Why 60 is the new 40
Ever hear the old sayings that “age is just a state of mind” and “you’re only as old as you feel?”
There is some truth to the idea that how we perceive ourselves has a profound effect on how we feel, both physically and emotionally. A study conducted by PhD student Krystal Warmoth of Exeter University bolsters the belief that our thoughts about aging have a definite impact on how we age.
Warmoth’s study – which included 29 people aged 66 to 98 – determined that individuals who considered themselves to be frail and who were in the mindset of thinking they were too old to do certain activities were more likely to abandon the activities and lifestyle choices that would actually help to keep their minds and their bodies looking and feeling younger. Her findings indicated a clear correlation between a negative outlook on one’s physical condition and a disinterest in socializing and being active.
Other studies, such as this one from Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, lend to the notion that there is power in positive thinking. Fredrickson concluded that the ability to think positively has a profound impact on a person’s work, their health and their overall life span.
Among other key findings in her research, Fredrickson noted that negative emotions – fear, anger, stress – program our brains to respond in a specific way that is designed to shut off the world around us and focus on only one thing. If that focus is on the belief that you are old and frail, then you will be unable to convince yourself that, at age 65, you are still capable of taking long hikes in the woods with friends, or signing up for that yoga class you always wanted to take.
Changing out of those “Negative Nelly” Pants
So, what if you are among the seniors and boomers who has convinced yourself that you are too old and frail to participate in anything beyond sitting in your rocking chair and watching the world pass you by?
The first step toward realizing that 60 truly is the new 40 is to change your train of thought. No one likes a “Negative Nelly.” Aside from the negative effects that can happen to your body when you choose to believe you can’t instead of convincing yourself that you can if you just try, such negative thinking also can lead to depression.
Seniors and boomers can and do experience depression, with statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 20 percent of adults aged 55 and older experience a mental health disorder such as clinical depression. The percentage of those who said they experienced depression or where diagnosed with a depressive disorder increased with age.
One of the best ways to get out of that negative thinking pattern is to recall something in life that gives you a feeling of joy or sparks your contentment. If you once enjoyed music, consider a night out at the orchestra or signing up to learn to play a new instrument. If you enjoy being outside, find a local park or trail that is suited to your current physical fitness levels and get out there and spend time in nature.
Other ways you can generate positive thoughts include:
- Meditation – taking time to remove yourself from the stress and negativity of the world around you is a great way to refocus on the positive. Meditating is an effective way to increase your mindfulness about your own body and re-establish your purpose in life. If you are unsure of how to meditate effectively, this video may help.
- Journaling – make a habit of writing down at least one positive experience or thought in a special “positivity journal” each day. Doing so can help you to find the joy in even the smallest things in life.
- Get Moving – physical fitness is vital to the aging body. Staying in shape can help us to ward off disease and prevent things like falling, which are more prevalent in older individuals who are experiencing a loss in muscle mass. There are activities suited to every age and fitness level, so stop making excuses and get moving!
If you truly are unable to find anything that creates a sense of happiness for you, or find that you just can’t get out of the negative pattern of thinking, then it is time to consult your primary care doctor to be evaluated for depression.
Sixty and Loving it!
Ron Howard. Al Roker. Oprah Winfrey.
What do these three people have in common, aside from their celebrity status? All three are over the age of 60, and proudly flaunt that fact every chance they get. When Roker turned 60, he did an on-air celebration that involved surveying those age 60 and older on whether the 60s really were “swinging.” Of the participants, 72 percent said they felt younger than their age, with 79 percent indicating that their journey was either what they had expected, or better than they expected.
Individuals who are proudly displaying their 60-plus status all seem to have a few things in common. First and foremost is the kind of positive attitude we discussed earlier. Second is the willingness to embrace their age as the next adventure in their lives, rather than seeing it as a stumbling block or limitation to doing the things they enjoy. Third is the understanding that being the best you at any age involves a commitment to eating right and exercising, and leading an overall healthy lifestyle.
Finding your passion, doing the things you’ve always wanted to do and giving back to your community in ways that weren’t always possible when you were busy raising a family and working long hours, are all great ways to embrace your 60s and beyond.
How are you making your 60s better than your 40s? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.