Columns
November 15, 2018
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Mind Body and Spirit

Steven Campbell
You’re as young as you think you are
June 29, 2018

The Journal of Gerontology sites how we feel about 13 years younger than we really are! 

I turned 71 last week and I don’t feel 13 years younger! In fact, I’m finding myself saying, “I’m getting old,” and hobbling along…in time with my own script. 

However, my 93-year-old mother would say, “I keep forgetting I’m not 60!” and lived like it.

In fact, according to Emma Seppala, Ph.D., author of “The Happiness Track,” there is growing evidence that the expression of many of our genes is connected to how we choose to think. 

Compassion’s clout - Getting out of ourselves

Research is also discovering that choosing to express compassion for others can actually erase the effects of getting older. A study by Michael Poulin Ph.D. at the University of Buffalo reports there was no linkbetween stress and health a-mong people who chose to help their friends and neighbors in the past year. In contrast, people who didn’t reach out to others actually decreased their odds of survival. 

Thus the healing power of compassion for others is deeply rooted in promoting longevity! (Not to mention the fact that compassion simply makes us feel better.) 

For example, one study found that elderly people who helped adolescents work on a life problem improved their own cognitive performance at the same time. 

Another study found that older adults who shared a memorized story with children improved their own memory. 

But the following discovery is the most exciting!

The older we grow in years, the more we learn to accept our own emotions!

In other words, the older we grow, the more we can choose to accept our feelings. As a consequence, we can actually decide to feel less anger and anxiety. This is based on Albert Ellis’ book, a “Guide to Rational Loving,” who discovered that our feelings do not come from out there in the universe somewhere. Our feelings primarily come from what we are choosing to believe about ourselves, about our lives and about others who need us.

There truly is something to be said for the expression older and wiser. 

In other words, it all comes down to what we choose to think!

The hard times in your life

Think of this, dear reader. No matter how old we are, all of us can look back on our lives and see how some of the really hard times taught us life lessons we could not have learned in any other way. And it is these lessons which give us a more reflective awareness of the majesty of simply still being alive.   150 years ago, you were lucky if you lived to be 48; now the life expectancy is 85 or older.

This wisdom may be the reason that older people tend to take a more thoughtful stance about living: emphasizing the need for multiple perspectives, making room for compromise and recognizing the limits of knowledge.

Wisdom is contagious!

And this wisdom is contagious. Another study indicated that closeness to a grandparent was associated with reduced emotional problems, reduced hyperactivity and increased prosocial behaviors.

Caring keeps us healthy

I think all this science is getting to the roots of the obvious: Choosing to care for others and sharing our wisdom helps keep us alive and healthy. It also makes me think of my mom and how she loved life and the older she became, the more grateful she became for just being alive. She gave money to every single beggar she encountered and lived to help others. 

She was truly hard to keep up with!

Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent” and conducts “The Winners Circle” every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. Contact Steven at 480-5007 or go his website at stevenrcampbell.com to ask about his one-day free monthly seminar.