How do you feel about growing older? It's a very particular question that we each have a personal perspective on.
It's normal to be aware of how your skin is changing and be aware, even fearful of wrinkling skin and an ageing body. The trick is to try and accept that this is a natural progression – you're not always going to look and feel how you did in your twenties, thirties or forties.
But you can age well, stay sharp, look and feel great, and experience all the beauty that life has to offer.
Here are a few tips to staying in tip-top shape – visually, mentally, spiritually, physically – as you age.
1) Keep challenging yourself
It keeps your mental cogs turning, with new experiences firing up new synapses in your brain – a lifelong process if you allow it.
Learning new things can aid depression, add meaning to your life and keep your mind active, preventing decline.
Think about unfamiliar things that interest, excite, inspire you and push your boundaries. From travelling (even alone), doing things that scare you, painting or photography to learning new things like a language, playing a musical instrument or participating in a new sport or game.
Also, be who you really are and follow your truth. Be honest about your likes and dislikes, no matter how confronting that might be. Speak up, and consider having any meaningful conversations you’ve been putting off.
2) Find your purpose
Seek the meaning in your life as it stands now. What is it that makes you tick? What difference do you want to make to the world or in other people’s lives? What really matters? How do you feel connected? What’s your reason for getting up in the morning?
Finding ways to fulfil these applies at any time of life, but it’s never too late and certainly aids the ageing process.
Research shows that people with a greater purpose in life exhibit better cognition than those with less.
One study demonstrated this point even as plaques and tangles accumulated in the participants’ brains.
3) Chase the joy
Research shows that happiness encourages longevity. It helps to boost immunity and protect you from illness – this is partly down to less stress and depression, which takes its toll on your immune system.
Happiness can also impact the life and health choices you make, which can help to keep you feeling younger. There’s a momentum to it. The more you feel happy and joyful, the more you gravitate towards things that perpetuate those feelings.
You tend to make healthier choices and exercise more as this make you feel better, stronger and more content. Happiness, joy and pleasure can be found in the smallest and most simple things.
Make a habit of thinking about what makes you feel truly joyful and happy and work on how to bring more of that into your life. Do whatever makes you feel good.
4) Keep good company and support around you
Following on from focusing on joy, the company of friends, family and community are a significant part of that. Relationships profoundly impact your physical and mental health, and loneliness can increase your risk of premature death.
So if you haven’t got much of a support network around you, think about how you can build one. The type of company you choose is relevant, too, as it can influence your mindset.
For example, if you spend time around pessimistic people, it can create those feelings in you. Try to surround yourself with good company that can create positive feelings and changes in your life.
Having people to turn to in times of crisis is vital and has a significant impact on your life, health and survival. Regularly meet up with friends and chat with them on the phone or online.
As you age, nurture meaningful friendships and relationships, it will help to keep you younger.
5) Spend time with younger people
The benefits of hanging out with younger people works both ways as it helps to keep youngsters mentally and physically healthier too.
According to the Harvard 82 year Grant Study, those in middle age or older who invest in nurturing the younger generation are three times as likely to be happy as those who don’t.
Spending time with the next generation can help to keep you abreast of the changing, modern world and expose you to new experiences and activities which are great for pushing boundaries and keeping life fun.
6) Maintain a younger mindset and don't always act your age
Spending time with younger generations can help you to maintain a more youthful mindset. But adopting a younger mindset, in general, can also keep you younger.
One small study suggests that people who feel more youthful have more youthful brains. Part of the reason could be down to the fact that maintaining a younger mindset can help you stay more physically and mentally active, which keeps your cognitive function up to scratch.
According to researchers, the participants in the study also rated themselves as healthy and were less likely to have symptoms of depression.
Important at any time of life, getting regular exercise is essential to keep you healthy as you age.
Regular exercise protects you from chronic disease, helps support immune function, improves sleep, mood and skin and helps to keep your bones strong.
For example, walking five miles a week can protect brain function. A daily walk can also help to prevent colds and flu, protect heart health, support joint health and ease arthritic pain.
Slow walkers tend to age faster, so if you can, pick up your speed. Other good forms of exercise include swimming, dancing, cycling, and using weights or resistance bands to strengthen bones.
Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Birmingham found that a lifetime of regular exercise slows down ageing.
The study assessed the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives, selecting 125 male and female amateur cyclists aged between 55 and 79.
They found that loss of muscle mass and strength didn’t occur in those who exercised regularly. Neither did their body fat or cholesterol levels increase with age.
The men may also have avoided most of the male menopause with their testosterone levels remaining high. Added to which, their immunity remained younger.
Working your core is also vital. A strong core improves posture and balance and decreases the risk of aches, pains and chronic back problems. Just a few minutes of daily core exercises can make all the difference.
8) Eat well
Sensible eating and sticking to healthy foods is an indispensable part of ageing gracefully. Food affects every aspect of your being.
Of course, you can enjoy the odd treat, but overall, you need to focus on eating real food and a varied, healthy diet to nourish and nurture your body, brain function and mental outlook.
– Eating a wide variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruit.
– Consuming healthy proteins (fish, lean grass-fed meats, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds).
– Packing in healthy fats which are essential for a healthy brain, reduced inflammation and joint pain. Eat cold-pressed olive, avocado and coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, oily fish, olives and the odd square of organic dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao).
Fish oils contain the most absorbable form of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids for optimum brain health. If you find it hard to eat three portions of oily fish a week, try a clean high potency fish oil.
– Vitamin D is vital for immunity, brain and nervous system health, reduced inflammation and general wellness. The most effective way to get vitamin D is by exposure to sunlight. It’s hard to obtain anywhere near enough through food, and a daily supplement is advisable, at least through autumn and winter.
Public Health England recommends that children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
If you’re worried your vitamin D levels are low, get them tested by your GP. Most adults should be fine with a maintenance dose of 1000 or 3000IU daily. If you choose to go higher, it’s advisable to get your levels checked as too much vitamin D can be harmful.
– Fibre is an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s needed for a healthy digestive system, strengthening gut health and encouraging good bacteria. It helps to prevent constipation and plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight.
– Avoid processed foods, sugary and high carb foods and excessive alcohol consumption.
9) Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
You need water for every physiological process in your body and brain. Without it, you simply cannot function and if you do not stay adequately hydrated, your health will drastically suffer as will your risk of premature ageing.
When you are optimally hydrated, you have more energy, your digestive system works more effectively, your cognitive function improves, and you can flush toxins more efficiently.
Even mild dehydration causes cognitive decline, slower reflexes, headaches, tiredness, dizziness, weakness and thirst.
Read this article for tips on how to stay hydrated. The right amount varies from person to person, but aim for at least two litres per day.
10) Spend time in the sunshine and regularly get fresh air
The benefits of vitamin D are numerous, some of which are mentioned above. Many of us are low or deficient, largely because we tend to shield ourselves from the sun.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone which you naturally generate through sun exposure. So it’s a good idea to get out in the summer sunshine as much as you can, showing as much skin as possible (around 80%).
If enough of you is exposed, you can produce between 10,000 to 25,000 IU from the time you bare your skin until just before it turns pink. Do it without using sunscreen which inhibits the process but make sure you don’t burn.
The darker your skin, the longer you need to bare yourself to the sun – for more information on vitamin D, look here.
Getting out for a daily dose of fresh air is also crucial for anti-ageing. Even better if you can spend time in nature which enhances the effects.
Walking in the fresh air is a great way to exercise, and being outside is a powerful mood enhancer. Mindfully and deeply breathing in all that fresh air is calming, maintains and improves lung function, oxygenates your body, and helps to expel toxins.
All that oxygenation and any movement accompanying it are physically and mentally energising.
Exposing yourself to daylight and sunlight helps to regulate circadian rhythms, improving sleep and mood. Deep breathing, exercise, exposure to fresh air and nature are effective stress relievers and immune boosters.
Breathing in any pleasant aromas from flowers and plants can do you a power of good. Get the picture?
11) Manage stress and look after your mental health
The symptoms of stress and anxiety can radically limit your quality of life. They include tension headaches, digestive issues like indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, heart palpitations or panic attacks, poor focus and decision making, insomnia, mood swings, low mood or irritability, fatigue, and under or overeating.
This article has already touched on several ways to nurture a positive outlook and improve mental health.
For each one of us at any age, stress management is a vital part of self-care, helping to prevent premature ageing and death. Getting older carries particular forms of stress and strain due to declining health, mobility and independence, losing loved ones, financial worries, loneliness, unstructured time on your hands and reduced cognitive function.
We all go through adversity but depending on our mental outlook, some of us will become depressed and increase the risk of early death while others will continue to live a full life. So what can you do about it?
Turn to your support network to talk through your anxieties, fears and concerns. Socialise and spend time with them. Eat as healthily as possible as food has a direct impact on how your body responds to stress.
Hydration is also crucial. Visit your GP to check that the effect of prolonged stress is not having a negative physical impact. Get out in nature, into the fresh air, breathe deeply and exercise to the best of your capabilities.
Don’t forget to chase the joy and make the time for things that make you happy. The daily practice of deep breathing can be a powerful stress reliever with numerous physical benefits.
Being with nature creates a sense of awe; it boosts immunity, is immensely calming and reduces inflammatory stressors directly impacting anxiety and depression.
If access to nature is difficult, plant some window boxes or do some gentle gardening – there certainly is something to be said for stopping to smell the roses.
12) Get enough sleep
Good sleep is essential for immune function, prevention of chronic disease, reduced inflammation, blood sugar balance, a healthy weight, improved brain function, and stress and depression relief.
Beauty sleep is a real thing, and if you want to look good as you age, you need to get the zzz’s in!
Older adults need roughly seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but we are all different with varying needs.
Although it’s common to sleep less as we age (primarily due to psychological changes, physical illness and medication), our needs aren’t necessarily less. For more information on how to improve your sleep, look here.
13) Look after your skin
If you work on the points raised in this article, it will reflect in every aspect of you, including your skin.
Good mental health, happiness, hydration, healthy food, sleep and stress relief are essential for a healthy glow and better skin.
Other ways to nurture a more youthful complexion are to protect yourself from the sun by either covering up or applying organic sunscreen once you have had enough sun exposure to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.
Go for natural skin products, free from harmful chemicals, preservatives and irritants, providing nutrients for your skin’s needs. For supplements and products to help improve skin, hair, and nails, click here.
Ageing is not without its challenges, but it’s how you respond to it that helps determine how well you age. It’s not just about how you look, although fewer wrinkles are a definite bonus for some of us. Ultimately, your mental and physical wellbeing is what matters.
Accepting where you’re at age-wise, and what’s normal, is all part of easing the resistance. Then it’s all about taking steps to improve your life by setting goals to stay as active as possible, manage stress, keep socialising and putting energy into meaningful relationships, sleeping and eating well, and drinking plenty of water.
Taking on new challenges and learning new things is key to keeping your brain sharp, improving depression and adding meaning to life. Maintaining a younger mindset is also essential. And one thing to truly focus on is finding your joy, and pursuing it at all costs. Life is short, so make the most of it!
By Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, a Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
The more you feel happy and joyful, the more you gravitate towards things that perpetuate those feelings.