If you spend your day toggling between pining for the past or fretting over the future you may not notice that there is actually nothing at either one: the past doesn't exist and neither does the future.
You must live life in the present -- the key to aging successfully -- but you can't do so if one foot is chained to the past and both hands are shielding your eyes from the fuzzy future. Your vision will be blocked, your hands will be full and you'll be teetering on one leg!
Yes, plan for the future but then let it go. We all have memories of things past but after you reminisce a bit, let them go too. Turn your focus back to the present.
People who age successfully do so not because they look like an arrested version of their 20-year-old selves, but because they are fully engaged in the moment. They enjoy the small pleasures of the day and take the challenges in stride. Sure, they have bad days but they bounce back more easily than others do.
Why? Because they try to integrate the following eight habits into their day as often as possible:
1. Get healthy from the inside out: Ditch the red meat, processed meat and refined carbohydrates and sugar and increase the whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and chicken. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Do what you can and remember that lasting change happens slowly over time. Forgive yourself when you fall back into old habits and keep trying.
2. Practice gratitude: When you're in the midst of a stressful situation it's hard to focus on what's going well in your life but perspective is what you need when you're worried about something. First, do what you can to address the problem but then take a moment. Think about, or make a list of the things in your life that you are grateful for such as family members, friends, your health, your intelligence, even the city you live in. Try it and you'll be surprised at how your mood improves and you feel a sense of renewed energy.
3. Learn to relax: This is one of the hardest things any of us can do in our overstressed world and that's also why it's so critical to master. It may be 30 minutes of yoga, an intense game of soccer or simply closing the bedroom door and breathing deeply, in and out, for five minutes. Deep breathing is probably the best thing you can do because you can practice it any time, anywhere and it will immediately lower your blood pressure. Remember that stress is insidious; it wears you down by stealth, moment by moment without you even realizing it. The great news is that something as simple as breathing can do so much good.
4. Laugh: How many times did you laugh today? Yesterday? Studies show that laughter is great for your health. Spend time with friends or family members who make you laugh or watch your favourite funny movie. There are days when you just need a dose of The Marx Brothers or Naked Gun! Laughing is not a luxury and it's not just something you do when you're wasting time; it's essential for good health.
5. Socialize: Try to see friends and family as often as you can. No budget to go out? Tidy up the house and invite people over for coffee and cookies. Socializing doesn't have to be a big, expensive production. The goal is to spend some relaxing downtime with those you care about and who care about you.
6. Practice kindness: From the smallest gesture to the largest, either impromptu or planned, kindness given and received is one of the best ways to live in the moment. It makes you feel good, makes the other person feel good and it's so easy. Holding the door for someone is the quickest way to make them smile. Giving or receiving a hug will make you both feel better immediately. There is nothing like practicing kindness to keep you in the moment.
7. Learn something new: It's hard to get distracted when you are learning something new and interesting. It's too much fun! Whether it's a new language, figuring out Facebook or just taking a new route to the mall, you're totally engrossed and you're learning all the time. It may be a little nerve-wracking but you'll soon get the rush of accomplishment and that's a great feeling!
8. Build your courage and self-esteem: Are you facing a challenge right now, something you aren't sure you can handle? Take a moment to yourself and recall some of the difficult things you've faced in the past. Remember what the challenge was and how you handled it. Review several of these but not in great detail -- you must focus the bulk of your attention on the task at hand. Just remember what the issue was and what you did to address it. Go through three or four of these and you'll find a renewed sense of your own strength. The courage you were trying to summon will be there because you will have a renewed belief in yourself. Practice this "accomplishment rewind" anytime you feel uncertain about your ability to deal with a current challenge.
Integrate these eight habits into your day as often as possible and you'll find yourself aging successfully -- because you'll be too busy doing it to be aware of it!
Follow Kathy Barthel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@comfortlife