What do emotional factors have to do with anti-aging?
It is sometimes difficult to see the changing image of ourselves in the mirror as we grow older. This applies not just to women but to men as well.
There are physical signs that our bodies are getting more mature; thickening waistlines, sagging skin, cellulite wrinkles and of course grey hair. If you have always taken pride in your appearance and looked after yourself, these visible signs of the passing years can be difficult to deal with.
This is why plastic surgery, cosmetics companies, hair salons and anti-aging clinics do such great business. Billions and billions a year are now being spent on recapturing our youth and as we have seen in photographs in the press, the results are not always successful.
Of course there are people who are quite happy with their changing image and that is fantastic. Accepting the stage that you are physically in your life is very liberating. Letting your hair grow grey, flaunting the lines and creases in your face and baring your body to the world in all its glory is to be admired.
However, if you are like me, you find that quite hard to do. It is not that I resent the fact that I am getting older. I love that I have more knowledge, experience, patience and respect for life than I did in my twenties and thirties but the trouble is that my head and heart still think that they are about half the actual age that I am.
There is a theory that we all have an age that we reach and then internally set as our perfect age. For example when I have worked with women clients in their seventies and eighties and asked them what age they actually feel inside they have all said that they still feel the same as they did at an age between twenty-five and thirty-five. Most men clients usually settle on an age between late teens and late twenties.
This is quite interesting when you look at the biological primes of men and women. These ages seem to correspond to female and male most fertile and stimulating years.
This can make it very hard to look in the mirror and see a sixty, seventy or eighty year old face and body when you actually only feel twenty-five inside.
There is some research to suggest that both men and women suffering from dementia may in fact look in the mirror and see a younger version of themselves which of course only leads to the confusion they are feeling.
So how can we use this internal feeling of youth to help us knock some years off our biological age?
We CAN recapture some of the elements of those earlier years. There are certain human factors that do not age in the same way as our bodies do. Our emotions may change intensity, as does passion, but the actual mechanism for those feelings is exactly the same at eighty as it was at twenty.
What we have to do is find a way to harness that internal age that we feel so in tune with and combine it with all the incredible experiences that we have learnt about life since that age.
The last time I actually felt at my best physically, I was about twenty-eight years old and my best emotional and mental ages were about thirty-five. Being realistic, unless I underwent radical plastic surgery, looking twenty-eight again is not on the cards.
Generally, we have a great many more skills now than we did at twenty-eight and thirty-five and what WE CAN do is apply that knowledge to at least a ten year reversal in our biological age. This applies primarily to the internal health of our bodies but some of the external signs of aging will also be improved because of the revitalised functions of our body.
However, to be successful, it is also important to change some ingrained attitudes attached to our current age to enable us to take those steps backward.
So how do we go about changing those attitudes?
First I think it would be a good idea for everyone listening to complete the OFQ. We are all accustomed to the expression FAQ which means ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ but OFQ means ‘OLD FOGIE’S QUESTIONS’
These questions will determine if you have indeed become an ’Old Fogey’ and need to adjust your attitude by a few years. It is a little bit of fun but it is amazing how closely I can identify with some of these statements for myself and friends and relatives who are over a certain age.
Conversations with friends your own age turn into ‘duelling ailments’
Your idea of a night out is sitting on your patio.
You find yourself saying ‘I don’t believe it’ several times a day.
You buy clothes that hide your body rather than enhance it.
You give up all your bad habits and you still don’t feel good.
You feel that no one respects your opinions anymore
You keep repeating yourself.
You tell the same story from your past over and over again.
You resist going to places where you will meet new people, preferring the comfort of your known friends and acquaintances.
You begin every sentence with ‘Nowadays or In My Day or When I was your age’
You frequently tell people what a loaf of bread or a gallon of petrol used to cost.
You constantly criticise the younger generation.
You feel that it is not worth changing at your age as it will not make a difference
You eat your meals at the same time every day and get upset when you are asked to change.
You order the same meal every time you go to a restaurant.
You cannot sit still without falling asleep.
You don’t care where your husband or wife goes as long as they don’t drag you along with them.
Happy hour is a nap.
You stop celebrating birthdays as it reminds you of how old you are.
The bottle of wine is always half empty.
How can we avoid falling into this trap of being old?
First and foremost, next time you find yourself about to say any of the above, bite your tongue.
You actually have to make some decisions about your life. We are living longer today and thankfully most of us do not know how long we actually have left. You have a choice; you can live every day as if it is your last or you can sit patiently for the next 10, 20 or 30 years until it happens.
We all get complacent as we get older and we need to work harder to find stimulation physically and mentally. It is a bit like that saying ‘Been there, done that and got the T-shirt’. Well, unless you have been an intrepid explorer or a serious academic from childhood, you have not been everywhere and you have not done or know everything.
STRATEGY ONE – Make A Wish List
It is very useful to create a wish list of the things that you would love to do. This may be a trip that you have always wanted to take – don’t worry at this stage how impractical or expensive this wish list is. These are wishes after all and we know that some of them don’t come true.
Write absolutely everything down. For example – learning languages, climbing Everest, sailing in the Greek Islands, singing Karaoke, meeting Marilyn Monroe, walking on the Moon, re-uniting with your best friend from school, learning to play a musical instrument, and being a grandparent.
It is quite clear that some of these wishes are not possible. Marilyn Monroe has been dead since August 1962 so you cannot meet her in person. However, there is so much information out there that you could certainly get to know her very well indeed.
The same with walking on the moon. There is no way that you are going to be able to do that realistically but there are videos and DVD’s on the subject, thousands of books and an amazing amount of material on the Internet. I did the next best thing however; I interviewed two astronauts for 30 minutes on television about their adventures!
You could still however, learn a language, to play a musical instrument and trace your best friend from school.
It may not be physically possible for you to be an actual grandparent but there are some wonderful schemes running at the moment where you can be an adopted grandparent for children who do not have any of their own. Your experience of life and your love would be wonderfully received.
For every impossible dream or wish there is usually a work-around. Sometimes it is as simple as saying to yourself ‘I am going to do that’. In other cases you may have to live the wish vicariously through the eyes and the actions of someone else who has managed to live that dream.
The list could be one page or ten. It does not matter, the more wishes you have the more you may be able to make come true. Start working your way through them – for those that seemed impossible, find a solution. Tick them off as you go and feel that sense of achievement and satisfaction and that life still holds so many more opportunities in the years ahead. You may be a little slower but you are not dead yet. Set yourself goals on achieving those wishes. A year to learn Spanish, two years to save for a trip to Australia, 6 months to write that book that is in you.
Build some unpredictability into your life. Don’t eat at the same time every day – visit the same restaurants every week – use the same supermarket – buy the same newspaper, watch the same television news – talk to your family on the same day every week. Stress is caused by not meeting your daily expectations. My father had lunch on the table at 12.45 every single day, including Sundays. He used to get furious with us if we were 5 minutes late back from the pub and we used to get stressed out from the moment we arrived in the pub and then ran home to be on time. We would rather have had a sandwich at lunchtime and dinner in the evening but that was not the rule.
Make a decision to learn something new every day. It might be a new foreign language word, which means that at the end of the year you will have a vocabulary of 366 new words at your disposal. Learn two new words and you will be on your way to speaking the language very well. You only need 1500 to be fluent in Spanish!
Take a subject that you have always been interested in and take a formal course in it so that you can speak not only with authority but also as a qualified person.
Learn about your body and what it needs to be healthy: Then, instead of constantly talking about your ailments when you get together with your friends you can come up with some strategies for preventing or improving the condition. Much more positive than commiserating with each other about the symptoms.
Go out and meet new people. Every one of us has had a lifetime of different experiences of the same event. Marriage, education, children, living in a foreign country, driving and dealing with life will have been perceived differently by individuals and sharing our own lives broadens our perspective.
One of the hardest things as we get older is feeling that we no longer have anything to offer and that we are no longer respected for what we are or what we know.
Respect at any age is not a right, it has to be earned. People respect courage, humour, commitment, loyalty, enthusiasm, knowledge and a person who shares themselves by giving time and part of themselves to a relationship or group activity.
Once you start giving you will be amazed at how much comes back to you. It is a waste of a lifetime’s experience, and the maturity you have gained, to sit at home and keep it to yourself.
I am not suggesting that you run out and start volunteering for every needy cause going but look within your own family and social group first and think carefully about where your participation in someone else’s life would benefit them and ultimately you.
What about love and romance?
This is one of the most wonderful ways to keep young. Just because we are older it does not mean that we cannot feel the passionate intensity of new found love or cannot nurture a relationship that we already have. It is too easy to become complacent and let small things fall by the wayside. Love and sharing is one of the most powerful anti-aging treatments around – and it costs nothing.
Love is not just restricted to a human relationship. Owning a pet and forming a bond with them is extremely beneficial to your health and definitely lowers blood pressure and stress.
Part of our reticence as we get older is that we feel it is unseemly for us to be looking for romance, which is rubbish. Also, we feel that physically we are going to be found lacking which is also rubbish. Unless you are an 80-year-old chasing a 20-year-old, we all have the same age related body changes and inside you still have the same passions and feelings.
If you are alone and would like to meet someone else then get out there and find a group of like-minded people. They will not come to you and you will have to make an effort. I appreciate that it is harder for a woman on her own to meet new partners but go out with a number of friends or join a drama or writing group. Play tennis and golf whatever it takes to make sure that you are part of the life that is going on around you. Life is full of surprises.
Internet dating for all age groups has become increasingly popular and provided you follow some basic safety rules, there is no reason why you should not find your ideal partner online. Let’s face it for our generation; we had to kiss a lot of frogs to find Mr. or Mrs Right, now you get to know all about them before you even get to that stage.
If you never fall in love again that is fine too, as long as you are surrounding yourself with family and friends that you find stimulating and fun and who get as much out of life as you do yourself. Many activities do not cost a fortune. A walk with a friend along the seashore – sharing a bottle of wine with your neighbour, helping out at the local animal sanctuary – all are inexpensive ways to share your life.
Start a dinner party club with a number of your friends and all do a course, or the wine. Limit the amount you can all spend to £10. This means that you can have wonderful get-togethers each month without any single person having to spend a fortune. Also, if your home is not suitable or out of the way you can use each other’s homes without anyone feeling that it is always their turn.
Finally – You are a long time dead! Life is not a rehearsal, this is it. To keep youthful and dynamic it is not just enough to eat a healthy diet. You need to keep the essence that is you nurtured and healthy and ready to live the next chapter in your life.
Next week Chapter Seven flexibility and exercise to keep your body youthful.
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