Happy or grumpy? It’s a choice. If you choose to be happy, and you have positive beliefs about ageing, chances are that you will live longer. A study based on the inhabitants of the town of Oxford, Ohio, found that those who felt the most optimistic about growing older had lived, on average, around seven and a half years longer than those who were more pessimistic . While this informs us that mental attitude can help us to live longer, it does not tell us how to do it.
Successful Ageing is about psychology not biology
A few years back, I was wondering what were the characteristics which differentiated the sunny seniors from the downbeat dodderers, and I set about researching the subject by reading, talking to older people individually and in groups, and by observation. I concluded two things: that successful ageing is more about psychology than biology; and that, while there are books aplenty on delaying physical decay, there are next to none about how to age well mentally, emotionally and spiritually, so I decided to write one: Amazing Ageing – The Psychological Survival Manual For Those Approaching Older Age (MX Publishing / available from Amazon).
My belief is that we are more, much more, than our body. We have a part of us – which I call the ‘inner you’ – which includes our conscious and unconscious minds and acts as a sort of central command and control unit. It is this ‘inner you’ that makes the difference to how well we age, because it can change and grow even while the physical body is deteriorating. We can choose, if we wish, to take control and to be master of what we think, what we feel and how we behave.
What makes a significant difference to the way we age are the four cornerstones and the six pillars of Amazing Ageing.
The 4 Cornerstones of Amazing Ageing
Briefly, the four cornerstones are:
- Choice. We always have a choice.
- Letting go. We can choose to let go of what keeps us stuck and free up space for the new to emerge.
- Acceptance. We can choose to accept things exactly as they are, particularly when we are powerless to control events.
- Gratitude. People who count their blessings and are thankful for them tend to be healthier and happier.
The 6 Pillars of Amazing Aging
While the four cornerstones are critical to Amazing Ageing; the six pillars add zing. They are:
- Be positive. People who are positive have more energy, better physical health and live longer.
- Be realistic. Keep things in proportion by making issues as concrete and real as possible.
- Take action. Taking action reduces anxiety and boosts confidence.
- Be flexible. Being flexible increases the range of options available.
- No rules. Rules are limiting, so ditch the rules and new opportunities will surface.
- Be resilient. Being resilient gives us emotional bounce!
These are the things we can do to age amazingly (the ‘what’), but far more important is the ‘how’. In Amazing Ageing, I have addressed this by providing exercises to help you do it. Here are two simple examples of how to develop gratitude and how to let go:
Be Grateful For Every Moment: Be appreciative of everything as it happens. Consciously enjoy the cup of tea you are drinking – noticing its taste, its flavour, its colour, its texture – and be grateful that you have this drink.
Let Go By Just Sitting: This is a meditation practice which has no specific focus. Sit comfortably and quietly, making sure that you will be warm as your body cools down. Thoughts will come in and out of your mind, sounds will intrude from the outside; allow this to happen, but do not hang on to any thought or sound letting them pass like clouds in the sky. Start by doing this for just a few minutes and then build up to just sitting for 10 or 15 minutes.
Happy or grumpy? It’s your choice. Being happy is not as difficult as you might think – if you know how!
 Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Levy, Becca R.; Slade, Martin D.; Kunkel, Suzanne R.; Kasl, Stanislav V. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 83(2), Aug 2002, 261-270.
About David Buswell
David Buswell’s chief credential for writing Amazing Ageing is that he is in his 60s and wondering how to make the very best of the life that remains. He says he has written the book he needs to read! He is a qualified Psychosynthesis counsellor, and a NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and NLP Coach.
Outside of his working life (otherwise known as retirement), David loves walking in the Northamptonshire countryside with his dog Charlie, is a pianist, organist and choir trainer, and has cycled from St Malo to Montpellier, and round the coast of Scotland from Glasgow to Inverness. Once.