Posted on August 19 2019
How To Age Well
As a coach and a blogger over 50, one of my biggest pet peeves is the use of the term “anti-aging.” It makes aging sound like a condition that we need to avoid at all costs. Newsflash: aging is unavoidable. However, feeling or acting “old” is 100% optional. That’s right, we don’t have to buy into those old paradigms telling us that it’s all downhill after a certain age. The way we choose to define ourselves at any age is up to us. That said, there are several things we can do to help us age audaciously well while staying holistically healthy and happy.
Create a new relationship with stress
Our bodies are wired to cope with stressful events through a jolt of cortisol which activates our sympathetic nervous systems and puts us into fight or flee mode. This jolt was essential when we were running or hiding from wild animals about 100 million years ago but in modern times our bodies perceive stressful events as everything from traffic, too many emails and forgetting something at the grocery store to parenting, bill paying and caregiving. The cortisol is now on a near-constant drip. This is taking a toll on our adrenal systems and our overall health and it’s definitely not in line with healthy aging. It’s hard to feel audacious when you’re overtired, overwhelmed and just plain over it. We may not be able to entirely eliminate stress from our lives but we can learn how to deal with it differently. Simple things like taking a walk, practicing yoga, meditation (even a few minutes), some intentional deep breaths, spending time in nature and generally just be-ing instead of do-ing can all help to knock stress down a notch. So can doing a digital detox on the weekend, reading at night instead of scrolling through Instagram and creating a peaceful morning routine to start your day on the right foot. These things all trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which takes us out of stress mode and delivers us into the here and now.
Crowd more vegetables into your diet
I know that you probably know this already but it bears repeating: more veggies means more antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals which are the good guys. Crowding more veggies into your diet leaves less room for foods that contribute to what’s known as chronic or silent inflammation, and keeping that inflammation down to a dull roar is essential to staying vibrant and healthy as we age. You can start by adding some leafy greens to at least one or more of your meals every day. For instance, if you like a scramble for breakfast try sautéing rainbow chard (beautiful stems and all) and a little red onion before you add in the eggs. Or put a few leaves of kale, spinach or chard into your breakfast smoothie. If you’re having roast chicken or baked salmon for dinner, open a bag of power greens and sauté them in a bit of olive oil or butter for a yummy side dish. If you’re making soup, cut some collard greens into ribbons and add them in towards the end. When eating out, order a side of greens with your meal or throw some arugula into your salad next time you're at a salad bar. Or try this challenge: next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market, look for vegetables that don’t normally make it into your cart. Some ideas include fennel to roast with red peppers and potatoes, endive or jicama for dipping into hummus, zucchini or butternut squash that can be spiraled into “noodles” or celery root to chop, steam and add to mashed potatoes or pureed soups.
Make sleep a main priority
Sleep is important for all of us but extra specially important as we age. When we’re sleeping our cells go into build and repair mode and that’s essential for feeling and looking healthy and audacious. If you’re skimping on sleep in favor of being more “productive” in some way, then cut it out, pronto! If you’re part of the growing epidemic of people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, then I recommend amping up your sleep hygiene protocol. This includes keeping your bedroom cool and dark, going to bed at a mostly consistent hour and putting your phone away for 30-60 minutes before bedtime. You can check on Facebook and Twitter in the morning. For more tips on how to fall asleep (and stay asleep) download my favorite ideas right here.
Being properly hydrated is important for multiple reasons. Not only can staying hydrated help you to age well, but more water can help flush out waste and bacteria, prevent headaches, ease joint pain, decrease stress, aid weight loss, promote clearer thinking, make your skin glow and so much more! Many of us are in the habit of drinking too many things that actually dehydrate us such as coffee, black tea or anything with caffeine. In fact, by the time you experience the sensation of the thirst, you are already dehydrated. Experts typically recommend drinking at least 60 ounces of water a day, but it can be hard to keep track. Try putting 4 rubber bands around your water bottle and every time you fill it up, take one-off. Beginning the day with 16-20 oz of water (before your first cup of coffee) can be a good way to get a head start.
You already know the importance of exercise so I won’t belabor the point. But I will say that you don’t have to be competing in triathlons or doing the world’s hardest spin class to help you age audaciously. Simply taking a walk or having a dance party in your kitchen totally count. Moving your body supports aging on a cellular level plus it helps your brain work better, keeps you flexible and energized, and increases your “feel good” hormones. On the flip side, inactivity can be linked to depression, not to mention cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity, among other things. The most important thing is to find an activity you enjoy so that you’re motivated to keep doing it. Find a buddy, download some podcasts, set a timer - whatever you need to do to get your booty moving. And if you do want to hit some triathlons then rock on!
Protect your skin
Sun damage ages skin faster than almost anything else so it’s important to keep yourself protected with sunscreen all year round - even if it’s not a beautiful summer day. You’d be surprised how much exposure you can get just sitting in the passenger seat of a car for long periods of time. Pro tip: it’s best to use a sunscreen that is non-toxic. Your skin is your largest organ and it absorbs toxins very easily. Ideally, you should opt for the least toxic makeup and skincare items as well. This list is a good place to start.
Check your attitude
This is one of my favorite tools for audacious aging because the more engaged you are in your life the happier and more fulfilled you will be at every age. Intentionally start looking for the things that increase your level of joy. Actively avoid negativity and toxicity. Add more meaning to your life through volunteer work, a spiritual practice, conscious compassion and gratitude. Learn Spanish, do crossword puzzles, start playing the banjo, take up photography, seek out people and experiences that make you laugh, etc…Remember that with age comes perspective, experience, less FOMO and more peace which is all rather delightful. Don’t buy into stories with descriptors like “over the hill” or “long in the tooth.” Getting older doesn’t have to mean despair or decline. Through our attitudes, we have the ability to show up however we want at any point in our lives and that power of possibility is totally empowering.
About the Author:
Lisa is a Certified Life and Health Coach at Audacious Health & Wellness. She helps women who are approaching "mid-life" create new and healthy habits in the way they think, eat, sleep and move, empowering them to live their lives fully and audaciously. This includes practical tools, ideas & support for body, mind, and spirit on the ramp-up to 50 and beyond. In addition to group programs, retreats, teaching workshops and doing 1:1 work, she is a regular blogger and wellness editor at The Fold Mag. She also creates recipes and writes articles for her own blog and website. Her areas of expertise include nutrition lifestyles/diets, uncomplicated ways of adding in more healthy choices and helping clients shift the negative beliefs and thought patterns that keep them stuck. She thrives on providing support and accountability for people as they navigate their way through change. Lisa is based in Seattle, WA and spends much of her time writing, enjoying the beauty of the PNW and whipping up a healthy fare for her husband and 2 teenagers (who help to keep her as sharp as a tack).