Getting older is something many of us don’t think about much – until maybe your sore back or sore knees start to tell you, or a photo from your school ball years ago popped up on your Facebook feed and you realise just how far you’ve traveled away from your youth.
As the years go by you can start to feel that your age is defining who you are and what your future might look like – for some that can be scary! But instead of letting age get the better of you, meet it head on with a positive mind and a healthy body.
Start when you’re 40. Acknowledge age is a process rather than a disease; you can’t treat it but you can influence it. You can even take action to influence your genes, through regular disease screening and improved lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking.
The link between an unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle choices and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions isn’t new. What is less well advertised, however, is that mental wellbeing may prove to be as important as a good diet and exercise in its effect on the ageing process and how we deal with it.
In a recent article published in The Lancet medical journal, it says “there is growing evidence suggesting that psychological wellbeing may even be a protective factor in health, reducing the risk of chronic physical illness and promoting longevity”.
So here’s our top tips for doing your best to age well:
1. Minimise stress in your life
Chronic stress causes your body to produce high levels of a hormone called cortisol, which is released when your body needs energy to cope with short-lived stressful events.
But ongoing stress means your cortisol levels remain high, which contributes to increased blood pressure, obesity, anxiety and depression. Stress ages your body, so find ways to de-stress through techniques such as meditation and mindfulness or the Mental Health Foundation’s ways to wellbeing.
French women swear by facials and massages to help fight the effects of ageing. But perhaps it’s more to do with relaxation and making time for yourself rather than getting rid of wrinkles and saggy bottoms.
2. Seize the day
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? Play the guitar, write a novel or learn to sing? Don’t wait for the ‘right time’, do it now – your brain and your heart will thank you for it. Hedonic wellbeing – feelings of happiness and satisfaction – are key to mental wellbeing. A happy and contented mind helps cultivate a happy and contented body. Find time to do something purely for the enjoyment it brings you.
3. Break the rules
No miniskirts after age 35. Don’t dye your hair. Stop wearing sleeveless shirts after age 50. So many rules – but rules are made to be broken! Who writes the rules anyway? Do what makes you happy! Your happiness is so much more important than what others say is acceptable at age 40, 50 or 60. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal so embrace what makes you happy.
4. Find your purpose
Find your sense of purpose in the people and community around you. It doesn’t have to be grand, like changing the world. Most of us play our most important role through connecting with helping those closest to you, by volunteering, helping a stranger or through your work.
5. Move your body and your mind will follow
Remember to exercise your body, too. Walk, dance, swim, breathe. Learn a new activity and keep finding new physical challenges.
And remember, all your wrinkles, grey hair and stiff joints are usually a sign of a life well lived. Reaching old age is a gift that many don’t get the opportunity to enjoy, so embrace it. And as those French women say, la beauté n’a pas d’âge – beauty has no age.