We are living longer and longer. As our lifespans extend to 80, 90, 100 years or more, having a good quality of life during those years becomes increasingly important. How can we stay healthy? And, how can we still do the things we want to do? Finally, how can we feel content and fulfilled until the last moments of our lives? Here are my 8 life-changing tips that will help you age well.
How to age well
The keys to aging well with health, happiness, and peace lie in training our-
- physical power
- heart power
- brain power
Physical power is a cornerstone of happiness and health. Having enough muscle mass, flexibility, bone density, immune response, cardiac tone, and more, all contribute to being able to do the things that make us happy. It also contributes to having confidence and a positive outlook on the future.
Heart power is the ability to follow our conscience and have tolerant compassionate relationships. Like physical power, the more we use our heart power, the greater it grows.
Close personal relationships, such as those with family and friends and the communities to which we belong, are excellent training grounds for heart power. Having a social support network built on heart power remains one of the cornerstones of healthy aging, according to studies in areas with a high population of centenarians.
Brainpower is creativity. That is the ability to use our insight and wisdom to create something that contributes to ourselves and to the world.
Creativity comes from curiosity, from an interest in and love for ourselves and our surroundings. Being engaged in the world and trying new things stifles cognitive decline. It also provides a sense of excitement for living. It leads to creation and contribution to others that gives us fulfillment and a reason to live.
Building our physical power, heart power, and brainpower can be done with simple changes in our lifestyle and outlook that add up to a big difference.
Here are eight ways to do it from my recent book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years.
1. Get up and move
Staying physically active is essential for developing physical power. However, hectic lives and inertia often get in the way of our staying as active as we need to.
However, exercise doesn’t need to take a lot of time or involve special equipment or clothing to be effective. Recent research has indicated that short bursts of high-intensity exercise can be as effective as longer bouts.
Try exercising for just one minute every hour. If you can, do a strong, high-intensity exercise such as push-ups, plank, sit-ups, or jumping jacks.
But if you cannot, try a gentler exercise such as stretching or breathing. Choose exercises that work for you and make you happy. You can even use exercises from practices like yoga, tai chi, or qigong.
By scheduling your exercise in short bursts throughout the day, you break up the length of time you spend sedentary. Longer periods of uninterrupted sitting is a risk factor for disease and decline.
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Try to fit in one minute at least ten times a day. I believe that mindfully exercising for just one minute every hour will keep your body and mind alert, strong, and flexible.
2. Dream up goals and work to achieve them
Dreams and goals fuel your body and mind to move. They motivate you to take care of yourself, grow, and change. No matter how old you are, continue to develop yourself.
Rather than living day-to-day, without something meaningful to work toward, focus on goals that are near and dear to your heart. You will find yourself waking up with excitement each morning, eager to see what lies ahead.
3. Look forward to aging with anticipation
A good attitude is another important part of living a long, healthy life. Change your attitude about getting older, if you have any negative assumptions.
In studies on attitudes toward aging, those with negative attitudes tended to walk more slowly and have worse cognitive abilities than those who had a more positive outlook.
Rather than seeing the wrinkles, stooped posture, or old-fashioned notions, remember all the wisdom and experience you accumulate and can share with others. You can live with hope and dignity at every age.
4. Give back to age well
Sharing and giving are the greatest rewards we can receive. Developing a habit of helping others or contributing to your community forges the social connections aging experts say are important for aging well.
In caring for others, you are more motivated to care for yourself. You might mentor a young one, give money to a charity, or do something fulfilling that supports the next generation. Make sure the cause is something you believe in, and you’ll enjoy your selfless giving in ways that might surprise you.
5. Spend time in nature
Visit natural places often, wherever you may be, and whenever you get the chance. You don’t necessarily have to go to distant mountains or the wilderness, or to the ocean. A park or trail near your home is good, too. Go wherever you can feel the sunshine, trees, water, and wind, and wherever you can see the open sky and walk on unpaved ground.
Related content: What is Nature Deficit Disorder and How to Know if You Have It
Being in nature, or doing a nature meditation, helps you let go of your stress and worries. Nature rejuvenates body and soul. Treat nature like a friend and it will heal the wounds you’ve suffered and open your closed heart.
Meditation is a good practice for people of any age. Many studies have confirmed that it is excellent for relieving stress. It can offset some of the cognitive declines that comes with aging, by
- improving focus
Most of all, meditation makes you happier since it promotes a calm state of mind and has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine, hormones associated with happiness and contentment.
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7. Try something new to age well
Your brain doesn’t need to grow stiff and forgetful as you age. It has the capacity to make new neural connections any time if you exercise it with new challenges.
Instead of doing the same routines day in and day out, grow your brain power by doing things that are different. It’s even better if they are difficult.
This could be learning a foreign language, taking a challenging class at your local college, or immersing yourself in an art form that’s unfamiliar to you.
Even brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand each night can help your brain grow in wonderful ways.
8. Contemplate life’s questions
Discover your values and what your brain really wants to create by probing your inner wisdom. Sit in quiet contemplation and ask yourself:
- Who am I?
- And what do I want?
Ask until the answers come to you and then trust those answers. They will guide your decisions and actions for a life of fulfillment and inner peace.
This story was first published on Dec. 19, 2017. It has been reviewed and references updated for republication on Aug. 5, 2020.
Ilchi Lee is a visionary, educator, and a New York Times bestselling author. He has penned more than 40 books including his most recent title, Water Up Fire Down. He founded the mind-body practices of Body & Brain Yoga and Brain Education and established the Earth Citizen Movement.
He also founded the accredited University of Brain Education and Global Cyber University in South Korea, as well as the non-profit International Brain Education Association (IBREA) in New York, which has special consultative status with the United Nations.
In addition to his study of traditional Asian medicine, Lee has a bachelor’s degree in clinical pathology from Dankook University in his native South Korea. He currently spends much of his time developing a sustainable-living retreat center in New Zealand.