Just a few decades ago, conventional medicine viewed the body as a machine that would sooner or later give up the ghost. As a medical student, I learned that the body is controlled by random chemical processes, that mind and body are separate, and that health and longevity are genetically predetermined.
Today, medical science comes to a very different conclusion. The body is more than tangible a field of energy and intelligence that is intimately connected to the mind. The mind affects every cell in the body. Normal" aging, and the progressive loss of physical and mental abilities that comes with it, is largely learned. The human aging process is changeable, can speed up, slow down and be reversed.
There are many studies on how our mindset affects aging. For example, a groundbreaking study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer showed that supposedly irreversible signs of aging, such as loss of hearing, vision, dexterity, muscle strength and memory, can be reversed by changes in mindset and physical and mental exercise.
Genetic predispositions do not determine our health and how fast we age. How we behave and what we focus our attention on changes our physical experience and can lower biological age.
With the following seven tips, we can find our inner source of boundless energy, creativity, vibrancy and love.
1. Change how you perceive your body and think about aging
Perceiving means making a choice, consciously directing one’s attention to something and interpreting it. Our perceptual habits shape the "reality" of the body and aging. Instead of seeing the body as an unchangeable, biological machine, see it as an ever-renewing field of energy, change, and intelligence.
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself, about your body and aging. Say things like, "At my age, I need reading glasses," "I’m too old for yoga" or any other activity, "I inherited my father’s back," ? Change your perspective and how you talk about your age. Your cells listen to everything you say. If you don’t want your father’s back or other family illnesses, don’t see these intentions in their consciousness. One powerful statement is
" Every day I strengthen my mental and physical abilities"
2. Reduce stress and meditate
Fatigue and pent-up stress make us old. Meditation is a simple and powerful tool for experiencing deep relaxation. During meditation, the breath and heart slow down and stress decreases. The body relaxes.
Research shows that people who meditate regularly have lower rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and other stress-related illnesses. New research shows meditation also renews the brain. According to a Massachusetts General Hospital study, after just 8 weeks of meditation, areas of the brain related to memory, compassion, self-understanding, and stress management grow. This study is further evidence that the brain can change and is capable of growing at different stages of life. Regular meditation strengthens the brain and gives a youthful mind.
How to start meditating?
It is best to learn a traditional meditation practice from a trained teacher. If you learn to meditate on your own or from a book instead, you may acquire the wrong technique or soon give up in frustration when your expectations are not met. The Chopra Center offers primal sound meditation, which dates back thousands of years to the Vedic tradition. Or try the 21-Day Meditation Challenge (in English).
3. Restful sleep
An often overlooked key to health and enjoyment of life is restful sleep. Some people brag about how little sleep they need. Lack of sleep disrupts the body’s internal balance, weakens the immune system and accelerates the aging process.
People need between 6 and 8 hours of restful sleep every day. Restful sleep means being able to fall asleep and stay asleep easily without sleeping pills or alcohol, and feeling alive when you wake up. If you feel tired and sluggish in the morning, you have not had a restful sleep. We sleep best, in tune with nature’s rhythms, when we go to bed at 10 a.m. and wake up at 6 a.m.
Ideally, eat only lightly digestible foods in the evening before 7 p.m. so that sleep is not disturbed by digestion. Take a leisurely walk after dinner, then go to bed at 10 p.m.
It helps to write down thoughts from the day in a journal so the mind doesn’t keep you awake.
4. Eat healthy food
There are "dead" foods that accelerate the aging process and decomposition and foods that renew the body. Stop eating food from the can, freezer, microwave, or industrially processed foods. Eat a variety of freshly prepared foods. A varied diet includes all 6 tastes sweet , sour, salty, spicy, bitter and tart. The typical American diet is sweet, sour and salty, which is like the taste of a hamburger. Eaten in excess, such a diet can slow down your metabolism.
Spicy, bitter and tart is anti-inflammatory and increases metabolism. These flavors are found in radishes, ginger, mustard, pepper, spinach, mushrooms, tea, lentils and lettuce, for example.
In addition to the six flavors, fill your plate with the colors of the rainbow if you want to be healthy and live long. Deep blue, purple, red, green and orange fruits and vegetables are pure nature and contain many nutrients to strengthen physical resistance and ensure your health.
Examples of rainbow foods
Red tomatoes, red peppers, pink grapefruits, watermelons, red grapes, red beets, red cabbage, apples, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, cranberries
Squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, melons, mangoes, oranges, papayas, nectarines
Broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, peas, avocado, collard greens
Deep blue, purple
Plums, blueberries, black raspberries, blackberries, purple grapes, eggplants
5. Fitness exercises
Regular exercise keeps the body and mind young and promotes a sense of well-being. Dr. William Evans and Irwin Rosenberg of Tufts University have described the effect of physical exercise on various aging characteristics such as body mass, body strength, ability to consume oxygen and burn fat, bone density and cholesterol. In his new book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Harvard University professor and physician John Ratey, describes research showing how physical activity leads to biological changes and stimulates brain cells to connect with each other. This "spark," or spark as he calls it, increases a person’s ability to learn and adapt and mental abilities.
A complete fitness program makes you agile and trains your cardiovascular system and strength. Find an oxygen-consuming, fat-burning sport that you can do regularly. 3 or 4 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes is usually enough to make measurable improvements. After warming up, do stretching exercises for 5 – 10 minutes and strengthen the main muscle groups of the body.
Start exercising slowly. Find physical activities that you enjoy and practice them regularly. If you can only take one lap around the house at the moment, do this. You will be surprised how quickly you can increase your stamina and enthusiasm for exercise and breathing.
6. Love and friendship
Isolation and loneliness make you old. Recently widowed and men who have been laid off, statistically, die sooner or are more likely to have a heart attack. The emotional value of social connections is great. In countries like the U.S., people have gone in a different direction, where interpersonal relationships are on the decline due to high divorce rates, single parents, and a population that constantly changes residences. The trend is worsening as the fastest growing segment of the population, those 80 and older, enter nursing homes. Fewer and fewer elderly people are being cared for at home. There is prejudice that seniors are a burden on the young and on society.
It is very important to stay in touch with existing contacts throughout your life and to be open to new relationships. Resist the urge to secretly isolate yourself more and more, believing that society expects this of you. Losing friends and partners is an inevitable part of growing older, precisely because many can’t find replacements or lack the motivation to form new relationships. By "replacement," I don’t necessarily mean a new partner or family, but emotional ties that give your life meaning. No matter how much you read or watch TV, it cannot replace loving, caring and human contact. Older people can get involved in mentoring programs, educational and youth institutions.
7. Keep a youthful mind
"Boundless flexibility is the secret of immortality" is a Vedic saying. Being flexible means constantly renewing yourself. Adaptability reverses the aging process. Children offer the most beautiful expression of openness and flexibility. You play and laugh unabashedly and find the smallest things fascinating. Children are boundlessly creative because they haven’t yet learned limitations and boundaries. Keep your youthfulness. Write down 2 or 3 things kids do or that remind you of your childhood, like eating popsicles, swinging on the playground, coloring a picture, jumping rope or building a sand castle. What was fun for you as a child? Forget that you are too old for this and do it today.
While acting like a child, you give yourself the freedom to be the archetype of the carefree, innocent child. You don’t want a return to childhood, but something deeper, as suggested by the therapist A.H. Almaas described. A child exudes baseless fullness, inner vitality, and joy in being themselves without having to earn it. Have you lost the liveliness you had as a child? Reliving our childlike nature makes us young and connects us to the part of us that was never born and never died – our spiritual side that has always been there and will always be there.
Chopra Center sleep routine
Sleeping before midnight is most rejuvenating. Sleeping 8 hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is more restful than sleeping between 24 a.m. to 8 a.m.
For restful sleep, try the following routine
- Have an easily digestible dinner before 7:30 p.m
- Take a leisurely walk afterwards
- Avoid exciting, grueling or mentally intense activities after 8:30 p.m.
- Take a hot bath with a few drops of relaxing oil an hour before going to bed.
- Light a candle in the bathroom or listen to relaxing music.
- Perform an oil massage.
- Drink a relaxing herbal tea
- Diffuse relaxing scents in your bedroom.
- If you have a lot of thoughts, write them down in your diary to avoid dwelling on them further
- Read inspirational literature for a few minutes before going to bed. Avoid reading material that causes concern.
- Don’t watch TV in bed and don’t work.
- Once you are in bed, close your eyes and feel your body. Wherever in the body you feel tension, consciously relax that area. Then watch your slow breathing until you fall asleep.
© Copyright 2011 the Chopra Center for Wellbeing at La Costa Resort and Spa. 2013 Costa de Lar Rd. Carlsbad, CA 92009. Adapted from the American by Dr. Joachim Schneider. Click here to read the original article in English