Aging can be challenging and overwhelming. Physical changes that seem completely out of our control begin to take over. As we enter this new time in our lives, many of us find ourselves fighting to keep the inevitable path of aging at bay—cringing at our reflection in the mirror, spending thousands of dollars on anti-this and anti-that, and all the while bemoaning our predicament as if it were some sort of curse.
Rejection or denial of this natural progression in our lives can cause depression, forced isolation, and bitterness. And there is no denying that aging can be tough; we live in a culture that is obsessed with the negative aspects of aging, and equates young with sexy, leaving many past forty-five believing that they can no longer be attractive, sexy, or experience passionate intimacy.
The key to shifting negative feelings, and moving into the middle-aged years and beyond with grace is three-fold: acceptance, acknowledgment, and engagement in meaningful activities.
Acceptance allows us to let go of the constant denial and begrudging of the aging process. Acceptance creates a space for enjoyment and optimism. But we DO NOT have to accept our culture’s pervasive and derogatory images. We are aging, but we can still feel great, look beautiful, be sexy, and enjoy uninhibited, fabulous sex.
Acknowledgment is the expression of gratitude and appreciation for what we do have rather than focusing on what we do not, or what is changing. We can acknowledge the wisdom we have gained in our journey. We can experience gratitude for the gifts in our lives, and reflect on the blessings and joys we received from children, partners, spouses, career achievements, travel experiences, and deep friendships.
Finally, we can engage in meaningful activities that keep us active and healthy, that boost our energy and keep us flexible and limber. And we can also, perhaps for the first time in our lives, really hone in on what is truly meaningful to us, and selfishly pursue those endeavors with as much vigor and vitality as we choose! We can age as old, or we can age with grace, and at every turning point, there is a choice.
- Accept. Listen to what you are saying to yourself about aging, and reframe these thoughts. When you are looking in the mirror, or sitting in a restaurant looking at a group of young women, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, and listen carefully to your negative self-critic and judge. Reframe these thoughts into a positive, more-accepting statement, and say this to yourself or out loud.
- Acknowledge. Start a daily gratitude journal. End each day by writing down one thing you are grateful for in your life. Try each evening to think back over your life and look to discover those deep hidden moments that you allowed yourself to forget and bring them back into your awareness. If the moment, the memory, involves someone you have not spoken to for a while, reach out to them and recall the gifts from this moment together.
- Engage. Rediscover a meaningful activity. Is there something you love to do but have not done in a long while? Something on your bucket list that keeps getting put off? Schedule at least one of these meaningful activities this month.