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The perks of positive aging

The perks of positive aging

It’s no secret that there’s a social stigma toward aging. Many of us have heard that wrinkles and gray hair are bad. There’s a stereotype that older people are “out of touch” and “in the way.” And you may believe that becoming frail and sickly is an inevitable part of getting old. But aging isn’t inherently a negative experience. And by seeing aging in a more positive light, you can actually enjoy a healthier and more fulfilling retirement.

What is positive aging?

Positive aging is a series of techniques that contribute to overall healthy aging. It acknowledges that there are challenges associated with growing older, but that approaching these challenges in an optimistic manner can bring mental and physical health benefits.

There are a number of studies showing how an optimistic outlook is associated with lasting health benefits. For example, one 2019 study found that men and women with the most optimism lived an average of 11% to 15% longer compared to the least optimistic groups. And a study published in 2010 concluded that an optimistic disposition was linked to healthy aging, with elderly optimists practicing healthier habits, such as getting regular exercise and abstaining from smoking.

So how does seeing the glass half full help with health? The jury’s still out on the exact mechanics, but researchers have theories. One explanation may be that negative emotions can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease. Another theory is that positivity inspires people to strive toward health goals and pursue healthier habits.

How to age positively

Positive thinking — and in turn, aging — doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you tend to focus on the bad things in life and anticipate the worst, you can turn that thinking around with these tips:

• Check-in with your thoughts. At random points in the day, pay attention to what you’re thinking. Are the thoughts negative, and is there a positive approach you could take? For example, instead of thinking “nobody bothers to call me,” think “maybe I’ll hear more from my loved ones if I email or text them.”

• Spend time with positive people. Negative people can cause you to drift back to negative thoughts and experience more stress.

• Be kind to yourself. Don’t say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to others. Instead, focus on affirmations and things you’re thankful for. So, try replacing thoughts like “my wrinkles are ugly” with “the lines on my face reflect all the amazing laughs and experiences I’ve enjoyed.”

• Accept what you can’t control. Stress spent over things you can’t control doesn’t help anyone, including yourself. Instead, control how you choose to react and focus on what you can influence.

• Get exercise, sleep well and eat healthy foods. Getting about 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week can improve your mood and reduce stress. Sleeping for seven to nine hours each night can reduce stress and improve your mood. And eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains can give your body the nutrients it needs to help support your mood.

Take change in stride

Tackle the challenge of aging together with us at Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina. We offer amenities that help you stay active and connected, so you never have to go it alone. Learn more about our available amenities and therapy services by visiting www.prescommunities.org.