By Lenore Deutsch, MSW, ACSW
A great deal is written about how to age well. The following ideas are simple and easy to learn. Try to incorporate a few of these ideas and see what a difference it may make in your everyday life.
To stay vital our minds need new information to chew on and digest, which is easier to do when we are young. Family, schools, and communities all have a hand in providing enriching experiences, but as we grow older, more of the decision making falls upon ourselves.
Some people begin to lose ground in this area as young adults because they let life happen rather than taking an active role. You want to challenge yourself even when new things make you feel a bit uneasy. Try to think of that feeling as excitement.
Push ahead in spite of your reluctance and you will feel positive results. Take a class at the community center or take the train to the city for the day. Step out of your regular routine as often as you can, you may be happy you did.
When a person’s life is going well, there may be little need to do any reexamination. When younger, people tend to be more open to discussing thoughts and plans. As one gets older, this process, for some reason, slows.
Talk more about life goals and objectives. During those times when things are going well take the opportunity to think and make adjustments. Tackle an old problem from a new angle or decide to speak up about a situation that has been troublesome. In doing so, people often develop some new ways to look at the world and better ways to cope.
Do as much for yourself as possible and stay active using personal physical resources. Internal strength comes when physical abilities are maintained. It is empowering to manage daily tasks and be a help to someone else. Human bodies adjust to individual activity levels.
Everyone is unique. During the aging process, more losses are experienced and it is important to stay as positive as possible given personal circumstances. Everyone has limitations and burdens. Deciding how to deal with them is a personal choice each day.
Make a conscious choice to focus on good things. Some days are harder than others but people are only given one day at a time with which to deal. Limit your worrying and use thought-stopping techniques to get negative thoughts under control. Distracting activities such as calling a friend, reading or listening to music can often help limit worrisome thoughts.
Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning and move forward with a positive heart. Running on auto pilot each day creates a rut. If unhappy, ask why. Ask yourself “If I could change one thing, what would it be and why?”
The changes can be small but even small changes can make a difference. Consider helping a friend with a project or call the local food pantry to schedule time to help sort and stock shelves.
Only few meaningful connections are needed in life. Prioritize how time and energy is spent. Time is precious. Many times, what was once meaningful, now feels burdensome. Feeling positive is important about activities in life. If the activities are not engaging, make a change.
Take time to just “be” every day. Practice positive self-talk. Every thought is self-talk. We consciously talk to our subconscious mind.
Be grateful. Try to sit quietly or take a walk each day. This is not the time for negative thinking. If it is a struggle with being alone this may be a sign that all is not well. Speak to someone you trust or a professional.
Worrying over little things may be a warning sign that something might be wrong. Take a step back and evaluate what is going on. Everyone knows someone who complains when a dog barks too much or when the neighbor’s leaves blow in the yard. Worrying over trivial matters wastes energy and valuable resources. Cluttering one’s mind with these little annoyances can cause a person to be cut off from the world.
Social Workers are trained to listen. They provide a wonderful sounding board to validate thoughts and feeling. In addition, they are able to give feedback about your life which may help with life choices . Social Workers can help identify areas to change and help set goals. They can also be invaluable in helping learn about community happenings and resources.
Try to keep these tips in mind. When able to work some of these ideas into life, there may be a difference. Have a better sense of self and know more about what gives individual days meaning. This is a personal journey and so many ways to make it better.