Ageing better: Master the ‘can do’ mindset

Exploring why physical and mental stimulation are key to ageing well.

positive mindset - ageing well

What is ageing better? For some, it is just a number. It’s living into your nonagenarian years and longer. For me, though, ageing well is about health and wellbeing – about quality of life rather than ticking off dates on a calendar. I enjoyed a fitness hiatus from around 35 – when I gave up playing football regularly – until 50, when I realised that I was not immortal. 

Let’s take a look at why a positive mindset is important and what you stand to gain from maintaining it.

Understanding the power of positive thinking

Positivity can have a profound impact on both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that people with a positive mindset tend to experience lower levels of stress, better immune function, and reduced risk of developing chronic diseases. Moreover, maintaining a positive outlook builds emotional resilience, leading to greater happiness and life satisfaction.

My epiphany came in the form of a heart scare and the acceptance that I was:

  1. Overweight
  2. Slept too little 
  3. Ate too much ultra-processed foods
  4. Had convinced myself that exercise was not for me

Acknowledging the above was the impetus I needed and with a positive mindset and a smidge of self-discipline, I have been able to make changes to my lifestyle.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but forearming yourself with the knowledge to make change now is even better and overcoming those midlife barriers to change has made a huge difference to my mental and physical wellbeing and, even more importantly, I am happier and in better health as I age. 

positive mindset - ageing well

Positive mindset for ageing better

If like me, you have a pathological disdain for ‘the gym’, don’t allow that negativity to influence your journey. Be active in different ways. I’ve studiously avoided the fitness fads and the diet de rigueur because they don’t suit how I want to live.

I get the most out of life by doing the things I enjoy most. It isn’t rocket science. I’ve tweaked my daily routine to include walking – with the dog – every morning and night and aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps. This is an arbitrary target, but there is evidence that indicates older people walking more than 7500 steps per day show a statistically significant reduction in risk to multiple chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and several cancers, and unsurprisingly this is associated with better quality of life. 

positive mindset to exercise

Embracing change with optimism

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in denial of the ageing process, I do not expect to live forever and I’m not an evangelist for positivity at the expense of accepted facts and wisdom. My path has been one of rediscovery. I have found again my love of nature, the countryside and walking, and the time it gives me to think and decompress. It is a liberating experience, rain, hail or shine.  

You don’t have to go mad to start with. Find a nice open space for a daily walk of around 30 minutes. Current NHS guidance recommends older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise every week, so spread over a week and you have fulfilled your goal. 

And it is necessary. Sport England reports that there are 1.3 million more active people aged between 55-74 years old in the UK compared to six years ago, which is great. But while activity levels are improving for the over 55s more than any other adult age group, a large proportion of older people do not meet the recommended activity guidelines, especially among the oldest age groups. 

When we exercise, our brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward and it has several positive effects on both physical and mental health.  

If mobility is an issue for you, exercise while seated or think about using the floor. Age UK has some fantastic tips on maintaining movement and chair-based exercises. The only thing stopping you from being active is you. 

“If you think you can’t, you’re just underestimating yourself. [You] just need to make the decision to try.”

Alfred Blaschke resident of Georgetown, Texas, after tandem skydiving at 106 years old.

Friends social contact - ageing better

Maintaining physical health through positivity

Building social connections and a support network is vital for healthy ageing and through regular contact can help you develop a resilient positive mindset. By staying connected with friends, family and community, we combat loneliness and isolation, which are common challenges in later life. Positive relationships provide emotional support, companionship and a sense of belonging, enhancing our overall wellbeing. For example, a study in UK Biobank found that not having someone to confide in could add 0.29 years to biological age. Similarly, not having a friendship or family group to share in a weekly group activity is associated with 0.5 additional LifeScore years.

Finding purpose and meaning

The transition to a post-work world is unsettling. For many, it manifests as a loss of value and sense of self and raises questions about purpose and meaning in life. Whether volunteering, pursuing hobbies, or spending time with loved ones, engaging in meaningful activities gives us a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. There are lots of opportunities out there and with positivity, you can be part of it. The charity sector benefits to the tune of £15 billion per year from retirees volunteering. It is a win-win situation.  

Overcoming ageist stereotypes

How you find your value in life is down to you, just do it with spark and enthusiasm. Alfred Blaschke from Texas, USA, recently reclaimed his title in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person to tandem skydive at the sprightly young age of 106 years and 327 days.

By embracing optimism, resilience and a ‘can-do’ mindset, we can overcome damaging habits and set the stage to ensure we enjoy healthier life for longer. Whether maintaining physical health or nurturing mental wellbeing, getting the most from your social circle or finding purpose post-retirement, a positive mindset is a power tool to have in your armoury.

Take your first steps to building a positive attitude to ageing well with our LifeScore calculator. You can track your goals and progress and be prompted with recommendations for how you can slow the hands of time. At autum, we’re on a mission to make Britain one million biological years younger. You can join us by downloading our free App on Android or IOS to help improve your biological age today!

For more content like Ageing better and the power of the ‘can do’ mindset See the autum blog.

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