A Holistic Approach to Aging: Slowing Down the Aging Process
If you could look into the future and design your own aging process, what would it look like? Most people would say that they would like to live a long, healthy life that included being in peak mental and physical health as they age – not to mention being impressed with what they see when they look in the mirror.
Aging is a complex process that affects each of us differently. You’ve probably noticed that some people tend to age more “gracefully” than others. Maybe you’ve even been blessed with the so-called good aging genes, so you haven’t really put much thought into the aging process at all. How we age is something each of us should be thinking about on a regular basis – and not just once we hit middle age. Aging is something that should be on our radar as early as our 30s.
Why is it important to start thinking about the aging process long before you’re affected by it? Because what you do today can have a tremendous impact on your future. Details like how you nurture your body, take care of your skin, and what you do to support your mental and social health all have the potential to influence how you age.
You can’t stop the hands of time, but you can minimize the impact they have on you. The best way of doing this is by adopting a holistic approach to aging. By this, we mean looking at the aging process as not a straightforward path, but rather looking more closely at all the various components of daily life that factor into how we age and taking steps to improve our lives from each direction. In other words, healthy aging isn’t just about what you eat or how you take care of your skin, but rather a combination of how you nurture your body and mind as a whole.
So, what all is involved in a holistic approach to aging? Let’s take a closer look.
Nourish Your Body and It Will Repay You in Kind
Diet is quite possibly the single most important factor in how the aging process affects your body. Look around and it becomes easy to see that many of us aren’t taking the effects of diet and nutrition on our bodies seriously. Groceries stores are packed with packaged processed foods, and our waistlines are growing larger than ever.
As a society, we’re living longer but becoming unhealthier at the same time. We’ve come to the point where we rely on medications to take the place of healthy eating or compensate for the damage that a poor diet has done. Unfortunately, some of the damage can’t be mitigated by pharmaceuticals.
Poor dietary habits increase your risk of many serious diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Being overweight increases your odds of developing these diseases even more. There’s no way around it, if you want to live well into your golden years, and enjoy the journey, adopting a healthy diet today is key.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect. You can eat a healthy diet and still enjoy a slice of birthday cake or occasional decadence. However, once you adopt a healthy dietary lifestyle it becomes easier to see how these occasional indulgences can quickly take up too much space in your life.
There’s also another issue that makes it more difficult for people to adopt healthier ways of eating today. Everywhere you look, there’s conflicting dietary information and usually a new fad diet to go along with it. When you’re bombarded with so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know who to trust and what approach to take for protecting your own health.
The solution is turning away from the fads and returning to good old common sense. It’s always smart to have a talk with your doctor about the dietary approach that will best support your health journey but that aside, adopting healthier eating habits involves learning how to see past all the propaganda and making a return to nature.
For instance, you’ll find packaged foods all throughout your grocery store that claim to be healthy in one way or another. Turn the package around, read the label and you’ll find another story altogether. Fat, sugar, and a laundry list of chemical ingredients aren’t things that are good for your body – not to mention that so many of these foods are devoid of the fiber your body needs.
The first step is to put down the processed foods in favor of natural alternatives. For most of us this involves shopping around the perimeter of the store and focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. Lean meats and dairy can be an important part of a healthy diet, but research show that going overboard on meat and dairy can present its own health challenges, so remember moderation is key. Don’t get too caught up in all the hype about how too much or too little of any nutrient affects your health. If you’re eating a nutritious, well balanced diet, things tend to balance themselves out on their own.
Changing Your Skin Care with the Changing Times
One of the first places we tend to notice the first changes of aging is our skin. Our skin evolves with us as we age and goes through various stages throughout your life. When we’re young, our skin is plump, supple, and has a gorgeous glow. Adolescence comes along and leaves many of us fighting the occasional breakout or dealing with full blown acne. Once adulthood arrives, we face the challenges of hormonal related changes and slowly watch our skin transform until one day we notice those first little fine lines.
It’s usually at this point that we start to panic. Where did these lines come from, and how can you make them go away? Well, short of more invasive options, you can’t make them disappear entirely, but you can minimize their appearance and take steps to slow down the effects of time.
Developing good skin care habits now can help keep your skin more youthful looking in the future – and the sooner you get on the good skin care bandwagon, the better.
Of course, skin care products are a big part of this. The right skin care routine can work wonders for your skin. The thing to remember is that what worked yesterday, might not work tomorrow – or even today. As you age, it becomes important to keep an eye out for changes in how your skin is responding to your current skin care routine. For instance, if the products you once used to keep oil at bay seem to be drying out your skin, then that’s a sure sign that it’s time to reassess your skin care needs. In fact, you should reassess your skin care products about once a year to make sure they’re still performing the way you need them to. Taking our Skin Care Quiz on our website is a great place to start.
Getting in the routine of using a good quality moisturizer, regardless of your age or skin type, is also important for keeping your skin youthful looking. You don’t need to wait until your skin begins to show signs of dryness before you start slathering on the good stuff. Everyone, yes everyone, should use a moisturizer or serum daily. Look for a moisturizer that’s designed for your skin type and skip the harsh ingredients if you have sensitive skin.
Finally, don’t forget the sunscreen. Exposure to the sun is one of the leading causes of premature aging, and you don’t need to spend endless days on the beach to see the negative effects. Even the exposure you get while going for your daily jog or sitting next to the big window in your office adds to your lifetime exposure and increases your risk of premature aging, as well as more serious things like skin cancer.
The solution is simple. Wear sunscreen everyday – even when you’re not sure you’ll need it. If you do go outside and enjoy soaking up the rays, make sure you reapply it at least once every two hours, and look for products that contain natural, non-toxic ingredients.
Mental Health and Happiness as You Age
When we think about the aging process, our minds tend to wander to how we look, how our bodies will perform, and whether disease will come and steal any quality of life from us in the process. One area of aging that’s often overlooked is mental health.
Mental health awareness is becoming more important in our society, and this is a great thing. However, the focus on seniors and mental health is still seriously lacking. As we age, changes in our lives along with declines in health, the loss of loved ones, and changes in living situations can all have a serious impact on mental health.
There’s no preventing the passing of time, and the changes that come with it. However, there are things you can do today to help protect your mental health in the future.
- Start spending more time doing things that stimulate you intellectually. Is there a class you’ve always wanted to take, or books you’ve been wanting to read? How about joining a discussion group on an intellectual topic? Something as simple as spending a few minutes doing a crossword puzzle everyday can keep you sharp and help prevent age related cognitive decline.
- Talk to your doctor. The time to start talking to your doctor about mental health is before an issue exists. Talk about anything that concerns you, along with the early warning signs of a mental health disorder. Now is also a good time to discuss possible treatment options for the most common mental health disorders, and alternatives that might be available.
- Speak up and get support. At the very first signs that something is amiss, you should speak to a doctor or someone you trust. It’s common to experience a case of the blues from time to time, but signs of depression that last longer than two weeks can be a signal that something more serious is going on. Push the stigma aside and take steps to protect your mental health today.
- Maintain an active social life. Loneliness is something too many people experience as they age. Loneliness can lead to feelings of isolation and severe depression. When you’re in the midst of trying to juggle work, family and other obligations, it can be difficult to think there will ever be a time when your plate isn’t so full. Still, even when life is busy it’s important to make time to maintain your social life and work towards building meaningful connections as you age.
Holistic Aging Means Taking Care of Yourself Today for a Healthier Future
Everything you do today influences tomorrow. This includes how you take care of your mind, body, and spirit on every level. You want to live a long, healthy and beautiful life, so start by making yourself a priority today. What’s the number one component of a holistic approach to aging? It all starts with self-care and acknowledging that you and your future is important enough to invest time and energy in.