Ageing well: It's never too late to thrive
Article first published in Cornwall Today.
As I get older, I spend more time thinking about ageing, and how to do it well. I find that shifting the emphasis from my own mortality to how I can best use the time I have productively, positively and meaningfully is both helpful and exciting.
When I was a boy, 60 years old was old. Now I’m nearly 60, and I still feel like that boy! Over the next few months, I’ll be focusing on specific issues that can support us in making the most of our very good fortune to be alive.
Reasons to be grateful: your brain is younger than you think
A wave of recent research has shown that new neurons can appear in parts of our brains up until the day we die. This fantastic news means that our old idea of the adult brain as a fixed entity in a state of perpetual deterioration was wrong! Neuroplasticity means our ageing brains don’t only respond to new information and experiences but create new neural connections and the potential for real and positive change in our physical and mental wellness.
Last month, I wrote about the benefits of Gratitude Practice, and I cannot emphasise enough how important gratitude is in terms of neuroplasticity. Noticing and expressing our sincere thankfulness for what is good in our lives switches our focus from potential threats and premature worries to genuine love and contentment. As Dr Melanie Greenberg writes, “Fostering gratitude can broaden your thinking, and create positive cycles of thinking and behaving in healthy, positive ways.”
In “The Happiness Advantage”, psychologist Shawn Achor also shows that Gratitude Practice strengthens the neural pathway for happiness making us more creative, resilient, and even more alert. We are what we repeatedly do, and who doesn't want to be creative, resilient and alert?
Investing in your Lifetime Pension
We know money doesn’t really equate to happiness. So I’ve been wondering, why don’t we invest in our future wellbeing with the same urgency and regularity that we pay into our pensions?
I’d like to encourage you to join me in paying into your Lifetime Pension this very moment. Investment is easy and free. You can do it by nurturing relationships, especially the vertical ones with those who are older and younger than you, as these will reward you richly with new ideas, opportunities and perspectives. You can invest in by going for a walk and noticing each of your senses in turn. You can invest by swimming in the sea, picking up a book by a new author, tuning the radio into a new station, taking up Japanese, or crochet or weight-lifting.
If it’s never too late to grow new neurons or discover new neural pathways then it’s never too late to invest in yourself, never too late to be grateful and, as we’ll explore in our September journal, it’s never too early.
Lifetime’s popular events range from Life-drawing to Body Positivity. Taking place in our beautiful Georgian practice, each one is an opportunity to invest in your wellbeing and pay into your Lifetime penision.