Aging with G.R.A.C.E
Gratitude, Resilience, Attitude, Courage and Education
Posted October 13, 2015
Let’s review some myths of aging/staging. For years, I’ve heard that “if one looks good, they will feel good.” Or, “you’re only as old as you feel.” And, then there is “just do it!” Which myth or reality is closer to the truth that you believe in, live by and find the most helpful? It is important to explore the relationship between attitude, graceful aging and physical health, which I call Aging with GRACE: Gratitude, Resilience, Attitude, Courage and Education.
I find myself saying that I hope I age gracefully, especially when someone asks about my future plans or next steps. I seem to always include the concept that aging is something I have to do and aging with grace is something I aspire to do. When I began to contemplate the specifics, the medical and mental health relationship became clear. To reach a graceful aging process, it seems that personal strength, or faith in ourselves if you will, is immeasurably important to approaching the ‘next stage’ regardless if that is from age 40 to 50, 50 to 60, or way beyond.
Let’s dissect applying the Aging with GRACE concept. I urge you to consider what in your life might fit into each category concerning what you think, feel and what you might fear.
- Gratitude: Thankfulness as a concept seems more connected to religion or spirituality at first consideration. But being thankful, or feeling gratitude, is an essential part of acceptance and satisfaction. It’s a kindness we can allow for ourselves. Having gratitude – for your life, gifts, family, whatever you hold dear – allows for celebration of being alive.
- Resilience: We have all faced adversity, and many of us have faced both personal and physical adversity. At times, we seem to know or intuit what to expect when there is loss in life, or disappointment, and we overcome it. Physical resilience is often far more difficult to achieve, especially given our busy, ‘moving’ world and our expectations for ourselves as wells others in our lives. To feel ‘sick’ or physically compromised is often seen as unacceptable, as though we should be able to power through the worst illness. How can we be resilient unless we accept a weakness and then rise above it? The health issues we may have are linked irrevocably with life satisfaction and just plain joy.
- Attitude: Attitude is a key influencer for all human interaction. Approach a sales clerk and see how long it takes you to assess her/his attitude about the job, the merchandise, the weather, your smile or even the phone call they were on before you came by. Her/his attitude is observable, and can drive future interactions to a negative and harmful place. Think of a situation recently where you could feel your attitude, and feel some negativity in it, or annoyance. Did you turn it around? Reframe it into a more logical and perhaps humorous exchange? Try it – your smile alone will be soothing, and the fact that you will know that you made a choice to reframe it positively will have an impact.
- Courage: Courage is imperative to aging well. The media bombards us with ads for drugs to help us ‘not feel old’ or ‘not look old.” It can be difficult to frame aging as anything but negative. It takes courage to confront myths, to ask a relative about their aging path, the pitfalls and how they cope with feeling as if they are alone in the aging process. This aloneness takes courage to endure.
- Education: It’s perfect that the E occurs at the end. Information is vital, especially as we age. From Medicare to Social Security to rehabilitative care, it’s important for you to stay informed. Ask yourself if you have adequate information about the services in your area that are open to you. Speaking with friends and acquaintances about their positive health experiences can be valuable in choosing your professionals. If the services you require or desire are not in your town or area, consider what you can do to recreate or join with the professionals who can assist. That should be a discussion with current doctors as well as friends, family and colleagues – other people know all kinds of things that can add to your knowledge and therefore education.
A last exercise you might try is this, which has nothing to do with your chronological age: Go to a mirror that reflects only your face. Be mindful of the very first thought that pops into your mind right then. Remember that for now. Then look more closely at your face in reflection. Who you see is the person you trust more than anyone else, the person who has been with you, loyally, for your entire life. It is the face that reflects the goodness you put forth, the hope you have instilled in others, and the love that you have given. Your face also is the face of the individual with whom you have experienced every trauma, joy and fear in your life. And most important to consider, it is the face that other people have loved and respected though the years, regardless of the number of those years. Cherish it.