There’s excellent news for America’s largest generation! Just as tens of millions of Baby Boomers move into their golden years, new research reveals that your latest years may be your happiest. Could it be that youth really is wasted on the young? Young people usually enjoy high energy, peak physical condition, and that shiny optimism of starting fresh in life. But are they as happy as their parents and grandparents? A study from the University of Chicago shows that people are feeling happier and happier as they age.
Since 1972, researchers have been asking a cross section of Americans the same question: “…How would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” Results show that feelings of happiness increase over time. The percentage of people who reported being “very happy” grew along with their advancing age. The University of Chicago survey is one of the most comprehensive studies of happiness ever done in America, and the findings should contribute even more to your happiness quotient. Looking forward to more contentment, satisfaction, and joy can really lighten our steps into the future!
I’m a living example of this principle. My life has grown more fulfilling, more exciting, more rewarding year by year. As we age, we can continue to learn and grow and find ways to make a difference in the world that offer a very deep foundation for happiness. Each stage of life has its own blessings, and though we may lose a little speed with the passage of time, we pick up life skills, understanding, and knowledge that give us more compassion for others and ourselves. We learn to forgive and accept ourselves for the magnificent beings we are. The pleasure we can experience once we allow it is truly incredible!
Getting older is inevitable. But aging is not. If you want to be happier and happier as you age, there’s nothing stopping you.
Forget Your Chronologic Age
Chronologic age is a fairly meaningless number after the age of 30. It’s your biologic age that counts. People who understand how life energy works in the body often have biologic ages that are 20 years younger—or more—than their chronologic ages. My 85-year-old mother is a good example. In May of 2010, she hiked to Mt. Everest Base Camp (18,000 feet high) with hikers half her age. My nearly 60-year-old sister and her husband went along on the trip. She takes no medications whatsoever, instead using nutritional supplements daily. It’s very clear that my mother’s biologic age is far younger than her chronologic age of 85.
The opposite is also true. I routinely see 35-year-olds who look, act, and talk like people far older than them. They tend to hang out with friends and family members who talk the same talk and walk the same slow walk. When I meet such a person, I can practically see them age before my eyes. Although their words, thoughts, and actions are all about deterioration, they don’t understand why their life force is ebbing away.
Note: You can calculate your biologic age by taking the Real Age Test [www.realage.com] by Michael Roizen, M.D. If you don’t like the number you get, it’s fairly easy to change it. That’s right—you can actually grow younger!
Aging Is Not Inevitable
Getting older is inevitable. Aging is not. The process of getting older begins the moment we are born—it actually begins the moment our life begins in the womb! We can’t stop that, but we can influence it dramatically.
Though we really don’t understand what aging is, I have some theories that have stood the test of time. Up until age 30 or so, the “springtime” energy within you is so strong that your body is very forgiving. But around age 30, your lifestyle, including what you eat, whether you exercise, the relationships you keep, and your thoughts and beliefs, catch up with you.
When health-robbing habits catch up with people at about the age of 30 or so, they say, “You see? It’s my age. That’s why this stuff is happening to me. It’s natural.” Nothing could be further from the truth. When you don’t take care of your body, including your mind, emotions, and spirit, it is forced to send you louder signals to get your attention. Headaches, low energy, dull skin, and joint aches and pains are just a few of the many messages your body sends when it needs better care.
Decreased muscle mass and increased fat may be normal in this culture, but these conditions are not necessarily natural—and we needn’t expect them. They are caused by inactivity and the cumulative effects of glycemic stress and insulin resistance, accompanied by a mind-set that expects us to grow weaker as we age. That mind-set is a belief, not scientific truth. I am actually more flexible and fit now than when I was in my twenties!
Get Conscious About Ageism
We live in a culture that is drenched with ageism. We automatically assume that someone is going to become depressed, fatigued, incontinent, asexual, forgetful, and senile. Pharmaceutical companies and gynecologists plant in women seeds of fear that as soon as they go through menopause, their bodies will simply fall apart and waste away unless they are on medication.
When my mother was in her sixties, and around the time she hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and skied around the base of Mount McKinley, her mailbox became suddenly full of ads for hearing aids, incontinence diapers, and aids for failing vision. Over time, my mother figured out how to ignore the constant barrage of negative messages about aging. She also told me that though she doesn’t feel much different than when she was thirty, she is definitely treated differently.
Though many people do decline as they get older, this decline is not a natural consequence of aging—it is a consequence of our collective beliefs about aging as well as our lifestyle.
No More Senior Moments
Do you ever say that you’ve just had a senior moment when you forget a name or a face? If you do, stop it. NOW. I’ve forgotten occasional names for my whole life. I’ll bet you have, too. We all forget things. This needn’t increase with age.
Many women, especially during perimenopause, complain of having a “cotton head.” They can’t seem to balance their checkbook. They forget where they’ve left things. They’re certain that they are experiencing the first stages of Alzheimer’s. This simply isn’t true. Most of the “fuzzy head” that women talk about at perimenopause isn’t aging at all. It’s your inner wisdom telling you it’s time for you to tune in to yourself, your dreams and desires. (For more information, read The Wisdom of Menopause, Chapter 10: Nurturing Your Brain.)
Move It or Lose It
There’s only one reason that you lose muscle mass or range of motion with age: You stop using your body. Period. Physical deterioration has very little to do with age per se. It has a lot to do with being sedentary. You wouldn’t expect your car to start on the first try and then run well if you left it sitting out in a field for five years, would you?
Those who exercise regularly can expect to add at least six to seven quality years to their lives. Besides, it’s really, really fun to be able to move. One of the gifts of the empty nest at midlife is the fact that I can exercise whenever I want to. I actually exercise more now than ever before and am in better shape than I ever have been. I dance Argentine Tango as often as I can, and also do Pilates and weight training regularly. I love to take long walks by the ocean, too.
Create a Happy Future
Engage in creative pursuits and schedule things you look forward to. I often meet very creative people whose minds are so engaged in their work that they’re saturated with life force directly from Source energy. This is one reason why composers such as 70-year-old John Williams seem timeless. Their creative process is Divinely inspired—they’re always being touched by the hand of God—and it rubs off on their physical body.
You don’t have to be a world-class composer to tap into Source energy. Prayer will do it. And so will dance or any other creative pursuit. The key is to open yourself up to be a channel for something new. It’s been said that the first step toward aging is when most of your thoughts are in the past. It’s essential to have something to look forward to and to set goals for the future.
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Remember, youth is a state of mind. You can be young at 90 and old at 15. You get to choose!
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.
© Christiane Northrup, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Excerpted with permission.
Christiane Northrup, M.D. is a visionary pioneer and beloved authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. A board-certified OB/GYN physician who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and did her residency at Tufts New England Medical Center, Dr. Northrup was also an assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at Maine Medical Center for 20 years. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, Dr. Northrup helps empower women to tune into their innate inner wisdom to transform their health and truly flourish. Dr. Northrup is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. Her third book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, was a 2005 Quill Award nominee and voted Amazon’s #1 book of the year in both parenting and mind-body health in 2005. In her latest books, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause and The Secret Pleasures of Menopause Playbook, Dr. Northrup outlines the crucial importance of sustainable pleasure as the missing link for creating joyous and vibrant health on all levels after menopause. She has also hosted seven highly successfully public television specials. Her most recent special began airing nationwide June 2010, and is based upon the newly revised edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Her work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, The View, the Rachael Ray Show, Good Morning America, ABC’s 20/20, and Dr. Oz. Through her weekly Hay House Radio show, Flourish!, her website www.drnorthrup.com , and her monthly e-letter, Women’s Health Wisdom, Dr. Northrup shares cutting-edge information about health and flourishing with women worldwide.