“One of the most interesting study findings has to do with attitudes toward aging itself. Young middle-aged people (in their forties and fifties) with positive feelings about growing older- gaining wisdom, freedom from working, opportunities to travel and learn more- tended to enjoy better health, and better cognitive health later in life.” — Bill Gifford
I spend a lot of my day talking about how our attitudes impact our aging and health. Coming from a young person, I get a lot of dirty looks and people telling me I don't understand reality.
But this isn’t just some delusional thinking coming from what I would like aging to be. No. Our attitudes and beliefs influencing our health as we age are actually backed by research.
The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging is the longest-running study we have on aging today. It’s produced a huge volume of data that’s been sifted through by researchers to develop a deeper understanding of aging. Researchers have been putting subjects through a battery of tests since 1958, throughout their lifespan, to identify patterns and aging predictors.
Once researchers analyzed the data, they realized there was no single biomarker to indicate aging. Which had been one of the initial intentions of the study. Nothing could be simply identified through bloodwork to tell you at what pace you would age and how much life you had left. But they did catch on to some other surprising patterns.
“Exercise has powerful capabilities to improve health, but so do words.” -Katy Bowman, Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility
Participants of the study were not only subjected to physical tests but also surveys assessing their mental health and attitudes toward aging. And one strong consistency was noted.
Middle-age adults (defined as being in their 40’s and 50’s) who reported positive feelings about aging fared better later in life than adults who reported negative feelings about aging.
And this isn’t the only study that has come across this finding. Studies have also found that older adults who were shown positive wording associated with aging did better on physical tests than older adults exposed to negative words associated with aging.
So if you need evidence to change your attitudes and beliefs you can find plenty of it. And it’s never too late to start to use this to your advantage.
The first step is to identify how you view aging. Make note of the thoughts that run through your mind.
The next and more difficult step is to actively change your thought patterns if you found they were mostly negative. By changing your story, you can take control of your aging today.