The multi million dollar industry dedicated to the pursuit of the eternal youth wants to convince us that just by spending some of our hard-earned cash we can reverse the effects of gravity and normal cellular deterioration. There is yet no proof that any of it actually works. We cannot stop aging, at least not right now. We may be able to slow the process down, or make it more enjoyable and less illness-ridden, however. But until the eternal youth (and eternal health) elixirs are discovered, the best you can do is to embrace aging and do so in a healthy way.
It’s too easy to list the things that have been repeated ad nauseam on how you just eat well and exercise, and think that just by doing those things every single one of us will reach to be a 100 and finish a triathlon at the tender age of 92. But reality is different. Some of us will die before they start aging, some of us will become sick, some of us will do everything in their power to lead a healthy lifestyle and still fail to enjoy the aging process. Therefore, if you are here for a 5 minute trick that will give you the tools to be dashing young and healthy all through your life – you will be disappointed. There is no magic formula that works.
Instead, we have best practices – rules to live by that will increase your chances of enjoying old age. If you manage to stick to them 80% of the time, and be wild and erratic 20% of the time, I can’t guarantee that you will age healthily. But your daily life will be pleasant and you will do what is in your power to age healthily.
Don’t believe in miracle foods or miracle diets
No single plant or animal carries the key to eternal health and longevity. If it was so, there would already be species who feed on it and never age. Despite the extensive research into health and nutrition, there has not yet been found “one ring to rule them all” of slimming foods. You have probably read many such claims but the truth of the matter is you will have to make a conscious effort to eat a balanced diet and do that without any guarantee that it will work against the plethora of diseases that human kind is prone to. However, balanced eating will definitely have benefits, so don’t exclude it.
Don’t exercise to be fit, there is a better reason
Most pieces of advice about exercise focus on the physical benefits. For healthy aging, exercise means retaining the muscle mass, keeping the creeping up of weight in check, better coronary health etc. But on a deeper and more important level, movement is life. Doing any kind of activity such as gardening and walking makes you not only use up the calories and increase all the good body processes – it makes you keep going, keep living. If you look at very old people who are in good health, most of them remain active long into their old age. So next time you do physical activity make sure it’s something that makes you feel alive, not something that you do to just “keep fit”. It will be easier to maintain and it will not feel like a chore.
Give up often, it does not make you a quitter
There is a lot of commonly accepted wisdom on how we should never give up and how quitters don’t get what they want. However, giving up on certain things really makes you a winner. The first thing to give up on is your own unrealistic expectations on life and people around you. The next thing is toxic people. Give up on them frequently and mercilessly. You will not miss them. Once you learn how to give up and let go of things that you need to, it is easier not to quit on things that really matter. So, the secret is to know when to quit and when not to.
Bear in mind that, Yes, you are too old for some things, but it’s not what you think
“You’re never to old to…” – how many times have your heard this? And sometimes the saying is right. But just like all sayings, perspective and context gives them their true meaning. Of course you are never too old to start living your life, with limitations. But you are too old to act like you don’t know better. You are too old to not appreciate what you have and know how to value people in your life. You are too old to adopt silly fashions that don’t bring anything good into your life. You are too old to act anything but your age because being your age is great.
You don’t have “one life to live”, You have one time to participate in Life
Life has a million ways to tell us that we are often not in charge, no matter how much we would love to be. One of the most important rules is to find your own path. Make aging a road of self discovery, but don’t focus on yourself so much. Our self-centered civilization is making us lonely and manic. Instead of just looking inside and trying to make something out of your life, try to connect to the world around you. Most of the 7 billion of us will not have a life achievement that impacts everyone. But each of us impacts our immediate environment substantially. We are all connected and lean strongly on what we inherit from the generations before us and are influenced by the moment we live in. Sometimes life brings something exceptional, but for the majority of us, life will be just life. Don’t wait for the exceptional thing to happen in your “one life”. Don’t try to initiate it by force of summon it by effort. It will, in most cases just give you a profound and lasting feeling of failure. Instead participate in life with all you’ve got.
Whatever you do, never give up on learning new things, it is one of the key components of healthy aging. Whether it’s a completely new skill or a new way of doing the same things, keeping your brain alert and ready for new information is definitely the key to a vigorous soul. Learning also makes you more flexible and flexibility seems to be the key in the current rapidly changing world. Learn for the joy of it and for the utility of it. Not everything you learn will be useful, that’s certain, but that time is not wasted. Keep the brain muscle strong, your old age will be grateful.
Break the rules above
But not in the adolescent “live fast, die young” kind of way. Break the rules your way, the way unique to you only, it is your healthy aging journey. Just like not every diet is for everybody, or not every exercise regime will work for everybody, pursue the rules above that work. Those that don’t – ditch them and make your own. And don’t age gracefully. Age on your own terms.