It seems that even how well you age depends on your attitude! Research is showing that if you think you are going to be sad, lonely and have less mobility when you are 80, then you will! But if you have a positive attitude, you can continue to be happy and productive until the end of your life. To Age Well, Change How You Feel About Aging, THE WALL ST JOURNAL
Our bodies respond to the messages we give them. Negative thoughts about aging, and what life will be like in our 80s become a self fulfilling prophecy. Studies reported in this article show the reality of life for the majority of people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. The majority say they have a better quality of life than most younger people.
There are so many healing philosophies and wellness centers that operate on the theory that our heath depends on our attitude. Research has given us more positive proof that positive thoughts lead to healthier bodies.
My sister Susanna was explaining a healing theory she learned when she attended a seminar for people who live in chronic pain. There is actually a program which revolves around telling the parts of your body that are malfunctioning or in pain that they are healthy and strong. Because our bodies strive to be what we tell them they are, positive words create positive healing. So don’t say to yourself,”my knee is swollen and can’t bear any weight,” but rather say, “my knee is strong and flexible and I love to walk.” I have to work on this. Right now walking is so painful for me I am cheating and riding my bike! A good attitude is really just training myself to think positively until it becomes a habit.
Scientists have found a connection between negative age stereotypes and bad health. While they are not sure exactly how this happens, the connection shows up in study after study. My favorite study was one I read about so long ago that I cannot remember where I read about it. Researchers examined the effects of a positive mental attitude on a closed community of nuns, because the environment was almost identical for all the participants; the only variable was genes and attitude. (They also studied monkeys for the same reason, but I am sure they meant no disrespect nor made any comparisons!) The scientists interviewed two novices when they entered the convent. One was optimistic about her future life; the other had many negative expectations. They followed these two women, along with other nuns for a long period (I think it was about 20 years.) The optimistic nun was healthy and vibrant, the pessimist had various ailements. The optimist stayed healthy until the end of her life, which was several years longer than the pessimist’s.
I’m a believer!
The Wall Street Journal article corroborated these findings: people with negative attitudes die about 7 years earlier than those with positive attitudes. It probably helps longevity statistics that optimistic people were found more likely to eat a balanced diet and exercise since they were happier about their relationships and their lives.
The article says that substituting positive images for negative age images not only has an impact on our perception of age, it also has a real impact on our health. So does exercise, the article concludes. If we exercise we will be able do the things that stereotypes say we won’t when we are 80.
The bottom line of the Wall Street Journal article on aging seems to be that same Universal Truth from which there is no escape : if you want to be healthy, and lead a healthy, happy, active life — EXERCISE. The secret to aging well is the same as for living well. Move it or lose it.
I’m going outside to breath in the deliciously crisp Autumn air and exercise. It’s still beautiful out there.
© Jane F. Collen November 6, 2015