The choice could decide the quality of your future.