Being able to age gracefully is the silver lining to growing older, and lifestyle choices greatly influence how one ages. Good food choices, exercise regimes, activities, partaking in social events, etc., can play a huge part in how one perceives aging and how one feels about aging! On that note, let’s take a look at some simple ways to keep the body and mind fresh.
What does aging gracefully mean?
One of the most common reasons for feeling happier as one ages is the reduction in work and relationship-linked stress.
Even the attitude and connection towards others may influence satisfaction levels with life. For example, some studies show that several seniors do not perceive themselves as “old,” which is beautiful. Studies show that about 60 percent of seniors over 65 feel younger than their age. But to age gracefully, certain measures should be taken to ensure that physical and mental health stay in the best shape. After all, both these elements are intertwined.
Taking measures does not necessarily mean using skin care products to make the skin look younger. Neither does it imply coloring grays. Unlike traditional times, embracing naturally occurring gray hair has become a global trend. Some young adults deliberately dye their hair gray or silver to jump onto the bandwagon since it has been associated with feeling comfortable and empowered.
Taking measures to age gracefully is learning about the healthiest ways to improve overall well-being. So, here are the most popular approaches to aging gracefully.
One of the first factors to pay heed to is the type of food one chooses to eat. While good nutrition is essential at any age, it becomes crucial during midlife and beyond. Eating healthy could help boost immunity, tackle illness-causing viruses, and prevent heart diseases, which contributes to living longer and stronger. Some of the healthy foods to opt for are fresh fruits like apples and bananas and vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Lean proteins like fish and beans should also be added to daily meals. And do not leave out foods rich in healthy fats, such as avocados, almonds, and eggs.
Consuming at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, rice, pasta, or bread is also essential for staying healthy as a senior. About three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy like milk, yogurt, or cheese fortified with vitamin D may improve overall well-being. Avoiding solid fats for cooking and sticking with healthier oils, like olive oil, is also essential. Remember, while salt is an excellent addition to meals, too much could lower blood pressure and impact health. Finally, avoiding unhealthy food options like processed foods, fats, and refined sugars is a must.
Focus on mental health
Aging gracefully is not just limited to looking after the appearance, but it also means taking care of the mind. It also means:
- Spending time with loved ones should not be taken for granted, as creating meaningful relationships and a strong social network helps improve mental and physical well-being.
- Adopting a pet or asking family or friends to get their pets over is another way to stay calm and feel fresh. Spending time with pets could help lower stress levels, improve mood, and curb loneliness, as per a study in the Veterinary Sciences.
- Accepting one’s age is the primary aspect of having a positive attitude toward life and promoting better mental health. Growing old is inevitable, but aging gracefully is in our control. So learning to embrace one’s age wholeheartedly will make all the difference in improving overall health.
- Another part of living a wholesome life is to engage in an enjoyable activity. Bird watching, trekking, and going to the zoo are some of the outdoor activities to consider. Playing a game of cards, making crafts, or solving puzzles, are better suited if a senior has limited mobility.
- Stress is another mental health factor to keep tabs on. Some may experience feelings of anxiety and stress due to factors like appearance, being alone, and finances. And while these factors might be unavoidable, stressing about them could lead to premature aging and wrinkles. There’s also a higher probability of developing heart conditions. Therefore, it is vital to check stress levels by following a few stress-relieving techniques.
This is one of the best stress management activities that help people improve their focus and silence a stream of jumbled thoughts that might crowd the mind, eventually leading to stress. Mediation brings about a sense of peace, calm, and balance that could benefit emotional well-being and overall health. Guided meditation, visualization, and guided imagery are other forms that can be practiced anytime, anywhere. These methods can be tried out during a walk outdoors, while riding the bus, or even while waiting at the doctor’s office for an appointment.
There’s a lot of truth in the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Of course, a good sense of humor may not cure an ailment, but it could lighten the mood by a significant margin. Laughing lightens mental burdens and creates a pathway for positive changes in the body. When the auditory expression fires up, it cools down the stress response. While there isn’t a fixed way to enjoy a good laugh, reading or telling jokes, watching comedy shows, and hanging out with someone with a good sense of humor are some of the best ways to enjoy a good laugh.
Another step in relieving or managing stress is maintaining a journal by writing down thoughts and feelings. It helps release unpleasant emotions that would otherwise be piled up. The objective is to not think about what to write and let the thoughts flow into the journal as they come.
It is important to appreciate the good things that occur in the surrounding neighborhood. And in doing so, look for simple ways to develop gratitude. One method to go about this is to take 15 minutes each night to write down all the things that made the day worthwhile. There are studies that prove the benefits of gratitude. During the research, one group was asked to write about things they were grateful for that occurred during the week. A second group was instructed to note down things and irritations that displeased them. After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic, less stressed, and felt better about life generally.
Yoga is one of the oldest forms of exercise and has received immense appreciation because of its potential to promote healthy aging along with other health benefits. Practicing yoga can tackle several health conditions that come with age, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and back pain. The technique also helps reduce the effects of nerve pain, ligament tears, and hormonal changes. Eliminating these health complications will contribute to aging gracefully and living a happier, healthier lifestyle. Remember, it isn’t about being able to do a handstand, lunge, or a complex stretch. The art of yoga works differently for everyone based on their age and other factors.
Try breathing exercises
Some complications of growing older involve not taking the time to breathe deeply. This often leads to muscle weakness and rib cage stiffness, which could lead to shallow breaths and a poor oxygen supply. Furthermore, shallow breathing could result in feelings of fatigue and discomfort and obstruct the possibility of a healthy lifestyle. So while the process of inhaling and exhaling might seem like a simple thing to do, ensuring that the breathing exercise is correctly performed could play a significant role in aging well. Some of the most popular techniques are feet, Chinese, and Buteyko breathing. Others that could improve quality of life include:
The exercise involves sitting up straight, followed by inhaling and relaxing the stomach muscles. The objective is to feel the belly has expanded as the lungs fill with air. Continue inhaling until the chest expands with a deep breath. After this, hold your breath for a moment before exhaling slowly, and pull the belly in to feel the last bit of air leave the lungs. Repeat the process for about five minutes by keeping the eyes closed and the body relaxed.
While the steps are similar to Complete breathing, in this exercise, it is important to exhale as the air is released from the lungs. After this, pull the belly muscles in as the last breath of air is hummed out of the body. Relax the body and repeat the steps for about two to three minutes.
One of the easiest ways to practice diaphragmatic breathing is to lie on the back and place one hand on the navel. Place the other hand above it on the stomach and concentrate on breathing from the diaphragm. If the hand over the naval rises before the hand above it, the exercise is done right. Relax and focus on this breathing exercise for about five minutes.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep is essential for the body to recoup and recharge for the next day. Getting sufficient rest is also paramount for maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. The amount of rest the body gets depends on factors like age and current health conditions. So it is important to speak to a somnologist about the amount of sleep required at night. Getting enough sleep reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, along with curbing stress and depression, obesity, and inflammation. Besides, it also promotes focus and helps improve concentration. And by reducing the risk of health complications, these factors play a crucial role in the process of aging gracefully.
Discover new hobbies
While trying out activities at home or outdoors can be fun, repeating them daily could get monotonous. This is when looking for new and meaningful hobbies to participate in could make a huge difference. Exploring and participating in newer hobbies also helps build a sense of purpose and improves the ability to stay engaged through the golden years. Being busy with hobbies, leisure, and social activities further contributes towards lowering the risk of depression, which is probably why active seniors are significantly happier living a wholesome life. There are several hobbies to try, including taking up part-time or full-time volunteering, gardening, teaching, or learning DIY crafts. Coloring or mandala art is also a trend nowadays to boost the immune system, reduce pain and stress, lower blood pressure, and promote sleep.
There might be times when uncontrollable thoughts take center stage inside the mind. The stress created by them could lead to physical and mental health issues, affecting the process of aging gracefully. It’s where practicing mindfulness comes in. This type of meditation involves accepting and living in the moment by focusing on the present. Being more mindful has several health benefits that could complement the aging process. It helps improve focus, memory, emotional reaction, and immune function and also helps lower stress levels, and promotes higher emotional intelligence.
Water is an essential nutrient to the life of every cell and serves as a building material for the body’s optimal functioning. Therefore, it is essential to drink water several times a day. Hydrating helps keep the bowel or bladder regular and improves brain function and energy levels. What’s more, is that drinking sufficient water helps keep the skin healthier and delays early signs of aging. Furthermore, it also decelerates the onset of chronic diseases, which may possibly interfere with the aging process. The amount of water consumed depends upon thirst, activity levels, and gender. Hydration also depends on other factors, such as the amount of sweat lost daily. So, it is better to speak with a healthcare expert about any questions regarding water intake before increasing or decreasing the amount of water consumption.
Maintain oral hygiene
Learning to age gracefully is about taking steps to maintain overall health. But there is one major element that several older individuals dismiss in their golden years, i.e., oral hygiene. Not paying attention to oral health may face downsides like gum disease, cavities, plaque, etc. Furthermore, this complication is linked to health conditions like stroke, bacterial pneumonia, and heart disease. Therefore, brushing your teeth regularly to avoid deteriorating oral health is one of the vital elements in aging with grace. Setting up regular checkups with a dentist could also be highly beneficial for oral health. The expert could spot signs of infections, cancer, nutritional deficiencies, and other health complications like diabetes. And avoiding these conditions may help in living a wholesome, happy, and graceful life.
Set healthcare appointments
The human body could be in the best shape, mentally and physically. However, age, genetics, and other environmental factors often disrupt overall well-being without notice. And it might be impossible to detect these health complications until it has advanced or until a healthcare appointment is made with the concerned professional. The expert will conduct a series of tests to detect if there is a potential risk of health problems. Doing so could help identify underlying conditions and initiate treatment to cure, manage or prevent its development at the earliest. Even if there is no upcoming health check, it is vital to seek an opinion from a healthcare expert if any unusual health complications and symptoms are experienced. Setting regular appointments with a healthcare expert is one of the best ways to ensure good health and aging gracefully.
Try exercise routines
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should do moderate-intensity exercises for at least 2.5 to 5 hours per week. About 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises could also serve as suitable workout routines, and a combination of both may also work. A few aerobic exercises that can be included are walking, swimming, dancing, and cycling. There are exercise levels for individuals based on their age and physical and mental capability as well. Muscle-and-bone-strengthening exercises with the help of weights or resistance bands are other ways to stay flexible and fit. A senior should also focus on activities such as balance training and aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Please note: Trained supervision is required if there are any health issues that may need immediate and constant attention.
Tai chi is described as meditation in motion. The technique that originated in China as a martial art is also said to have value in treating or preventing several health problems. This mind-body practice is suitable for all ages, irrespective of the level of fitness or health. The slow-motion, low-impact exercise requires going without breaks through a series of motions named for animal actions. The routine also involves breathing deeply and focusing on bodily sensations. While this might be similar to other meditation methods, the movements in tai chi are usually circular and not forced. While indulging in the technique, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed. Furthermore, the joints are never fully extended or bent, and the connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi could be easily adapted by fit individuals, although there are techniques that are suitable for those with restricted mobility or recovering from surgery.
Try holistic approaches
There are several vitality-boosting holistic approaches that are known to promote healthy, happy, improved quality of life. It is important to:
- Forgive oneself and others for what has happened in the past. Being forgiving does not necessarily mean condoning what occurred in the earlier years. Instead, relinquish the event’s hold on the mind and body. Speaking to a counselor, therapist, spiritual advisor, or support group is some of the tried and tested methods of practicing forgiveness.
- Read humorous essays, enjoy jokes, and watch funny movies even if things are not going too well, as it could help lighten up the mood.
- Stay curious and willing to learn something new. Healthcare experts recommend actively socializing with younger individuals who are the best at teaching modern things, including the current lingo and how to operate the latest technology.
These are some of the ways that make it possible to live a healthy and happy life. Remember, physical and mental changes are inevitable as aging catches on. The goal is to gain a better understanding of these changes and follow the necessary tips for aging gracefully.