So many of us associate aging with cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, adult onset diabetes, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue … Shall I go on?
Even though how your body ages is partially dependent on your family’s genetic patterns, you actually have a lot of control over the outcome — control that is driven by your lifestyle choices and the beliefs or mindset you choose to uphold.
Ultimately, you want your body to stay flexible, to use energy efficiently, to handle stress effectively, and bounce back better and stronger from any adversity.
If that sounds good, here's what you want to keep in mind:
1. Choose to develop flexibility and balance.
Studies show that improved muscle flexibility improves quality of life in people in mid-life and beyond. Flexibility is essential for not only the muscles of your arms, legs and back, but also your heart muscles and blood vessels, which positively effects the neurons in your brain.
Prescription: Try gentle stretching, yoga, or tai chi every morning.
2. Choose to eat right.
There is a lot of evidence that aging interferes with metabolism, immunity, and organ function for a multitude of reasons, but this can be positively manipulated through dietary changes and other lifestyle choices.
Prescription: Avoid foods that are difficult to metabolize or wreak havoc on your metabolism and instead stick to gluten-free grains, a variety of vegetables, fruits, grass fed proteins, and healthy fats like avocado, omega-3 oil (as found in fatty fish for example) and coconut oil.
3. Choose to develop your strength.
The stronger the body is, the more efficient it can be in its utilization of energy and the more clear the mind can function. Strength training has been found not only to improve bone and muscle mass, but also improve cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, glucose (sugar) and lipid (cholesterol) levels, and possibly returning gene expression to its more youthful levels.
Prescription: To strengthen your body, pump some iron, take up CrossFit, or try power yoga. To strengthen your brain, try to strengthen your mind with memory recall exercises.
4. Choose to rest and relax.
It is just as important for individuals to sleep, rest and relax as it is for them to move and be active. Some studies suggest that employing a regular, long-term meditation practice is associated with less loss of gray-matter in the brain (which you need for cognitive and higher level brain functioning). Other studies have shown that a regular meditation practice can decrease hot flashes.
Prescription: Start a meditation practice using the technique that suits you — visual imagery, mindfulness, yoga, or transcendental meditation, for example. Start with 5 minutes a day and work your way up to 20 minutes a day.
Practice short relaxations throughout your day and before going to sleep. Remove stimulants before bedtime and only use your bed for sleep or sex (no work or computers). Drink teas like chamomile to help you relax or take a bath in lavender.
5. Choose to trust in a positive outcome.
Scientific studies worldwide have confirmed that the placebo response, or the belief that a procedure or intervention will have a positive outcome, can effect real biological and physiological changes, including lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle tension, decreasing inflammation, and improving activity in the brain.
In addition, a 2010 University of Kansas meta-analytic review on the effects of optimism on physical health found that optimism was a significant predictor of positive physical health outcomes. Bottom line, expecting good matters.
Prescription: Catch yourself when your mind races into negative thoughts or beliefs and redirect your thoughts to a memory of appreciation or love. For example, you can think about a beautiful sunset or the face of someone you adore. The goal is to shift your emotional state to one that is positive so that you can access positive beliefs.
6. Choose affirmations.
Write down a few positive statements to carry around with you in times of need. Here are some examples:
- I embody the feeling of wellbeing, being strong, confident and attractive.
- I align with my power heal, live fully and love completely.
- I love the feeling of being strong, vibrant and confident.
Don’t let time run you down. Instead, let time try to keep up with you!
Dr. Eva Selhub is an expert in the fields of stress, resilience and mind-body medicine. She studied medicine at Boston University and is board certified in Internal Medicine. She has been a lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School, a clinical associate at Massachusetts General Hospital, and was medical director and senior physician at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She now runs a private practice as a comprehensive medical specialist and transformation consultant and is the author of Your Health Destiny: How to Unlock Your Natural Ability to Overcome Illness, Feel Better, and Live Longer.