People live in an age-obsessed culture, yet the aging process is an unavoidable aspect of being human. It’s difficult embracing the aging process when you see advertisements for products that try to sell you youth in a bottle everywhere you turn. Somehow, western society convinced people that the aging process is terrible, scary, and painful.
From a mental health perspective, how can you embrace the process of aging when so many facets of society tell you to dread it? This post explains what the aging process entails, common experiences among the aging population, and strategies for embracing the aging process.
Types of Aging
As people grow older, their bodies change. Their attitudes and behaviors may change too. Some of these changes can be challenging, such as health conditions. Others might be enjoyable, like a higher sense of self-confidence.
The biological processes involved in aging include larger-scale changes such as physical mobility to small-scale changes on a molecular level. Numerous factors affect the pacing and magnitude of these changes. These changes can progress rapidly due to disease. Or they can happen more slowly due to external, environmental, and genetic factors.
Changes in physical appearance are likely. The amount of muscle mass people have tends to decrease. Energy levels also may slowly decline. But, it’s important to note that every individual’s aging process is unique to them.
Similar to biological aging, various factors also influence psychological aging. People who report being more satisfied with their age tend to have higher levels of life satisfaction.
Contrary to popular belief, people generally don’t experience a decline in cognitive abilities unless there are conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other neurological ailments. Some people experience increased self-confidence and a greater sense of security and self-assurance as they grow older.
The social aspects of aging also vary considerably depending on life circumstances. People might find their social fulfillment needs changing as they age. Some people choose to continue working, others need to continue working for financial reasons, and others choose to retire. Work serves as a connective factor for many kinds of people. So depending on work circumstances, the aging population might not have as many social connections as they once did. People may have partners or family that they live with, faith services they attend, or volunteer work they do. These can all be pro-social factors in the aging process.
Practical Ways to Age Well
You could read dozens of blog posts and social media messages about embracing the aging process. But what is that declaration without actual ideas about how to age well? Caring for your body, mind, and spirit can help you accept, embrace, and draw inspiration from your unique aging process.
Care for Your Body
You’ve probably heard some of these tips your whole life. Eat a balanced diet, get a fair amount of exercise, prioritize your sleep, drink water, don’t smoke or work to quit smoking, and limit alcohol consumption. Keep up with doctor’s appointments, so you stay on top of your health.
These things are vital. But try to find ways you can genuinely enjoy taking care of your health. Have you always wanted to try cooking vegetarian meals? Do it! Does your friend lead tai chi classes? Take one!
It’s essential to do things that you’re interested in so that you’ll benefit the most. Aim to keep your body flexible and supported by your muscles, so you can maintain your balance and endurance.
Care for Your Mind
As you grow through life, you might have experiences in caring for your mental health. Perhaps you’ve been to counseling before, and it’s worked for you during a tough time. You may know what works for you and what doesn’t. As you age, you may find yourself pondering life itself, what matters to you, death, and other existential topics. These thoughts are common for the aging population.
Various forms of meditation can reduce stress in your life, making it easier to embrace the aging process. Check out any local classes or apps you can download to your phone that encourage meditation activities. Consider adding daily affirmations to your routine. Counselors specializing in issues related to aging are also readily available to assist you in caring for your mind and mental health.
Related Reading: Finding the Right Counselor for You
Care for Your Spirit
It’s important to maintain social relationships as you grow older that allow you to feel connected, whether that be your spouse or life partner, family, friends, or another community. Meaningful relationships are vital to feeling connection, empathy, satisfaction, and support. Allow yourself to spend time nurturing and putting work into these connections.
Think about what feeds your spirit. Do you enjoy participating in faith activities? Does meditation calm you and allow you to feel connected to your spirit? Does volunteer work make you feel engaged? If you don’t know, take some time to explore this idea. Continue to try new things and grow as a person. Don’t believe the ageist stereotype that says you have to stop learning as you grow older. Your older years have the potential to be the most beautiful and meaningful of your life.
Keys to Embracing the Aging Process
If you’re trying to embrace the aging process, it’s all about deciding to make the most of that time.
Embracing the aging process means:
- Choosing Your Mindset – Embracing the aging process includes moving about the world with a positive attitude.
- Staying Active – Stay active mentally, physically, and socially in whatever ways work for you.
- Making a Plan – Ensure that your finances support the lifestyle you’re comfortable with. This planning includes making practical arrangements about housing and other aspects of your life.
- Don’t Do It Alone – Include your support people in your life. Continue cultivating relationships that will provide positivity and love for you.
How All Counseling Can Help
The only thing you can be sure of in life is that change will happen. Choosing to embrace the aging process is to embrace the true nature of what it means to be human.
If you or someone you know is struggling with aging, contact All Counseling. We can help connect you to a therapist who specializes in embracing the aging process.