People sometimes comment that an admirable older person is “aging gracefully.” Sometimes that means that they look attractive for their age, and other times it means that they have a good attitude about life, despite getting older. Our society puts a lot of emphasis on creating the former—looking young and attractive for as long as possible—but not as much on the later. But, really, which is more important? Looking good on the outside won’t mean much if you aren’t happy with your life, so we should be focusing on our happiness, not our appearance. Here are some suggestions for being a happy person as you grow older:
- Accept your aging process. Struggling against aging is futile; it is something everyone will experience if they live long enough, and it is part of the life cycle. Of course, you should do everything you can to remain healthy, but being healthy does not mean your body will look twenty-five. No matter what age, you must love yourself as you are, and we all, at any age, have flaws. If you love yourself, you will probably realize that a wrinkle here or there is no big deal.
- Keep your body moving. The worst thing you can do as you age is become inactive. When you feel aches and pains in your body, it might feel easier to just take it easy, but that is likely to make things worse in the future. To keep energy flowing in your body, I especially recommend stretching exercises, like the meridian exercises I teach in Step 1 of Brain Education. Even 5-10 minutes of stretching, and perhaps a 15-minute walk, will keep you feeling energetic and vibrant.
- Keep setting goals for yourself. As they grow older, people often settle into a comfortable routine in life, thinking that ambitions and challenges are for the young. This kind of stagnation can take all the passion out of living. Also, this is not good for your brain; your brain will decline if you don’t give it new stimuli on a regular basis. Your brain will stay in top shape, and you will maintain excitement about life if you keep trying new things and mastering new skills.
- Realize your value. The Tao view of life emphasizes the Oneness of all things, and views everything as having its purpose and value. In a youth-centered culture, it’s easy to lose sight of one’s value past a certain age. If you examine this from within, you already know that is not true, however. Experience brings wisdom that is desperately needed in the world, so believe in yourself and try to make a difference.
- Focus on your inner growth. While youth is a great time for succeeding, and making a difference in the world, your older years are a great time for something totally different—the growth of your soul. Of course, you naturally will have the wisdom that comes with time spent living in the world. If you use your older years well, though, you can gain something even more profound than that—true enlightenment. Enlightenment means transcending the ego, something that is very hard for people to achieve. Older age naturally presents opportunity to overcome the ego, as we give up our working life and societal status and face the inevitability of death. Of course, death will force all of us to let go of our egos, but in older age we can do this while we are still living. Daily meditation and study of enlightened principles is the key to making the most of this special time.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you will spend your older years; it all depends on how you view your purpose here on this planet. If life for you is just about getting money and fame, then it might be a sad time. If you suspect that there is something more, though, you might find it to be the most important part of your life that you’ve experienced to far.