HAPPY TIMES: Aging can be a positive experience ... if you let it.
HAPPY TIMES: Aging can be a positive experience ... if you let it. Thinkstock

Eight reasons to embrace getting older

ONCE it hits you that you are aging, it can be quite disconcerting. It creeps up and before you know it - wham! The door with the big sign that says "youth” slams shut behind you.

It's not an easy decision to embrace aging but that's what we need to do if we are to achieve peace and happiness.

Since my own obligatory mid-life crisis in my 40s, I've followed a lot of research on happiness and aging - and you know what? It consistently shows that older people are happier.

So instead of wallowing in your fears about the hard parts of getting older, try focusing on the positive.

Here are eight reasons why being older can lead to a happier state and why you should embrace aging:

1. We enjoy simple pleasures more

As we get older, we discover interesting, sometimes previously hidden, parts of ourselves. And because we no longer have the hang-ups of youth - school, university, new relationships, new careers, young children - there is little to prevent us exploring these. It is therefore easier to seek out new adventures and make new friends along the way.

2. Near enough is good enough

When we embrace aging, we get to a stage where we throw unrealistic expectations out the window and look for situations that are viable in our life situation. This doesn't mean we drop the bar entirely - we just no longer want to invest 80% of our energy getting the last 20% perfect. Instead, we want to enjoy life with less time spent striving to be perfect and more time spent being grateful for small mercies.

3. Positive thinking becomes easier

As we get older, we tend to think more positively. (Well, not all of us I suppose, but then we won't tolerate those "glass half empty” people as much.) There are numerous reasons for this, one of which is we realise we want to live the best life we can in the remaining available time.

4. Trusting is easier

What is the point in not trusting others? What kind of emotions does distrust invoke? Usually, not positive ones. To embrace aging is to decide to trust a little more and become vulnerable. This opens the door to all sorts of new experiences, new friendships and new knowledge.

5. Emotional intelligence improves

Our emotional intelligence improves with age. Getting older increases our ability to let go of negative emotional reactions to situations and deal with those feelings in more productive ways. We simply decide not to fight for every detail and not to sweat the small stuff. The capacity to regulate our reactions greatly improves our mental well-being.

6. Implementing healthy behaviours becomes easier

As we get older, we have no choice but to recognise the importance of eating the right foods, exercising regularly and decreasing stress. We feel amazing when we start to implement healthy practices into our lives at any age. As we begin losing friends and family members to cancer and heart disease, it's our wake-up call to positively change our lifestyles.

7. Our networks become increasingly valuable and fulfilling

As we age, we really understand how important our work and social networks are. We rally around each other to do the projects we've talked about for years and now have the money and time to complete. I've been incredibly lucky and now enjoy all sorts of support from the relationships I've nurtured, particularly those started in the past two decades.

8. We learn the art of reflection

We want to be efficient with the time we have left - something we keenly realise is unknown. This bitter-sweet understanding means the good things in life stand out. We become grateful. We don't want to keep repeating our mistakes, so we get better at viewing our actions from another's point of view.

The next time you notice yet another spot or new wrinkle, ignore it. Or fix it. You have the choice to use your time any way you like. We can frame things differently if we so choose. We can choose to embrace aging with an understanding that we have probably spent the first 50 years in a hurry, with no time, wisdom or awareness about what it all meant. The understanding that we are aging enables us to focus on the many positives associated with moving into a brand-new - and potentially very rich - phase of our lives.

Kate Marie is the founder of the Slow Aging movement, which aims to support women to embrace the beyond-50s as a time to optimise personal health and well-being. She is the co-author of the Slow Aging Guide to Skin Rejuvenation and the best-selling book Fast Living Slow Aging. Both books are available where all good books are sold. For more information, visit slowaging.org.

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