As we enter the new year, we all resolve to turn over a new leaf and live well as we age. This means finding a formula that we can follow. The problem is that there is so much advise out there that we don’t know where to begin. Do I glue myself to the computer and begin my search? Do I curl up on the couch and look for inspiration from the TV gurus? Perhaps I should go to Amazon to find the latest self-help book? Where do I find the formula for living well as I age?
After years of searching I have concluded that the formula for living well as we age has five basic ingredients – diet, exercise, sleep, a positive attitude and being socially connected.
This is not new news. We know that each of these ingredients is important. What the advice tends to do, however, is focus on one ingredient while largely ignoring the others.
The Diet Dilemma
By far, of these five ingredients, diet receives the most attention. We are saturated with advise on what we should and should not eat. For every claim made there are three to contradict it and all are backed by testimonials from experts and celebrities. This in turn translates to a very lucrative enterprise and so the advise keeps coming.
Whether we diet to lose weight, to look younger or, as I have, to address chronic illness, the results are disappointing. How many people do you know who have actually found a forever diet in one of these fads? The formula for living well as you age doesn’t depend on fad diets. It relies on common sense.
In order for our diet to support living well as we age, we need to stop kidding ourselves and take a hard look at our diet. For a diabetic like me, one of the most challenging things is to kick the addiction to sugar. You feel virtuous when you have only a sliver of coconut cream pie. Small though the portion may be, it feeds the sugar craving. What are you eating that you know is harming you?
We know that we must ween ourselves off those foods that contain unhealthy fats and sugars as well as those high in empty carbohydrates like potato chips, which, incidentally, contain only traces of potato. Replacing orange juice in the morning with a 12 ounce glass of water, for example, is a huge step towards wellness but how many who love a glass in the morning actually give it up?
In addition to diet, the link between exercise and aging is indisputable. If you shudder at the prospect of going to a gym, no worries. Make a commitment to being active every day. Even a quiet stroll around your neighborhood stimulates circulation and improves breathing. From this pleasant experience the whole body benefits including the adrenal, lymphatic, cardio and digestive systems not to mention the positive effects on the mind and spirit.
No matter what you choose, that you exercise is more important than how you exercise. I recently watched an interview with Anthony Hopkins. When asked what he believes to be the secret of aging well he replied simply, “Keep moving”.
Most communities offer a wide variety of exercise classes from zumba to pickle ball. If you don’t have access to a community program or a quality fitness center, there are tons of exercise programs available in the media.EXERCISE FOR HEALING
Enjoy Your Sleep
The inability to get a good night’s sleep is one of the most frequent complaints among seniors. Living well as you age most definitely includes improving the quality of your sleep. Studies have proven time and again, that the quality of our sleep has everything to do living well as we age. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/
We know from the research that avoiding the use of the computer before going to bed helps the brain to relax and prepare for the tranquility of the night. Similarly, being selective about what you watch on television after dinner, also impacts your sleep. Watching the late night news these days is not going to promote a tranquil state of mind!
I recommend the use of meditation to improve the quality of your sleep. There are many guided meditations available on the internet. Try different ones until you find one that helps you relax and calm your mind.
Be Happy And Share It
There is no question that having a positive outlook is the most important ingredient in the formula for aging well. A positive attitude is built on gratitude. If we find ourselves depressed and down on life we can change this by cultivating appreciation for what we have. Bitterness and self-pity can’t reside in the same dwelling as gratitude. A simple tool such as a gratitude journal can work wonders on how you look at life.
Social contact is a fundamental human need. Loneliness is one of the most destructive aspects of aging. As we age the opportunities to interact with others diminishes. Our spouse and close friends die. We no longer have the companionship of coworkers. Rarely do we get to social functions. At this juncture we sit and wait for someone to call or visit. When they don’t, we are resentful and feel abandoned.
Maintaining social connections should be a priority for all seniors. It’s up to us, not someone else, to keep these connections. I have found that my daily walk around the neighborhood is as much social as it is exercise. The people with whom I meet enrich my life immeasurably. I rarely find anyone who doesn’t brighten up when they receive a smile. This is as true for the sullen teenage as it is for the reserved senior so don’t walk with your head down. Smile at everyone, even the grumpuses, and start a conversation. Maybe this person is as lonely as you are.
Although snail mail is quickly becoming a thing of the past, people still like to receive a note. A text, especially one with truncated spelling, sends a message that I have no time for you. A written note says that I have taken the time to let you know that I’m thinking of you. I often wonder at the term “social media”. It seems that, in general, it is anything but social.
No single diet or exercise program can replace a life style that includes all five ingredients – diet, exercise, sleep, positive mind and social interaction. We can have a relatively healthy body, walk up a storm every day and pig out on kale, but if we are full of negativity and feel left behind, we will not live fully as we age.
- Eating is one of life’s true pleasures. Don’t forfeit this because some “expert” is trying to get rich on your vulnerability. Form your own weight lose group. Share ideas, recipes and resources and most of all support and encourage one another.
- Don’t let your muscles atrophy. Get off the couch and make an effort, even when it hurts.
- Sleep is a necessity. Don’t accept insomnia as a given.
- Be grateful for all that you have. Turn off the depressing news and put on some dance music. You’ll feel much better.
- Don’t sit and wait for someone to call you. Take responsibility for your social life. If you are able, volunteer and help someone in need.
Something to Think About
“I run like the winded.” anonymous
Don’t forget to laugh!
The formula for living well as you age consists of diet, exercise, sleep, attitude and social contact. All are necessary for well being and living with ease.