Is it possible to age backwards? Not really.
More than once I’ve joked that there is an old lady hiding in my mirror, and she frightens me every time I walk past her. She’s starting to look a lot like one of my aunts … while that aunt is starting to look quite a bit like Grandma did.
But my best friend recently said, “Marie, you look and act ten years young than you did when we met.” Getting control of my health and joy, and taking responsibility for the effects of aging – powerful stuff.
Aging is inevitable. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, Grandpa used to say that we should be grateful if we get a chance to grow old – it’s far better than the alternative.
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Still, even though we develop wrinkles and gray hairs, pains that weren’t there a few years ago and health ailments that we would rather not deal with … we don’t need to sit back and let the years prematurely steal our youth.
After all, no one wants to be too old to babysit the grandchildren, too old to dance and have fun with friends, or too old to flat out enjoy life. At 45, I still have a toddler at home – there’s no time to slow down.
There are things that we can do right now to maintain both our appearance and vigour into an age nobody will be able to guess. And I’ll tell you right now – you’re all invited to my 100th birthday (many, many years from now) and I’ll save a dance for you.
There’s no magic pill here, though. But I have FIVE simple tips that can help a lot.
You would think this simple pleasure would come naturally to everyone. But more than half of North America’s adults are chronically sleep deprived! That means that, over and over again, they get less than 8 hours of sleep at night.
We need sleep! It’s basically a daily reset button for your body, but it takes at least eight hours to perform its job. When we sleep, repair work happens. Proteins in our skin are fixed, hormones are increased and regulated, and overall rebuilding is done. When we are chronically sleep deprived, our body has less ability to fix structural defects, including those deep in our DNA, that cause gray hair, wrinkled skin and deteriorated organs.
If you know you must get out of bed at 6 a.m., then you must be fully asleep no later than 10 p.m. That means that you need to start your nighttime routine by 9 – turn off electronic devices (that’s a big one since it interferes with your sleep), get washed up, and do whatever prayer, meditation and reflection that you need to ease into dreamland.
Get Your Veggies
Eat lots of vegetables.
Your mother really was right on this. The more vegetables you eat, especially if you’re eating a wide variety, the healthier you’ll be. Don’t even worry about which ones are better or even best, just got lots, and lots of different types.
The choices today are amazing, and you don’t even have to go outside of your growing region. At the Farmer’s Market last week, I got zucchini, corn sprouts, squash blossoms, a peppery microgreen mix, Tiny Tim tomatoes, baby potatoes and multicoloured carrots. That’s just a sampling of what’s available to me locally. Depending on where you live, your options might be staggering.
Most vegetables are extremely low in calories, so you can eat as many as you want without gaining weight. They’re also full of fiber – and as you age, you need that fiber to keep your intestinal tract and colon working properly. Of course they’re also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – these all fight off free radicals and other compounds that damage your DNA and promote early aging.
Can’t eat the greens you need? Sometimes it’s hard. One trick we’ve learned is to take a daily dose of powdered greens. EJ and I both have them daily and it makes a real difference. They come in orange, berry and chocolate – so no excuses for not getting your antioxidants!
Shed Bad Recreation
I don’t mean watching Doctor Who until midnight, even though that’s not good for you, either. (Terrifying aliens make for interesting, but not very restful, dreams, so turn it off an hour before bed.)
What I mean are hobbies and habits like drinking, smoking, eating a lot of junk food, stuff like that.
Don’t try telling me you’re eating jelly beans and licorice because you’re hungry – they’re recreation.
We’ve mentioned organs briefly, but one really important organ is your liver. Vitally important. (I don’t think you can live without a liver. Can you?) The primary job of your liver is to remove toxins from your body, but if you’re sending bottles of alcohol through it on a regular basis, then your liver is going to be stressed and it might even be unable to work.
That means you’re building up a load of toxins in your body, and THAT is going to start aging you.
Smoking is even worse. Take up smoking and the effects on your lungs and blood vessels can age you twenty five years in less than a decade. Is it really worth it? (That’s a rhetorical question – it’s absolutely not!) Smoking inhibits your nutrient delivery, so your skin will age and wrinkle far sooner than it should.
No, put down the Prozac. That’s not happiness. Neither is faking a smile when you feel like crying. Don’t pretend to be happy because that is going to age you worse than anything. AND it will lead to drinking, and staying up late because you can’t sleep soundly, and eating unhealthy foods to try to make yourself feel better, and all sorts of other things that just accelerate the process. We’ve all seen ‘fake happy’ and you really don’t want that.
You are also not going to walk around in euphoria all day every day. Sometimes life’s rough. But you know what? It’s possible to face the hard times, the difficulties, even the pain, and still have a sincere smile.
Being happy – sincerely happy – is proven to be better for your health than being sad and depressed. The reason is simple and oh, so scientific – hormones! Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, estrogen, and progesterone – these are the big five happiness hormones. These feel-good chemicals are produced in your brain and boost your mood, reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, and ever reduce stress levels.
Listening to music raises your dopamine levels, carbohydrates increase seratonin (but choose healthy, whole grain carbs!), oxytocin comes from hugs and loving actions, and stress-relieving activities like a hot bath will give you a boost of estrogen. Progesterone levels are a bit more complicated, but they can be kept level by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and keeping stress levels low.
Most of know, especially as we age, that we need to get a bit of aerobic exercise. It’s not fine to huff and pant after climbing a set of stairs.
But if you want to diminish other effects of aging, you need to start lifting things and maintaining your muscle tone. It helps you fill out your clothing properly, prevents skin from wrinkling and keeps your posture straight. Nothing screams ‘old’ like a hunched back and sagging skin, after all.
Go pick up your children or grandchildren, carry the groceries, pick up that box. There are plenty of every day activities that will help you keep your muscles active if you’re not inclined to join a gym.
As I said, nothing is going to stop the aging process altogether, not this side of Heaven, but these will help! And now … it’s time for me to get my beauty and youth sleep! Good night.