Why I’m Not Worried About Getting Older

(Author of You, Recharged) Polly Campbell ponders how we often feel about our age and the ways in which that can impact our health.

Maksim Chernishev/Unsplash

KEY POINTS

  • People who feel younger experience greater well-being no matter their chronological age.
  • The more control we exercise over our daily lives, the younger we feel.
  • Adding in habits and activities that infuse your life with energy creates a sense of autonomy that keeps you engaged and feeling young.

I need new lenses, my optometrist told me while my chin rested on the ledge of the autorefractor. A stronger prescription. My eyes have changed in the last two years. Harder to make out things at a distance. Often a result of aging and too much time at the computer.

I am always surprised when my body reminds me it’s getting older. My hair is salt-and-pepperish, my corrective lenses, progressives. My middle a little softer. My face a few more wrinkles.

And yet, I am still so young. Aren’t I? Today when I took my teen daughter and her friend to high school I cracked a hilarious joke. My daughter said it was a “mom joke” and not that funny. And then, I asked them to turn down the music because it was too loud in the car. What? How can this be? I lived decades begging for the music to go up. Now I want it lower so I can navigate a new route to school?

My body is feeling its age in some ways, but I feel so young in my mind and spirit. Excited to try new things. Free to create and learn. And now that my daughter is older, and I’m not as stressed about making a name for myself, there is a sense of autonomy and independence that feels invigorating. And it might just help me live longer.

Regardless of our chronological age, people who feel younger experience a greater sense of well-being, better cognitive functioning, less inflammation, and even improved longevity, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Older adults, according to a study from North Carolina State University, feel younger when they have more control over their daily lives—no matter their health concerns or stress levels. Younger adults are more impacted by health problems and stress.

In other words, the ability to navigate your life on your terms can leave you feeling younger and that feeling can minimize the damaging effects of stress, say researchers.

In one study, researchers analyzed three years of data from over 5,000 participants ages 40 and older. Participants who reported more stress had a decline in health, yet those who felt younger than their chronological age experienced fewer damaging effects of stress. The benefit was especially strong among the oldest participants in the study.

Is This as Good as It Gets?

Yet many of us feel we have limited autonomy. We perceive ourselves to be stuck in a work-home routine, limited by income and opportunity, physical challenges, or age. I felt stuck and bored like this just a couple of years ago. I found myself waking up in my late 40s wondering, “Is this as good as it gets?”article continues after advertisement

Though I live with chronic disease, I didn’t want the external circumstances to determine my sense of self. Remembering that we have a choice in how we respond to everything, helps me experience this sense of autonomy. And adding in some simple habits and actions helped me reverse my thoughts on aging by building in more fun, curiosity, and vitality.

5 Things to Encourage a Youthful Mindset

1. Make a move. I only exercise 20 minutes a day, but I get other forms of movement throughout. Even just a few minutes of deliberate exercise makes me feel calmer and stronger.

2. Power up your morning. I get up an hour before everyone else and I use this time to drink coffee, study new ideas or the writing craft, meditate, write, or just sit quietly to ground myself. This is one of the most important times of my day and I always feel more creative, hopeful, and inspired after this hour.

3. Block out unscheduled time. I feel pressed and anxious when my off-time is over-scheduled. So, now, I’m very discerning. I want family time, time at home to putter, relax, do chores, pay bills, and I want to see my friends. I still get it all done, just not all in a week. I pace myself. These open blocks have given me time to follow my creativity, take a spontaneous drive, experiment with a new recipe, go to bed early with a book, and follow other things that are fun and novel and interesting. That builds vitality.

4. Make something new each week. Creativity is expansive and it’s also a form of play. Energy builds from that. I make something every day. Might be a simple doodle, or perhaps I’ll work on a writing project. Sometimes I play the ukulele or mess around with other ideas. I’m not focused on making something to share, it’s not the outcome I’m after, but creating always leads to other ideas or curiosities and that keeps me connected and engaged in the world. That right there makes me feel young.article continues after advertisement

5. Practice gratitude. I feel better every single time I give thanks for the little and big things in life.

All of these things allow for perspective, openness. The autonomy comes from deliberately choosing how we want to live our lives.

I still need stronger lenses in my glasses, and my arthritis still aches, but honestly, those things don’t bother me much. I’m glad for the opportunity to get older and I feel younger than ever.


You, Recharged

How to Beat Fatigue (Mostly), Amp Up Your Energy (Usually), and Enjoy Life Again (Always)

Small Steps, Big Energy. Self-help books for women often encourage you to throw out the life you’re living and create a fresh start. You, Recharged isn’t about that. You don’t have to quit your mundane job, cut out cocktails, or sign off of social media to recharge. Instead, Polly Campbell’s inspirational book is about adding things in―good habits, practices, fun, people, activities, self-care strategies―that ignite your essential energy, the sustainable source that fires you up from within and keeps you going during the good and bad.