I have the privilege of teaching a vibrant group of elders in a twice-weekly Chair Yoga class. Into their 60s-80s, they are persistently curious, open-minded and jovial. We often start each class by checking in with each other and sharing new information we’ve recently learned about wellness.
Since beginning the class, I’ve been taking mental notes from them on how to live a healthy life as we age, as they are clearly living right.
“Aging ain’t for sissies” as a older cousin likes to remind me. In her 70s, she suffers from a plethora of physical ailments including plain old loneliness. As we age, it’s obviously more difficult to maintain a positive and motivated mindset due to a lifetime of disappointments, illness, pain and loss. And yet, this group of seniors in my Chair Yoga class has experienced all of the above and continue to thrive. Why?
Our mental health is an essential part of our ability to not just live, but flourish. It’s easier for us to be positive and joyful when we’re young, but to maintain a positive outlook later on takes discipline and faith. Discipline to honestly see how our mind negatively colors our perspective of reality and faith that a mindful and/or inspirational practice will benefit us on many levels.
Allowing our minds to free-range is like putting a flag out on a stormy day to be jerked back and forth by the changing winds which do not have our best interests in ‘mind’. If all this makes sense to you, but has been difficult to apply, try this.
Start small with one new practice and give yourself a 30-day challenge to add this habit into your daily routine (if you need convincing of the power of a 30-day challenge, watch this short video from Ted.com.
Here are some suggestions for your 30-Day Challenge:
- Go on a nightly news sabbatical. I mean really – have you ever watched any thing more depressing? Why is it called ‘news’ any way as it completely omits all the good that is done every moment of every day…? It really should be called the Nightly Disaster Hour.
- Read inspirational books.
- Take up a new hobby or do an existing hobby with full attention to the present moment. Use the time to stay focused and aware, as opposed to rehashing things that happened in the past or will happen in the future.
- Do a mind/body practice such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Dance.
- Try other mindful movements – walking, running, biking, washing the dishes, etc.
If you are new to meditation, I recommend a metta meditation, which is a sweet way to begin looking upon yourself and others with loving kindness. This practice will soften and lighten you – a good antidote to the thick protective walls we build around our hearts that separate us from ourselves and each other.
Repeat this to someone you know who could use these same blessings.
Repeat this for all beings.
Be aware of any resistance that arises as you repeat blessings to yourself and others, and allow them to just be there while you continue sending these blessings of loving kindness.
Now isn’t that a beautiful way to create balance and levity?