Yesterday, I was paying for some groceries when the check-out associate asked me how my day was going. I responded the way I do almost every time someone asks me that question. “Every day is a good day.” An older man standing behind me said, “Well, if you are on this side of the dirt, then it probably is a good day.” In the bigger scheme of things, I think the man was right.
Having a positive outlook has been associated with overall life satisfaction, health, and even longevity. The good news is that various reports suggest anyone can develop a more positive attitude towards life, but it takes some work.
Attitude a Key to Successful Aging
A wonderful older neighbor once had told me that having a positive attitude was the key to aging successfully. She said that sometimes she got down, but she always fought hard to pick herself back up and to practice a positive outlook no matter what. I enjoyed being around her because she was such an upbeat, positive person. For me, maintaining a positive outlook is a choice I try to make each day.
My life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of losses and traumas as most all of us have, but I also believe that paying attention to my attitude has helped me become more resilient and to live my best life. That doesn’t mean I don’t get down or don’t get frustrated. However, I do work hard to get back up again. Some of the strategies I use that help me with my attitude include mindful responses, reframing, and opportunities to refresh my body and spirit.
When I intentionally respond to people with an upbeat comment and smile, people usually reflect a similar attitude back to me. What then occurs is some emotional contagion—we automatically pick up positive nonverbal behaviors (including facial expressions and tone of voice)—and then we mimic it. When we start mimicking positive attitudes, we can actually feel more positive.
Reframing involves viewing situations, events, or thoughts in different ways. When I face something unexpected or some new challenge, I try to think of it as a learning opportunity. For example, when I started drawing on my husband’s Social Security last year (so that I could wait until I turn 70 to draw my own), I didn’t think about the need to have my federal tax withheld. When I recently got my tax statement, I had a sudden jolt of reality. First, I was glad I had set some money aside. Second, it prompted me to take action and immediately correct my withholding amount for next year. It also gave me an experience I could share as a warning for others. I hope I’ve learned something that I don’t have to repeat again.
Refreshing Body and Spirit
I do try to get outside almost every day to at least walk. Usually, I’ll also include a four-mile jog unless the weather is blustery. I live near a rural area and can walk alongside a sheep pasture, a pond, and lots of trees. I take time to breathe deeply and refresh my spirit.
I also try to make it part of my habit to express gratitude or appreciation each day. When I’m out jogging, I often express appreciation for my family and all the wonderful people who have come into my life. Other times, I feel gratitude for what I can see, smell, hear and feel. When I get outside and move, and when I express gratitude, I feel renewed. Life is good and full of opportunities to grow and learn.
A New Opportunity to Grow
Last week, I was invited to participate in a virtual symposium related to positive aging and retirement. This free symposium will be available on March 10-12. It was a great learning opportunity for me, and I was honored to be included in this event with eleven other experts in the field. To register, click here.