If there's one thing that upsets me, it's people who aren't reaching their potential because they underestimate themselves. I see this most in the older population. Of course it's easy to understand how confidence could have been rocked over the past year, but even before this there was often a general assumption that when you get to a certain age things go downhill and your adventurous and inquizative days are behind you. This just simply isn't true. Of course there are things that don't come so easy, the joints may not move as freely as they did in your younger years, you may be dealing with chronic pain, bereavement or coming to terms with different ways to fill your days, but the good news is that there is still so much you can do to keep your body and mind healthy. Here are some of the things I have learnt about the positive steps you can take to achieve this...
The brain doesn't stop producing brain cells - It used to be believed that the brain cells you were born with were the ones you took with you to the grave but in the 1960s it was discovered that the brain can make 700 new neurons in the hippocampus per day. The hippocampus is important for learning, memory, mood and emotion. Learning new skills at any age can help with this and a fact that blew my mind recently was that being an amateur is better for the brain than being a professional. This is because it is harder for the amateur. The brain needs challenges so it knows it is needed, so no excuses for starting that hobby you've been putting off.
Moving regularly is important but it doesn't have to be difficult. Studies have shown that just walking briskly (your heart is beating and it's harder to talk but you are not panting or struggling to breathe) three times a week is not only good for your body but protective for your brain.
Social connection and purpose - as we get older there can be less opportunites to get together with a group of people and just hangout or even better, do something together that everyone enjoys. Obviously this has been nearly impossible during the pandemic, but all of the research shows that as soon as we are allowed and it is safe, we absolutely should. It goes back to the days when we belonged to tribes and being alone meant death. Our bodies release the same stress hormones when we are alone for long periods without our family and friends. Having a purpose within that tribe is also important, so we feel we have a place and are needed. Joining a social group can make such a difference to how you feel. I have been part of a book and podcast club using zoom during the lockdown and it has made such a difference to how I feel. Knowing i'm learning things that can help my clients also gives me my sense of purpose.
Diet - food information can be very confusing but in a nutshell, eat as little processed food as you can. This includes ready meals, shop bought biscuits, chocolates or anything that has lots and lots of ingredients on the jar/tin/packet. Cook as much from scratch as you can and include lots of fruit, vegetables and water.
Sleep - Prioritise your sleep. Your brain is working overtime when you close your eyes at night at it needs enough time to get the job done. If you're struggling with your sleep, find out how you can change this. There are some tips on my blog about sleep.
Keeping stress to a minimum - Chronic stress is so destructive to the body. You may not be able to see it, but chronic stress will contribute to the decline of your physical and mental health. Put measures in place to minimise the stress in your life. Breathing practice, meditation and reflexology are all great for this. Also be aware of how you are talking to yourself. Are you berating youreslf when you get things wrong? Give yourself a break. Think of the voice in your head as a good friend then watch how different you feel and how much more willing you are to try new things.
If you haven't already, try reflexology. It works with your body to achieve balance and this may give you the space needed to tune into your body and make decisions about your next steps. I am always available if you have any questions.