Aging Mindfully: What is Mindful Aging and Why is it Important?

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Often times, aging holds a negative connotation, things like health decline, lifestyle limitations, and more tend to be focused on rather than more optimistic outcomes like free time, extra travel, or learning something new. If you accept this more conventional approach to aging, you probably envision a future filled with limitations on what you can do and accomplish. That simply does not have to be the case.

Yes, it may be true that your focus shifts on other things later in life, but “aging” does not have to be a word defined by negative societal expectations. In fact, aging can be seen more as a positive, freeing mindset, if you make the decision to modify your thoughts and behavior patterns now. You have the power over those thoughts and your emotions around those thoughts.

As you enter new seasons of life, you have a choice. It is up to you to find opportunities and adventure and not let a number (like your age) take away from the chance to live in the present. Did you know in several countries, like India for example, birthdays aren’t celebrated or really recollected except for legal matters?  Jennifer’s teacher, Manju Jois talks about how his family didn’t know his birthday until he had to get a passport to come to the states.  It was written down in an old journal his father had kept. That’s all he knew of his birthday. Isn’t that liberating?

What Is Mindful Aging?

To understand mindful aging, you must first understand what it is not. Mindful aging is not a form of denial or a way to avoid the reality of getting older.  The fact is, you, me, we are ALL getting older. If you have ever been around a puppy or an infant, the impact of time is so apparent because things happen so much quicker.  When it comes to aging, you and I live inside of time, but we are not subject to only negative aspects of time, given the proper mindset.

Instead, mindful aging is about looking at getting older with open eyes and optimism. In other words, not dwelling on the negative aspects of aging, but not denying them either. We all grow older, but what we do with the time given to us, and how we manage the time we have, that is what makes the biggest difference.

It’s a process of acceptance that comes with understanding the reality of the situation you are in. Sure, you may have more grey hair than you once did, or running may be harder on your joints, but mindful aging is not letting it stop you from achieving the things you want to accomplish. 

The first step to mindful aging is simply allowing yourself to be in the moment and accept the present for what it is rather than thinking too far ahead or retreating to memories about the way you once were (for better or worse). 

How Do I Incorporate Mindfulness Into My Daily Life?

1. Banish negative self-talk 

Avoiding statements like “I’m too old to _____” is a great place to start. Former President George H. W. Bush went skydiving on his 90th birthday. So why set boundaries for yourself based on a number when you can spend your time taking  proactive steps to stop aging with fear?  

2. Learn to let go

Get rid of anything toxic in your life, such as old grudges or relationships. This will make room for new experiences.

3. Shift your focus 

Focus on looking inward and making decisions for your own joy instead of the approval of others. One way to do this is to try  practices such as meditation and yoga, which can reduce stress and anxiety while improving flexibility, circulation, and mental clarity. 

4. Have a vision

Picture what you want your life to look like and take steps to turn that vision into a reality. Write the vision down.  Share the vision with a friend or loved one. Take action on that vision.

5. Respect your body

Combat the physical effects of aging by respecting your body. This means getting plenty of exercise (like yoga)  and eating as healthy as possible. Yes, your body may be different than it was in your 20s, but it is still capable of more than you might think. If you are suffering from pain or inflammation, look for natural ways to manage that like supplementing with CBD. (this is an affiliate link.)

6. Find an outlet 

Do something that sparks your creativity and passion like trying a new hobby, traveling, volunteering or even starting a second career (like Teaching Yoga!) Did you know the first 3 graduates from the Thrive Teacher Training program were all over 60?!!  You are NEVER too old to start something new.

The Benefits of Mindful Aging 

The mindfulness approach recognizes the value of living presently and acknowledges the countless benefits to aging. 

That sounds nice, but you may be wondering how changing your approach to aging will help you in the long run.

Studies show that older adults who practice mindful aging exhibit more positive emotions. Think about it — when you take the time to focus on what’s around you, you give yourself less time for fear, regret, and self-judgment. 

Another study showed that older adults tend to be more mindful and focused on the present than younger adults. This may be a coping mechanism developed over the years in response to facing various challenges. Or perhaps it is the hard fact that we have fewer years left, so we choose to live more in the present. Regardless of the reasons, the present is a good place to be regardless of how long you’ve been around. 

There are so many benefits of growing older that we may choose to ignore. But slowing down and appreciating what’s around you is a great way to start recognizing the good in aging.

Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.