Have you ever thought about mindfulness aging? A lot of truth can be found in old sayings. Take, for example, Mark Twain’s famous quote that “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” While it’s a pretty good bet that mindful aging wasn’t what Twain had in mind, he summed up the concept pretty well. Mindful aging is all about keeping perspective on the way we change as we grow older. Sure, we don’t move as fast as we once did and we have more aches and pains, but it’s not all bad. Slowing down, for example, gives us time to enjoy the world around us. Even better, as we get older, we have more time to do the things we enjoy and take part in the little things that make life special.
A Point of View
How we approach life past middle age is all about a point of view, and that’s where mindfulness can help. By definition, mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what’s going on around us and accepting how we feel about it. When we look at aging for what it is, a natural process, we can stop being resistant to it. Then we are better able to look past all the stereotypes and negative images that are so often associated with growing older.
Stress and Mindfulness
There is a good body of research to support the fact that when we practice mindfulness as it relates to aging, we live healthier and happier lives. Mindfulness can help us reduce stress and improve the compassion we direct toward ourselves. In turn, we are rewarded with better health, both physically and emotionally. When combined with meditation, training in mindfulness has also been proven to improve attention span and cognitive abilities in the elderly.
Some of the best work being done in the area of mindfulness and aging is taking place at the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging at Denver University. Opened in 2015, the Institute focuses on a variety of research initiatives related to the aging process. It takes advantage of its unique access to athletes to study the effect of concussions on dementia and is doing groundbreaking work by bringing together scientists, academics, and the community to help improve the lives of both young and old. Community outreach programs, such as its recent course on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), offer practical education and advice for both individuals and caregivers.
Develop Positive Tools
While some studies have shown that older adults tend to be more mindful than their younger counterparts, living (and aging) mindfully does not always come naturally. Nowadays we are bombarded by media that focuses on the negative aspects of growing old. Taking advantage of resources that provide training in techniques to help us focus on the here and now are important. It can help us to learn how to live life with gratitude, and become attuned to the positive things. This will go a long way toward developing tools to help mindfulness come as second nature.
Perhaps Mark Twain wasn’t thinking about being mindful when he penned his clever quote, but he was certainly onto something. When we start thinking about aging as a natural part of life and practice thinking about it mindfully, we can reap the benefits of all that we’ve gone through in our younger years. We can’t stop the process so we might as well take advantage of it.
*Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels