The quest for the fountain of youth is as old as time. Coco Chanel famously said “Nature gives you the face you have at 20; it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50.” The same can be said for our physical fitness and overall health. Here are ten secrets that can help you age well:
1. Avoid Cigarettes Completely
Everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer and increases the risk of other health problems such as lung and heart disease. Smoking also causes premature sagging and wrinkling of the skin, raises blood pressure, decreases blood flow (resulting in an ashen complexion), causes oral cancer, and can cause insulin resistance that leads to weight gain. If you smoke, the best time to quit is now.
2. Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly
Heavy drinking can cause certain cancers such as cancer of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx. Heavy drinkers are also at risk for cirrhosis, immune deficiencies, brain damage, and accidents. Heavy alcohol use is defined as 4-5 drinks per occasion for 5 or more days a month. However, for people in their 40s and 50s, studies have shown that 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men may benefit heart health if there is no history of alcohol dependence.
Related: How to Make Healthy Drinks at Home
3. Develop Good Coping Skills for Managing Stress
Recent research has shown that chronic stress damages our DNA over time resulting in shortened life spans. Stress is a part of everyday life for most people. Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve how we cope with stress.
- Write a list of the stressors in your life. Think of practical steps you can take to eliminate or reduce each of your stressors.
- Meditating for 10 minutes each day helps you to feel calmer and has a positive impact on your physical wellbeing as well.
- Deep breathing exercises give your brain an oxygen boost and calm your nervous system.
- Exercise benefits our mental clarity and focus. Exercise is an excellent outlet for nervous energy caused by stress.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
People who eat right and exercise are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, dementia, diabetes, depression, and osteoarthritis. Maintaining a stable, healthy weight and physical fitness is critical to aging well. It is better to find a weight that is comfortable and healthy for you that you can maintain than it is to be constantly going up and down on the scale. People who maintain a healthy weight typically have the following habits:
- They eat a variety of foods each day and practice careful portion control.
- They drink plenty of water based upon their weight and activity level.
- They participate in high-impact exercise for 3 hours per week or low-impact exercise for 5 hours per week.
- They make their overall physical fitness a priority over what pant size they wear.
5. Form Strong Relationships
Research has shown that people with strong social relationships stay more mentally alert as they age compared to their more isolated peers who showed more age-related mental decline. Some research indicates that men and women who live alone have less healthy diets which can negatively impact their physical and mental wellbeing.
Dr. George Vaillant, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says “People who use alcohol or are depressed are less likely to have social support, and thus personal relationships are an indicator that you’re leading the rest of your life pretty well.” So while the question may be “which came first – the chicken or the egg,” the result is still the same. Strong social relationships correlate to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.
6. Be A Lifelong Learner
People who are always learning something new tend to feel better about life as they age compared to those who close themselves off from new ideas. Trying new things and actively learning builds new neural pathways. New ideas fuel creativity, curiosity, and perceptiveness which lead to healthier aging. Here are a few opportunities to continue learning as we age:
- Volunteer at a hospital, animal shelter, library, or local charity.
- Apply for a senior internship at a local business.
- Take adult-education classes at a local university or community college.
7. Be Self-Aware
Knowing what brings you joy can help you plan ways to bring more happiness and fulfillment into your life. Activities that bring happiness also boost mood and positivity. Some common activities that bring happiness include:
- Good conversation
- Physical Activity
8. Be Forgiving
Holding on to resentments and disappointments cause negativity and poor mood. Forgiving people who have mistreated you doesn’t mean that their behavior was acceptable. On the contrary, forgiveness is a way of taking back your power over your own life.
Sometimes the person that we need to forgive is our self. Beating yourself up over bad choices and missed opportunities puts us in a negative state of mind where we lack compassion for ourselves and have a low sense of self-worth. In this state, we neglect ourselves and make poor choices that damage our health and well-being. When we forgive ourselves and let go of these negative feelings, we make better choices about our physical health and relationships.
9. Spend Time in Nature
Recent studies in experimental psychology have linked time spent in natural settings to increases in energy and sense of well-being. One study showed that ninety percent of people reported an increase in energy when engaged in outdoor activities. Another study showed that people are generally more empathetic when exposed to nature. Ways to spend time in nature include:
- Tend a small garden – even if it’s only a few potted plants.
- Take a walk at the park.
- Participate in an outdoor community activity.
10. Take a Nap
Whether it’s a 30-minute power nap or a 90-minute snooze, a midday nap can have real physical and mental benefits. People who nap in the afternoon have improved memory and thinking skills compared to those who don’t. Naps restore alertness, reduce stress, increase sensory perception, reduce risk of heart disease, and help you manage your energy thus making you more productive.