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A Holistic Approach to Aging Well

I’ll be honest, ever since I turned 40 (it was a while ago), I have days where I feel like my body is falling apart and I just want to stay in bed. My back aches, my knees sound like sand paper, and my hip simply does not want to bend. Couple that with weight

I’ll be honest, ever since I turned 40 (it was a while ago), I have days where I feel like my body is falling apart and I just want to stay in bed. My back aches, my knees sound like sand paper, and my hip simply does not want to bend. Couple that with weight gain if I even look at food. Maybe old sports injuries are finally coming back to haunt me, maybe it is just the natural changes people go through as they get older, or maybe it is a combination of things. Regardless, my back, joints, and metabolism aren’t what they used to be.

I miss the days of being able to pick up the back of a car and eat anything I wanted. I long for the days when I was able to function on little or no sleep and healed like a comic book super hero. That being said, aging does not have to be all bad. In fact, I have found quite a few things to be proud of as I move away from my youth and closer to retirement. I am a father and a husband now, which certainly puts things into perspective. I regularly do gratifying things such as writing this column and other articles. I read and learn as much as possible and try to challenge myself intellectually and physically. I am a published author, which not many people can boast. Also, they say that with age and experience comes wisdom, and I hope I am acquiring a bit of that as well.

In order to enjoy the other side of middle age, you need to recognize that there is a difference between aging well and simply aging. This also means that it is necessary to take a few simple steps so that you can enjoy life to its fullest.

Over the last few years I have found that a holistic approach works best. It goes beyond simply taking a walk once in a while or sitting in your easy chair solving Sudoku puzzles. It means taking a look at your whole person, evaluating your needs and wants, and then making changes across a wide range of personal development areas. Sounds like a lot of work, but trust me when I say, it is easier than you think and well worth the trouble.

The simplest way is to start with the premise that to be truly happy you need to be the best and healthiest version of yourself. Next, examine your wellness in three separate, yet interconnected, areas: Spirit, Mind, and Body. These areas will overlap in many ways. Once you have taken an introspective look at yourself, make a simple plan to improve in all ways with the purpose of personal growth, fun, and fulfillment.

Let us first look at developing the Spirit. No, this isn’t some new-age thing where you chant around a fire in the middle of the woods — unless, of course, you are into that sort of thing. Development of your Spirit or inner being can be viewed from a traditional religious perspective or can simply be a way to connect with yourself and others on a deeper level. Having faith in a higher power, forgiveness, and service to others are all aspects of developing a stronger spirit. Even liking yourself as a person belongs in this category. Take time to quiet your mind and pray or meditate daily, attend church, read the Bible. Do whatever you need to strengthen your faith in God, yourself, and others, and reflect on your core values and purpose.

Next, we will discuss the development of the Mind (which I often feel like I am losing). Loads of research suggests that if you want to maximize your odds of staying sharp in your later years, crossword puzzles are not enough. Many articles bounce around the term, neuroplasticity, which is just a fancy way of describing your brain’s ability to change and make connections throughout your lifespan. So, how do we improve and sustain cognitive function? The answer is to train your brain. That’s right, your brain needs exercise just like your muscles. To accomplish this, and help delay the onset diseases such as Alzheimer’s, get involved in challenging mental activities such as taking a class, learning a new skill, picking up a new language, and engaging in leisure activities that are fun. Things such as travel, joining a social club, volunteering, and regularly engaging with friends are also great ways to stay sharp and keep your wits.

Last, I am going to give you my two cents on staying strong and fit as you age. As most of my readers know, I have been a professional fitness trainer for several decades. In fitness trainer terms, this makes me ancient. During that time I have worked with literally thousands of people, a large portion of whom were seniors. The one thing I have found with the fittest of these seniors, regardless of their age, has been that they have always stayed physically active. Forget slowing down and taking it easy as you get older. Lift weights, take exercise classes, hike, walk, bicycle, take up kick boxing, do whatever physical activities that challenge you and are enjoyable. If you are not sure where to start, consult your family physician, then make an appointment with a personal trainer. Your doctor can give you a general idea of what activities in which to get involved, and the trainer can give you the specifics on developing a program that is right for you.

Life is short, so I encourage you to squeeze every ounce of joy out of it. This means taking care of yourself in Spirit, Mind, and Body. So instead of viewing yourself as a gallon of milk that is well past its expiration date, consider yourself a fine wine that gets better with age!

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