Once we reach a certain age, this aphorism becomes common currency. People begin to see it on birthday cards, in advertisements, in the inspirational books they find themselves reading. We might wonder why it is necessary to be reminded so often of this truism, until we find our bodies and minds beginning to shift. No matter how much we might enjoy life, it is hard not to mind when it feels like we are losing the bodies and minds we are used to living with.
Anyone who has fought and beaten a chronic illness in their youth can attest to the fact that health does not maintain itself. Former diabetics and even cancer patients often become fanatical purists in their diet and exercise regime. People like these have a hard-won claim on their wellness, and refuse to let nonchalance take it away again.
The truth is that everyone, every day, is met with challenges to their health. Aging is merely a certain set of challenges. If you don’t know how to meet these challenges, the body and the mind will degenerate.
Fortunately, today’s medical world offers a wide variety of advice and ways to understand the care of our bodies. With the wide variety of information, there is simply no reason to resign ourselves to a sub-par level of life on account of “aging.”
The most important factor, from any medical viewpoint, in lively aging is exercise. Be assured that this does not mean daily trips to the gym for hours-long workouts, which are prohibitive for those with debilitating conditions. Exercise is simply a function of moving and oxygenating your blood; if you’re breathing, you can get your blood moving.
The body is nourished by means of the blood, which carries nutrients to the tissues and gets rid of waste. When the blood flow gets stagnant, through a sedentary lifestyle or through a depressed state of mind, the industrious turnover of in with the good, out with the bad slows down, and the body languishes. You can see this in people at any age, whose life is lived without much physical or mental exertion. They may not be dramatically overweight or depressed, but their skin will look sallow, their hair and nails are dull, their movements are sluggish, and their eyes lack sparkle.
Eastern systems of medicine remind us that health is an interaction between mind, body and spirit. That means that the emotional, mental and physical aspects of our lives work together for a complete enjoyment of life.
The challenges that come with age, often become excuses for dropping out of life’s favorite activities. A person whose memory begins to degenerate can be tempted to hide from responsibility and relationships, out of fear that they will forget some vital information and make an embarrassing mistake. Someone whose face begins to show wrinkles might be ashamed of their appearance and resort to drastic measures like plastic surgery, or avoid their friends altogether.
Disengagement from life’s daily activities, however, is entirely counterproductive to aging well. Rather than skirt challenges, it’s possible to meet them with solutions that are sustainable and easy to incorporate into daily life.
There are brain-building activities that stimulate the memory centers of the brain to grow strong, as well as natural supplements, such as ginkgo and St. John’s wort, that provide valuable nutrition to the brain’s tissues and don’t cause the dramatic side effects of prescription medication. Facial exercise systems, such as Facercise, build the muscles of the face the same way that body-building strengthens the rest of the physique, providing lift to sagging skin and smoothing out wrinkles with a natural buildup of facial tissue. Practices like these are manageable goals that can start in your own home and, in a short while, renew your confidence for engagement with the pleasures of daily life.
Just as physical and mental well-being nourish our confidence to connect with others, emotional health ignites the health of the body and the mind. A new interest or passion is a powerful tool for getting our blood moving and our mind snapping. In Ayurvedic medicine, the life force is known as prana, while in traditional Chinese medicine it is called qi. In the language of Western medicine, this life force translates as well-oxygenated blood flowing freely throughout the body, tokened by a feeling of high spirits or exhilaration. The concept is clear in how the best techniques for one aspect of health improve the other two. People who take a dance class in interest of better fitness often find themselves making new friends. Those who volunteer their time in the service of others are likely to remember the names and stories of the people they are caring for.
Youth is not a time of life that is free from challenges–it simply involves a different set of challenges than those that come after a certain age. When aging is used an excuse for silly mistakes or embarrassments, it can too easily become an excuse for giving up on life. By meeting new challenges with grace, determination and patience, we can experience aging as simply a continuation of life’s journey.