We've started a new year, and I've also celebrated a birthday recently. With the passing of these two significant markers of time, it got me thinking a lot about aging -- and what I need to do differently so that I can ensure that I live a long, healthy, and happy life.
But let me start off with a story.
Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with my stepmom. She's a psychologist, so we always end up talking about all kinds of fascinating things. And since she's a self-professed photography addict, we also looked at a lot of digital family photos through the years. It was fun.
For some reason, it seemed as if most of the pictures we looked at were from about 10 years ago. And much to my dismay, I found myself fighting the urge to think, "Wow, I looked a lot younger. Wow, I was a lot skinnier." Lots of things have changed in 10 years. My Dad is not with us anymore. And I am no longer married to the father of my children. And all the kids in our family are growing up so fast. My niece and nephew are now legal adults.
Aging. Aging is weird. For anyone who is middle-aged or older, you know what I mean. For you 20 and 30-somethings ... just wait! You'll see. Your time will come. That is, if you're lucky!!
As I sat there practically mourning my former skinnier, younger self, we got into a conversation about aging. I was wondering if people ever formally grieve the loss of their younger, former selves. I know that no one really wants wrinkles, gray hair, or a few extra pounds, but does anyone ever formally grieve the loss of their younger selves - much like we would the death of a loved one? It's an interesting question. It might help to grieve because then you will come to terms with your aging better. But then again, it's probably a whole lot better to appreciate your current age because you are much wiser now (hopefully!). Your life experiences have made you into the person you are today.
But one thing in particular that she said just struck me in the heart. It was something that her mother said at her 90th birthday party:
"Oh, to be 80 again..."
You see, it's all relative. Most of you reading this are probably not looking forward to being 80 because you associate being that age with being old and slower -- both mentally and physically. But from the perspective of a 90 year old, being 80 was like being a spring chicken.
Think about this: You are now the youngest you will ever be again. Weird thought, huh? Some people might even find it depressing. But not if you re-frame it. Someday, you might look back and wish you had appreciated your 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, or even 90-year-old body and mind.
And now think about this: Now is the perfect time to do that. Appreciate the body and mind you have today. And more importantly, always remember that it's never too late to start taking better care of yourself.
So I want to share just a few of the changes that I'm going to start making, in the hopes that you will do the same -- doing things differently now, so that you can benefit from it when you're older.
1. Think about choosing a more plant-based diet.
This one is going to be challenging for me. But ironically enough, it was my 14-year-old son who inspired me to think about eating a more plant-based diet. Let me first say that I definitely come from a meat-loving family. So when my son announced that he wanted to be a vegetarian (which has now turned into being a vegan), I about had a heart attack (no pun intended!). But he has made me realize how vegetarians and vegans actually do live longer happier lives. So, even though I doubt I'll become a vegan any time soon, I will try to eat less meat and more plants.
2. Walk more, but take care of my feet.
I hate exercising -- I come by that attitude by nature. My whole family feels that way. I have, however, gone through my phases where I do work out -- usually when I'm trying to lose weight. But recently, I have started walking. And it's actually working out well for me because it doesn't feel like I'm "exercising." The only problem is that I have now started to have foot problems. As usual, I had to do some research to figure out how I could protect my feet when going on my walks and hikes. Because our feet are so important -- and we don't even realize it until something goes wrong with them.
3. Get more doctor check-ups.
I have to admit that I don't go to the doctor very often. I know some people who are religious about getting their annual check-ups, blood work, and things like mammograms done. I, however, am not one of them. But research shows that getting regular check-ups will definitely keep you healthier. And I am now at an age where I can't deny that I should be proactive about my health.
Many people think meditation is kind of "woo-woo" -- like only Buddhists do it (or other people like that). However, there is research that shows that meditation actually changes your brain. And there are also many health benefits from doing it. Even though I have never really been into meditation very much, now that I know how it can benefit your body and mind, I am going to start doing it. Even if it's just once in a while, it's better than nothing.
I will leave you with this. It is a quote that hangs in my stepmom's house, and it's simple yet profound. And it is the perfect ending to this article:
Don't ever regret growing old. It's a privilege denied to many.
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