There’s no telling exactly when it will happen. But sooner or later, the day comes when you start up a staircase or bend down to reach for something and it suddenly hits you: I’m not young anymore. You look in the mirror and wonder, Can that really be me?
The ageism in ourselves
We can’t help but be aware of what is lost with the passing years – not just youthful energy and good looks, but also that exuberant sense of all the paths still open to us. Society’s conceptions of aging, plus our own, conspire with the calendar to shut down our sense of possibility.
But what if we started thinking more about the ways that age enables us, rather than limiting us—even when it comes to our bodies? I’m convinced age can actually be an advantage in the pursuit of fitness. You can more deeply appreciate your body’s innate wisdom, its miraculous capacity for self-healing, and all the things it can still do after decades of uninterrupted service. Every time I work out, I’m grateful to be here at 77, and still kickin’ it.
Acceptance is another capacity that may grow with age. Surprising as it may seem, studies show that both men and women feel best about their bodies around the age of 75. As the years roll by, it’s easier to let go of vanity and focus on more important and practical goals, like staying mobile and pain-free. We also become less prone to bravado, and more careful to avoid injuries that could sideline us.
Then, too, with peak career and family demands behind us, we may have more time to devote to health and well-being. We may also find greater motivation. Science has discovered that being active helps us lower the risks of a life-threatening disease, feel younger, preserve brain health, and be more resilient in the event of an illness, among other benefits.
Making the mental shift
Evolutionary biologists tell us humans are wired to be far more aware of the threats and obstacles around us than of our assets and opportunities. Negativity comes easily, but finding the positive takes a conscious effort. That’s especially true if you feel age as a constant burden.
You can be free of that negative baggage if you think of the arc of your life as your own creation. Where you go from here is up to you. So let’s make 2018 a year to stop fixating on things we can’t do, and start celebrating all the things we still can do to make the most of our lives.
Photos: top, Galina Barskaya/Fotolia/Adobe Stock; bottom, Masterfile