4 Simple Mind Tricks For a Positive Outlook
These thoughts and actions can help with the challenges of aging
It used to be that the first thing I’d see each time I opened my credit card holder was my health plan ID. One day, I placed my fitness center ID on top of it. Now when I open the card holder, I grin, because at 70, time spent exercising in the pool is more fun than any medical appointment.
A friend is stealing that idea, because she believes that “where the mind goes, the body follows.” Our recent conversation inspired us to ask friends — and friends of friends — about tips for navigating aging. Read their responses below.
1. Be Your Own Cheerleader with Self-Talk
Many of us make good use of positive self-talk, which can silence the inner critic and boost the mood at the same time. De Kaplan, 78, of St. Louis, gets that. She says, “Think positive, even — and especially — when you think negative.”
Karen Foss, 75, of Santa Fe, agrees. “Direct your thoughts away from yourself; especially from your inevitable infirmities.” Christy Simmons, 64, of St. Louis, adds, “Things are going to hurt, but don't let that stop you!”
The bumper sticker on my car reflects my favorite slogan: “Don’t postpone joy.” Paul Mann, 76, of Bolinas, Calif., promotes “Frolic fearlessly.”
Several positive mantras come from Larry K. Olsen, 77, of Las Cruces, N.M. “Remember to laugh, smile at others, be willing to help, guard your health, take time for yourself and tell your loved ones that you love them.”
"When you automatically frame everything in the context of 'I'm old,' you make that a de facto mindset."
Melissa Orlov, 59, of Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends, “Approach your partner, and yourself, with kindness.” That, she says, along with an eagerness to engage with new adventures, results in “a life well lived.”
Susan Feuille, 70, of Champaign, Ill., favors making plans. She says, “Always have something to look forward to!” Whatever the nature of those plans, Barbara Meyer, 74, of Urbana, Ill., suggests, “Dump perfectionism. Welcome mistakes as learning opportunities.”
Several people say they routinely rely on a willingness to laugh at themselves. And many readers will laugh at the advice of Holly McIntyre, 64, of Tishomingo, Miss.: “Floss your teeth, wear your seatbelt and spend more time with dogs than with people.”
2. Cultivate All Sorts of Friends of All Ages
Friends now matter more than ever, including those who have traveled some of the same paths with us, and also newer friends in a range of ages.
“Engage with younger people and listen to what they have to say, individually and collectively,” advises Denise Taylor, 66, of Champaign. “Like ourselves, they are much more than labels [like 'millennials'] and have a lot to teach us. Also, get to know people from ethnic, social, economic and cultural groups other than your own.”
Peggy Hurt Fujimura, 70, of West Jordan, Utah, says, “Hang around younger people, because sharing their interests, thoughts and activities keeps you from getting stale and preoccupied with your bowels. Also, hang around older people. I never feel so young as when visiting my mom in her assisted living place.”
Kathy Neer, 71, of Matteson, Ill., praises her weekly writing group. “We have undergrads, young moms, teachers, construction workers, editors, stay-at-home dads, people in all sorts of rehab, plus folks who have a couple of decades on me,” Neer says. “I cherish this gathering of youngsters and oldsters who crave listening, laughter, and being listened to.”
3. Make the Most of Lifelong Learning Opportunities
Life, as many of us have noticed, is too short to learn about everything that interests us. But we always can expand our knowledge.
“Never stop learning,” says Nancy Burnett, 74, of Carlsbad, Calif. Mary Kuetemeyer, 70, of Savoy, Ill., agrees. “Volunteer, join an exercise group, learn to play mahjong, take quilting lessons. If you don’t enjoy it, just try something else.”
Cheri Sullivan, 68, of Redwood City, Calif., reports, “I've read that you don't just need to keep learning new things to keep your brain sharp, but you need to push yourself to the point of frustration in doing so.”
Right now, Sullivan is pushing herself mentally in three ways: learning to write with her left hand; writing a book review on Goodreads for every book she reads and learning state and world capitals, which, she says, “is harder than it sounds.”
Whatever you want to learn, don’t wait. “I’ve stopped starting sentences with ‘Someday, I'm going to...,’” says Jan Paul, 66, of Denver. She’s learned to enjoy “the nuances of opera” and has tried parasailing. Her new passion is downhill skiing.
“While I'll never be super good at it,” Paul says, “I love ascending the mountain, scanning the horizon and taking that plunge downhill.”
Cheri Dueber, 71, walks or bikes daily, but has added something new. “I started a yoga class at 67, and I wish I had started earlier,” says the Wilmington, Del. resident. “Recently, I learned that if one yoga class a week feels good, two classes feel better.”
4. Keep an Open Mind
“I reject the tendency to assign all ills and foibles and difficulties to being old,” says Judy Guerrero, 73, of Webster Groves, Mo. “When you automatically frame everything in the context of ‘I'm old,’ you make that a de facto mindset.”
Avoid getting stuck in the past, says Kathie Enright Boucher, 70, of Mukwonago, Wisc. “Being open to new ideas and new ways of doing things is key. You can't stay mired in 1970s or 1980s ways of approaching life.”
She adds, “And give the oldies music a rest. Believe it or not, there has been some interesting music recorded since the mid-70s.”
Regarding physical limitations, Bill Houston, 60, of Wildwood, Mo., says, ”Getting older is about using your experience and creativity. Chimpanzees make tools out of everyday objects to make life easier, and so can we. And there’s also a smile or two to be had paying someone to mow your lawn.”
From Santa Fe., Suzan Zeder, 71, champions being open to gratitude (“Cherish all you hold dear”), to change (“Take nothing for granted”) and to dessert. “Don’t turn it down,” she says, “unless you really are full.”