The Secrets to Feeling Great As You Age
It can be a bit too easy to look back on our younger years as our happiest days. Whether it’s because we had less responsibilities or our bodies recovered faster, youth can have a glow that makes aging seem downright troublesome at best.
But the truth is, as we get older, we get smarter about how we take care of ourselves — mentally, emotionally, and physically. With all the things we have to tend to, it can be challenging to maintain consistency, though. So, if you’re in need of a refresher on how to look after your mind, body, and soul, here are the building blocks of any happy life of proper well-being.
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Get high-quality sleep.
Research shows that, on average, younger adults get longer, higher-quality sleep than older adults do. This is due in part to increases in time-consuming responsibilities. But it’s also because sleep disruptions are a natural byproduct of neurodegeneration, hormonal changes, chronic pain, medication use, and obesity, all of which are often associated with the process of aging.
Nonetheless, researchers agree that growing old shouldn’t inherently mean sleeping poorly. Just because it’s common to do so as we age doesn’t necessarily mean that poor sleep is an inevitable byproduct of age.
Getting high-quality sleep improves your memory, ability to learn, and overall mood. Likewise, it improves athletic performance and immune function, regardless of age.
Here are some tips to help you improve your sleep.
- Stop downplaying sub-optimal sleep. Evidence suggests that our tendency to downplay substandard health behaviors increases as we age, and the more we downplay our behaviors, the less likely we are to change them. Thus, paying attention to any habit of poor-quality sleep and taking steps to cease self-defeating behaviors is the first step toward attaining better sleep.
- Avoid looking at screens at least an hour before bedtime. Not only can staring at your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop keep your brain alert as you attempt to nod off, but screen use that’s so close to bedtime can actually suppress melatonin, which ultimately decreases your actual quality of sleep.
- Don’t drink caffeine before bed. Studies show that having caffeine within hours before going to sleep can significantly impede sleep quality. Every body reacts differently to caffeine, but a typical standard is at least six hours before bedtime. You don’t have to cut out caffeine completely, but for sure try to limit it as the day wears on.
- Have a solid sleep schedule. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day and night is a reliable sleep schedule. Conversely, evidence shows that irregular sleep patterns result in significant increases in feelings of fatigue and drowsiness. Correcting this is as easy as simply picking a time that works for you and attempting to go to sleep at that same time each evening.
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Get regular exercise.
Getting regular exercise, especially as we reach and move through our arguably older years, is highly correlated with an improved sense of subjective well-being. In fact, research shows that exercise can reduce non-clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression. Simply put, regular exercise will make you feel better in your skin, both physically and psychologically.
Finding a routine that works best for you is the key to this. Researchers like Dr. Eric Helms suggest that an essential part of any workout routine is its sustainability. Try out different exercise activities — whether it be weightlifting, running, swimming, or a team sport — and discover what you enjoy the most. That’s what it means to have a sustainable workout routine, to appreciate the hard work!
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Eat nutritious food.
You’d be surprised by just how much of our sense of well-being is determined by the food we consume. For instance, if we’re deficient in essential nutrients such as Vitamin D, B12, and iron, our odds of experiencing symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and depression substantially go up.
Research shows that we become more likely to develop nutrient deficiencies as we age. Ensuring that you maintain a diet mainly composed of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein — along with taking a high-quality multi-vitamin — can lessen the potential for negative side effects that tend to arise from nutrient deficiencies.
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Practice reducing stress.
Stress is pretty much unavoidable. While the experience of stress is different for everyone, much of the pressure we regularly put ourselves through can be unnecessary and avoidable. It can take serious practice, but the learned ability to stop allowing yourself to be mentally pulled in unfavorable directions can prove life-changing.
Ruminating about work issues or relationship problems (or anything, really) can become a seemingly endless cycle if we don’t address them head on or deal with them in a healthy manner. In fact, we can become so captivated by external stressors that our downtime has the potential to be devoured by our inability to think about anything else, causing stress about feeling stress (and so on).
Practicing mindfulness, reading books, going on walks, drinking tea, and the like can help move you away from focusing on unnecessary stressors and find yourself into a more relaxed place. Replacing your time spent worrying with such activities and instead giving time to what brings you joy and calm is a surefire way to improve your mood and overall well-being.
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Dressing in clothes that look and feel good have a magical way of making us feel better. Even if there’s no special occasion — READ: Why It's Good to Dress Well For No Particular Reason — dressing well has been proven to be a serious self-esteem booster. I mean, which would make you feel more confident on a date, dressing in sharp and stylish threads or showing up in sweatpants?
Most of us would choose the former over the latter, but that doesn’t mean we have to choose between dressing well and dressing comfortably. We can do both! Seek out outfits that bring out your best without making you feel stiff. You’re only going to feel good on the inside if you feel good on the outside.
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Do the things you always wanted.
It’s never too late to discover new corners of yourself. Whether it’s a new hobby to try out or a new destination to travel to, there is truly so much you can always do that you haven’t quite yet. Discovering the new and the wonderful should forever be a part of life, not just a part of your youth. Find what makes you happy, and never rule out that there may be more that may do so.
— Daniel Lehewych
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