How to Forgive Your Aging Body

Who is this new - old - person, anyway?

Look kindly upon your aging body. Derek Berwin/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Do you ever feel that you don't recognize the body you're currently inhabiting?  Maybe your midsection is expanding, your once-curly hair is now straight, your voice is changing for the first time since puberty, your breasts are migrating, and even your car doesn't fit you the way it used to.  In some ways you're entering the maintenance phase of life: all your efforts to stay fit and healthy seem to keep you in a holding pattern, rather than helping you make any tangible progress.

While we may joke about the frustrations of getting older, the fact is that this new normal can leave us dissatisfied and even resentful towards friends or acquaintances who seem to have landed a better aging deal. If your teeth are clenched when a colleague describes his latest sports conquest - as you're struggling to walk around the block without knee pain - take a moment to ponder whether your aging body deserves some compassion. Here are a few ways to approach forgiving your aging body.

1. Practice acceptance:

  Railing against the inevitable march of time is a fruitless endeavour.  We have no control over our chronological age, but it's not a lost battle.  A healthy lifestyle can keep you biologically young - delaying disability and confining health problems to a shorter period at the end of your life.  Scientists call it compression of morbidity.

 You can call it a better aging strategy that focuses on what you can control.  

2.  Practice gratitude:  

When your energy is flagging and your joints are sore, it may seem that everyone else is more physically able than you are.  Try thanking your body for what it is capable of - walking down the street, lifting your grandchild, or getting to a friend's house for a visit.

Showing yourself some gratitude and loving kindness doesn't just feel good, it's likely to boost your longevity, too.

3.   Practice mindfulness:  

Conflicting feelings towards aging are a natural part of getting older, but these emotions needn't get the better of you. Mindfulness - the simple act of acknowledging emotional upheaval with a kind of benevolent detachment - is a strategy which can help you weather the ups and downs of any physical challenges you may be confronting.  Even brief meditations each day can help you be more conscious of your state of mind, and more accepting of your physical condition.

4.   Let go of the dream of a body that works perfectly:  

As a smart friend said recently, "everybody's got something".  Seek out advice on how to manage chronic conditions to the best of your ability; follow someone else's lead if you like their attitude and perspective towards aging. Resilience is more than just a positive attitude, it's a trait that can help you bounce back after a health challenge like a heart attack or joint replacement - or even bout of the flu.

5.   Practice humor:  

Not only does humor make life just that much better, it's a great strategy for coping with stress as well. The next time you notice your belly hanging over your belt, indulge in a belly laugh. You may not be the shape you once were, but you're the same person inside.

Remember, getting older sucks only until you consider the alternative.  Not getting older means you're not here to grow, to continue to cultivate meaningful social bonds, explore your spiritual side, volunteer for a cause that's meaningful to you, and if you choose, work on leaving some kind of legacy. If you can still think, you can still contribute to a small or wide circle - as long as you try to forgive your aging body and keep moving forward.

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