The Powerful Habits for Aging Well
As December 2018 comes to a close and we welcome in a New Year, I thought it timely to take stock and share with you some powerful habits to try, practice and reinforce to promote healthy aging. There is no magic pill here – healthy aging is all centered on wise choices and good habits practiced until they are ingrained and consistent. It is never too late to get started, and wellness benefits can be reaped almost immediately. Choose a few to start or choose all – and let 2019 be the year to embrace aging well!
Eat wisely – Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil. Avoid any processed foods and packaged foods that contain added chemicals, sugars and salts. Drink water frequently throughout the day. Eat healthy snacks between meals to balance metabolism, and avoid heavy meals after 6:00pm. Eat slowly and intentionally – this will help you appreciate your choices and reduce unhealthy habits like stressful eating that promote weight gain.
Get quality sleep – Sleep affects every tissue in your body and getting 7-9 hours sleep a night will boost your immune system, balance your hormones, repair your body’s cells, bring stability to your cardiovascular system and refresh your brain, improving cognitive function and alertness. Practice good sleep practices by keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants like caffeine in the evening, limiting screen time to daytime only, exercising daily (but not too close to sleep time), engaging in a relaxing activity before sleep, such as having a warm bath or reading a good book, and choosing a dark, quiet comfortable room for sleep.
Move and exercise daily – No matter your level of fitness, you should be moving and exercising daily to maintain your fitness or become fitter. Physical activity slows the aging process deep within our cells and can benefit us at any age. The key is consistency and dedication. Investing in a trainer or joining a group where the habit of regular exercise is supported and reinforced is probably one of the wisest investments in your health.
Stay connected – Cultivating and nurturing strong happy relationships with family, friends (old and new) and your greater community promotes longevity. So volunteer, host a book club or make the effort to set up regular social activities and try new ones. Social engagement increases self-esteem, provides emotional support, decreases stress and allows us to develop love and trust, which brings joy and comfort.
Engage your mind – Keep your brain stimulated through work, hobbies, educational courses, puzzles or even through a formal cognitive enrichment program. Engaging your mind will improve brain function and increase cognitive reserves, lowering the risk of developing age-related cognitive decline.
Be mindful – Learn how to meditate and practice it daily, even if it is just 5-10 minutes before you start your day. Regular meditation calms the mind, clarifies thinking, reduces stress and builds resilience. It has never been easier to learn to meditate with community classes, books or even downloading a phone app like Headspace or Calm and starting with five-minute sessions once a day.
Be thankful – Being grateful and expressing it regularly is powerful. Gratitude improves our physical and psychological health. It can help us reduce our negative emotions like fear and anger and it boosts our empathy, increasing our sociability. The very act of mindful gratitude reframes our perspective to one of positivity and those who express gratitude on a regular basis have enhanced resiliency, improved mood and sleep patterns and greater capacity for love and joy.
For more on aging well, this terrific article offers some more in-depth resources.