I would describe my concern for what I see occurring in the world today as “alarming”: obesity is currently affecting 2 out of every three people in the U.S. with similar trends throughout the world. Children as young as 10 are being diagnosed with pre-diabetes or “real” diabetes and could see major issues arriving in their life much earlier than any generation to date. Are children doing something wrong? As I see it, it all begins in the household: parents have to model behaviors that are healthy and positive for their children. But if they don’t know what behaviors to demonstrate then their children will have little chance to thrive and live a long, healthy life.
Therefore, we need to re-examine our policies and programs and develop strategies to prevent these challenges from becoming far worse. I am a proponent of healthy aging starting at the earliest age possible. I have always believed that prevention is the best medicine. Over the course of my career, I have seen clients of all ages trying to “fix” something in their life “after the fact” and sometimes their actions were too late to correct what had gone wrong whether physically, mentally or spiritually. These three are the primary aspects of healthy aging that I introduce in this article. Pay attention to them, be proactive in making the necessary changes now or you will pay later on in life with difficulties that could have been prevented.
THE THREE CORE ASPECTS OF HEALTHY AGING
1. Physical Health
Our bodies cannot be turned in for newer versions when things start to go wrong. If things become complicated in our 20’s and 30’s, think of the years ahead as being one giant doctor’s appointment. Injuries, joint replacement surgeries, accidents, inadvertent choices leading to dysfunction and many other issues could lead to a sad and painful road ahead.
I represent the first of the “baby boomers” and I am sure that not many have aged as I have leading up to my 70th birthday this August. I owe this mainly to physical fitness. I was a youth guided by coaches and parents who cared about my physical wellbeing. I could already swim literally around the time I learned to walk and engaged in age group swimming competition well before the age of 10. My friends were all active, whether they swam with my team or not. I played outdoors on Maui in the 40’s and 50’s because that is what all children did at the time.
Thanks to my parents, I stayed with a sports model after our move to Oahu in ’56 as a Little League Baseball player. There were no similar age group swim programs in Kailua for me to continue my swimming career so baseball became the alternative. It was fun, a team sport where I could again make friends and it required practice, which kept me engaged as I had been as a swimmer.
By the time I grew ineligible to continue in Little League at age 13, my physical foundation had been laid: fitness and being competitive have been ingrained in my consciousness since. That foundation would serve me well over the next 57 years of my life leading me up to the present day. The opportunities I had as a child helped me become the runner and weightlifter I am today.
But what do children do today? Play games online and spend time in cyberspace. For example, my grandson uses the computer to create things and he is brilliant at it. But how does that help him develop a strong body that will lay the foundation for healthy aging? My daughter’s responsibility, like that of every parent, is to make sure her child gets as many opportunities to develop physically as he can. This prospect of generations “sitting their way to an early death” is the main point I wish to make in this article.
We need to go “back to basics” and help every child start life off with a chance to become fit and healthy – and learn the “way of the athlete” at some level so that they may remain engaged and happy pursuing health and fitness activities for the remainder of their life. Healthy aging begins – and ends – with how we are raising our children and this is THE challenge of the 21st century.
2. Mental Health
The second leg of the “triad” is the mental aspects of the aging process. Maintaining strong mental health goes a long way toward determining the extent of our wellbeing later on in life. Being active and exercising aerobically creates a better, more capable brain that is able to function at higher cognitive levels and with greater problem solving ability than a “sedentary brain”. Current research supports this premise: the brain creates more connections and with increased blood flow becomes more adaptable and flexible in facing the challenges that the aging body brings – eventually to all of us.
The Subconscious Mind
I strongly believe that the “mind of man is unlimited in its potential and responds to specific demands made upon it”. This means that the mind NEVER stops growing and expanding in consciousness throughout our life and with constant attention through meditation, intellectual stimulation, and prayer work we can create a mind that reflects our ever evolving and true nature.
We must be willing to continue “cleaning out our mental closets” regularly by examining our belief systems and shedding those that now longer serve us. Why should we be living with ideas and beliefs that someone else gave us long ago when we KNOW there is something better for us to believe? I started this “re-programming” process in 1985 an it continues to this day.
I want my subconscious mind to accept MORE in my life – not less – so I work diligently every day to create more of what I want – and less of what I don’t want. Limitations in our thinking are self imposed: we may still be operating based on something that someone said to us when we were children or something that happened in the past. We fail to see that if a new thought was implanted in our subconscious mind, it would be possible to become happier.
“What we think about, comes about.”
The Conscious Mind
We live in the world through our conscious mind. It is the “doorway” to our present reality and it reflects back to us what is on our subconscious tapes. The “reality” of our present life – whether it is prosperous or poor, comfortable or uncomfortable, healthy or sick, and so on – confirms our current thinking.
Whatever you believe to be true about your life circumstances shows up in the choices you make, the manner in which you treat yourself and others, the attitudes and behaviors with which you engage your life – and so much more. So why not think the best thoughts and make the very best choices you can so that you can have the experiences we all want to have in life?
I believe that if we follow the Golden Rule every day of our life – “Treat others the way that you would want to be treated” – good things will happen and we will have “golden” days. This has nothing to do with being religious. You could substitute the original Golden Rule with “Treat others with respect” and still be OK. Adopting positive behaviors and attitudes is critical to creating a happy, healthy and fit life. I make it a point everyday of saying something loving and supportive to someone and also SMILE as much as I can because through smiling you are revealing your true and loving nature to the rest of the world.
3. Spiritual Health
I never valued any spiritual tradition until my life literally “came off the rails” in my 30’s. In 1985, I found my spiritual path through the Church of Religious Science and now believe that we are “spiritual beings having a human experience”, that “we are not alone and we are not accidents”, and that there is a power in the “universe that wants us to be successful, happy and healthy”.
My daily spiritual practices revolve around affirming my belief that we are here for a purpose and we each bring unique gifts to life that no other can deliver. No two people are exactly alike – not even “identical” twins. Each of us has unique fingerprints and if we play our cards right during life we will leave a unique mark after we leave this “plane of consciousness”.
Therefore, I wonder what my legacy will be. How will I have touched lives for the better and left life better than when I entered it? Through my daughter and grandson? My writings? Presentations? How will I have made a difference before I die? This idea fuels my work today and on into whatever future is waiting for me. Everyday, from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed, I ask myself these questions in relation to the issue of healthy aging.
I encourage you to decide now – rather than later – what you CHOOSE to believe to be true for you and follow your own path of spiritual discovery in order to keep you engaged in living your life in the best and most positive way you can. It is a decision well worth making and forms the third leg of the “triad of healthy aging”.
For more advice on healthy aging, you can contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his book Healthy Aging & You.