Tim discusses four common misconceptions about aging that can negatively impact individuals' mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Today we're diving into a really interesting topic that impacts all of us at some point in our lives – aging. I stumbled upon an eye-opening article on Time's website titled "Believing Myths About Aging Makes Growing Old Worse."
It's a thought-provoking read that challenges some commonly held beliefs about growing older. And I’m sure we’ve all seen this as we’ve aged with our own family and friends in one manner or another. I certainly have in my family.
So, let's unravel these myths together.
Myth number one – the belief that mental decline is unavoidable as we age.
This one's a biggie. The article breaks down the science and research that shows how our brains can actually continue to adapt and grow, even as we get older. Cognitive decline isn't an absolute.
Moving on to the second myth – the idea that physical activity becomes pointless as we age.
This is far from the truth! The article highlights how staying active is vital for maintaining our overall health and preventing many age-related conditions. It's never too late to start incorporating movement into your routine. In fact many experts are calling exercise and movement the closest thing humans have to the ever elusive fountain of youth.
The book Outlive by Peter Attia speaks to this fact and is simply a great book on health and wellness with sceintifc facts, sound medical advice, anecdotes and opinions for living a long, healthy and most importantly, qualitative life. He calls this "healthspan" in the book.
Now, let's tackle the third myth – the misconception that social connections fade away as we grow older.
This is a big misconception! The article points out that staying socially engaged is crucial for our emotional well-being and cognitive health. So, don't underestimate the power of those friendships and gatherings.
Lastly, the fourth myth – the notion that it's too late to acquire new skills.
This is a common mindset, but the article argues against it. Learning new things can actually keep our minds sharp and invigorated, no matter our age. So, try to keep an open mind, and don’t always stick with the mindset that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Turns out maybe the dogs should engage on new tricks!
Aging is a mental event
And now I’m going to quote the article directly because this is so important in my opinion: “The myth worth exploding is the idea that aging is simply a physical process. As Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer once said: “Aging is as much a mental event as a physical process.”
One of the wildest examples of this emerged from the twenty years of data produced by the Ohio Longitudinal Study on Aging and Retirement. When scientists examined the data to determine the relationship between mindset, health and longevity, they found something staggering.
In this study, a positive mindset toward aging—meaning, “I’m excited about the possibilities in the second half of my life, and I believe my best days are ahead of me”—translated into an extra eight years of healthy longevity. And this is not just a one-off result. This finding shows up again and again, and is now one of the most well-established facts in the field.
The implications? Changing your mindset toward aging has as much impact on longevity as quitting smoking, and has more impact than losing weight, even if you’re obese.
And this matters—a lot.
If you treat people in their later years—including yourself—as if they’re old, slow and decrepit, this has a direct negative impact on their mental and physical well-being. Yale University psychologist Becca Levy discovered that people subjected to negative stereotypes around aging in their twenties, thirties and forties—by the time they reach their sixties—exhibited a thirty percent greater decline in memory than controls.
All of this is to say, believing in these myths about aging, it turns out, actually ages us faster.
Bottom line: Stay positive!
It is truly fascinating how much our perspectives about aging can be challenged by our state of mind.
I encourage you to check out the full article for a deeper dive into these myths and the evidence that dispels them.
As always, stay curious, stay active, and remember – age is just a number.
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