Maintaining optimism as we age
Aging brings with it some good changes—developing values, building friendships, establishing careers and raising families. Aging can also bring difficult changes—forgetfulness, decrease in strength and energy, illness and injury, and the deaths of loved ones.
It is common for these changes to cause feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and helplessness. Following is a list of tools that people of any age can use to stay peaceful and happy amid whatever loss they may be facing:
- Laughter: Laughter distracts us from sad thoughts and redirects us to clearer thinking. Watch a funny movie or a comedy show; get together with people who make you laugh; join a laughter club.
- Gratitude: Focusing on the good things in our lives lessens the grip of bad things. Every evening write down five things that you're thankful for that happened that day.
- Positive Thinking: We bring into our lives what we think about most. Visualize and talk about the things you want, rather than complaining about what you don’t have.
- Positive Language: Negative words make us feel bad, while positive words inspire us. Replace the words horrible, bad, terrible, and problem with the word challenge or challenging. Eliminate the word hate.
- Present Moment: Try not to lament about what you’ve lost, or worry about what may happen later. Do your best with what you have now.
- Morning Reflection: Every morning, pray or meditate and ask for help to get through your day. This will help you gain focus and strength to face your challenges.
- Sleep: Proper rest helps us feel stronger and think more clearly. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get 7–9 hours of sleep per day. If you have trouble sleeping through the night, take naps to make up the time.
- Healthy Eating: The USDA My Plate program is an easy way to track how many calories you need and which foods to eat.
- Exercise: Regular exercise improves health, mood, energy and sleep. Find an easy program that is suitable for your level of ability, such as yoga, tai chi or water aerobics.
- Get Outside: Connecting with nature is calming and uplifting. Go for a walk or sit on the front porch.
- Take a Class: Learning something new is a great way to re-energize your enthusiasm. Sign up for a class at the senior center or YMCA.
- Help Others: Volunteering, teaching a class, or forming a support group are ways to help others in need, and help you appreciate your abilities.
If you’re still feeling down, you may be suffering from depression. This is common among older adults, and nothing to feel ashamed about. Ask a mental health professional for help.
Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” While we can’t always change a situation, we can always change how we think and act in that situation.
Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges. Contact her at 216-408-5578 or Judith@LovingHandsGroup.com.