Happy New Year, dear readers! I’m looking forward to another year of sharing insights about living well and aging well with you. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and appreciate your weekly support.
One of the foundations of aging well is to be mindful of your mindset with the ultimate goal being to transform how you really feel about growing older. It’s exciting to read that science is discovering that how we feel about getting old matters. This puts us more in control than ever before.
Though negative stereotypes about getting older can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s never too late to shift our focus and the New Year is a great time for new commitments — especially because research has confirmed that if we think about getting older in terms of disability or decline, our health will likely get worse. If we frame getting older in terms of growth and opportunity, our bodies respond in kind.
Why is it so difficult to think positively about getting older? It’s because the negative stereotypes about aging in the American culture reinforce the wrong way of thinking.
By embracing the idea that getting old is “bad,” older adults are doing potential harm to their health without realizing it.
What changes can you make this year to protect yourself from the effects of negative stereotypes about aging?
>> Separate myths about aging from the facts: Experts say that the first thing to do is to understand the facts. Aging is associated with decline but surprisingly, statistics show that people 65 and older report having more supportive relationships, more love, better community, more financial security and more than enough energy to get things done daily! The results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey of 85,145 adults was reported in the Wall Street Journal.
>> Notice the stereotypes you hear: Recognize how pervasive they are, and how they often represent only one view of aging. For example, a negative stereotype about aging is that older people grow less productive and more depressed. This is an inaccurate picture of most older Americans.
>> Substitute positive for negative: It’s important to learn to emphasize the good aspects of aging. Actively notice the people around you who are productive, vibrant and happy. The more you do this, the more you will be able to associate the good aspects of aging with positive stereotypes and in turn make a difference in how you feel about aging.
The key is to bring to balance thoughts about the aging process and not just see the negative part of aging as the whole picture.
On average, people 40 and older report feeling 20 percent younger than their actual age. This tendency is useful as a means for distancing yourself from age, and thereby distancing yourself from negative age stereotypes.
Ask yourself: Are you above or below the average? How old do you feel?
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.