Reality check: All of us are getting older. From the time we are born, we are moving toward death.
How does this make you feel?
How do you feel about aging in general?
As I have discussed before, much of our thoughts and beliefs evolve from our families.
Growing old is no exception to the downloaded blueprint.
Take a moment and ask yourself how your parents aged or are aging. What happened or is happening in their lives? If their identities revolved around physical labor or being physically fit and active, as they are losing those abilities, how are they handling it? Oftentimes people will fall into depression as their physical capabilities and independence falter. The same is true for those whose self-esteem came from mental acuity, and now age-related dementia -- or, worse yet, Alzheimer's -- has set in.
Aging is scary. It is scary to lose your memory, your vision, your hearing, your ability to drive, sew, bake, do yard work, or whatever other activity you once enjoyed. As we watch our loved ones age, we too become fearful of our own mortality and commonly say, "That is never happening to me."
You do have a choice in how you approach aging, but you do not have a choice when it comes to aging itself.
Some Fearless-Aging Tips and Tricks
1. Be Realistic
As you move through the years, it is important to be realistic and to mourn the things that go. You will not have the butt of a 20-year-old when you are 50, and that's okay. That's how it's supposed to be! Try to love and appreciate the whole of you. Being realistic is also about being in loving acceptance of where you are in the aging process.
Society puts a lot of pressure on us (especially on women) to be unrealistically young. It's a double-edged sword. There is an expectation of eternal youth that plastic surgery, injectables, and expensive products promise to deliver. However, there is no denying how old you actually are. You still have the organs, skin, muscles, and blood of however many years you have been on this planet.
Further, the media -- along with friends, colleagues, family, and strangers -- often criticize someone for getting a facelift or a breast lift or a whatever lift. So we are not supposed to look older, but we're not supposed to look like we've had work done, either. Are we somehow supposed to miraculously freeze in time? I don't know about you, but I would not go back to my 20s even if it meant regaining the butt I had back then! Every phase of life, in my experience, is better than the last. I would not trade my life experience and the wisdom I have gained for fewer wrinkles. Don't get me wrong: I am definitely going down swinging and doing what is within my power to stay healthy and strong as I age. But it is not an obsession.
It can be seductive to think that there are magical ways to reverse aging. There aren't... but there are appropriate lifestyle choices that can make the process less anxiety-provoking and add quality to the next half of your life.
2. Stay Physically Fit and Eat Healthy
Obvious. I don't need to go into the myriad benefits of proper exercise and nutrition. Hydration, antioxidants, minerals, and healthy fats all keep you glowing from the inside out. Maintaining physical strength improves bone and muscle mass while keeping the metabolism burning, the heart pumping, and the other organs movin' and groovin'. Both nutrition and exercise also serve to detoxify the body, keeping the system healthy.
3. Work Out Your Brain
Again, the studies abound as to the importance of keep your mind sharp and focused. Read, learn a new language, travel to different cultures, do puzzles -- all are ways to increase and maintain mental acuity and memory.
4. Stay Connected
My pal and colleague Dr. Lissa Rankin recently wrote a very poignant piece about how meaningful relationships add years to your life and life to your years. Being empathetic keeps you young at heart (and keeps the other parts of your inside young, too).
5. Control Your Environment
Don't live in clutter -- literally or emotionally. Don't have a job or participate in activities that require you to sit in traffic for hours on end. These are examples of taxing lifestyle choices that increase anxiety (and, therefore, the aging process).
It is totally possible to embrace the aging process and grow older fearlessly! But as with everything, the choice is yours. Choose fearlessness rather than denial, which does not produce the results you seek and keeps you constricted and stuck.
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Terri Cole: On Getting Old: You May Be Aging Gracefully, But Are You Aging Fearlessly? (VIDEO)