Last month I wrote a post in which I shared a strategy I have used to help me deal with my mother's dementia. Aging can suck. My 84 year old mother-in-law says 'it (getting old) ain't for wimps'.
While there can certainly be challenges that come with aging, there is some wonderful research supporting something quite different.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found the psychological health of adults seems to consistently get better over time. By 'psychological health', the scientists are referring to the sense of well-being, of happiness in older adults.
Reading this reminded me of a conversation I had with a girlfriend recently. 'Don't you just love this time of life?' she said. 'I feel so good about myself; I know I look worse (we laughed) but I just feel happier; more calm, more serene, more at ease with myself and others in my life.' I had to agree with her. I feel the same.
Now, neither of us would turn down many of the obvious benefits of youth, were they offered to us! The sparkly eyes, the glowing skin, the firm....well, you know what I mean. What we were referring to, though, was the clear truth to each of us, that we were more mentally healthy now than we were in our youth.
We are much more able to 'let things go', we can pause and consider whether or not to pursue something instead of reacting; we simply do not "sweat the small stuff". The researchers discovered that older adults are better at emotional regulation, and when we experience negative emotion we can more readily determine how to manage it. And, interestingly, the research shows that older adults experience less negative emotion overall. ('Maybe it's because we are just happy to wake up every day' my friend says with a smirk.)
All kidding aside, getting older is not an option (well, it is....but the other one is not very pleasant). So, why not embrace aging? Why not reframe aging?
Here is a little strategy to help you do just that:
A - Attention: Pay particular attention to all the positive parts of aging. Write them down. Each day, remind yourself of how happy you are about where you are in your life.
G - Gratitude: Begin each day with a moment of gratitude --- for waking up --- and also for all that you appreciate about yourself and your life.
E - Emotion: Feel. And when you do, pause. Embrace the emotion. Researchers have already determined that you have more positive than negative emotion. Feel the positive. Where does it reside in you? Anchor it in your memory.
What's the best part of aging to you?
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