In the US, we are obsessed with youth. Marketers’ dedication to it can’t help but make us think that something is wrong with getting older. In this series, I want to focus less on what US culture defines as “anti-aging,” and more into caring for ourselves, preparing and living our all-around best in our second half of life. Let’s stop focusing on life span, and consider how we can increase our health span.
Many of you have likely heard the Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” While I believe that people influence our behavior, I think our sphere of influence far extends five people. The habits, values, decisions, and overall outlook on life of those who surround you greatly inform how you live. And this is especially true when it comes to your health.
You may be surprised that I am starting here for this series. I could very easily lead with simple information on taking care of your heart, balancing your blood sugar, or exercising your brain (all very important, and I will talk about these too!) But, I have studied and lived (in the US) long enough to know that some of the biggest influences on how you view aging, and your overall health, are the beliefs and practices of your circle of friends, your family, and your community.
I am blessed to be a part of many amazing collections of people. Our multi-sport team, Zone Racing, is made up of a age-diverse group of goal-oriented superstars. These people inspire me daily with their curious approach to health and overall wellness. Training together is fun and encouraging, but they mostly impact my journey through their dedication, honesty, and imperfect willingness to show up. I am fortunate to co-own our team, and beyond grateful that they trust me as their leader, while also embracing me as their peer.
The women I lead in-person strength sessions for on Tuesdays and Thursdays are equally as dedicated and inspiring. They show up, work hard, and understand the importance of building strength in their second half of life. And we laugh together—getting a healthy dose of some of the best medicine for the soul.
My family and friends support me, and hold me accountable to my overall physical, mental, and emotional health. My church community provides the support system in which this all stands on, my spiritual health.
You might be cynically thinking, “good for you.” Or, you may feel stuck in a pit of loneliness, and I can say with sincerity that my heart goes out to you if this is the case. The purpose of this blog is not for me to “flex” on how lucky I am to be surrounded by some pretty cool people. Getting to this place was, and is, far from easy. Finding and nurturing these relationships and communities takes a lot of self awareness, honesty, humility, acceptance, forgiveness, time, and love (among many other things). It takes having the hard conversations, and making tough choices. I have not executed anything perfectly, and continually fall short. But, for the sake of honoring my value to serve and love others, as well as my overall heath and wellness, I continue to try!
On a larger scale, it doesn’t take a lot of Google research to prove that peoples’ health is impacted by those around you. You can see population pockets with many indicators for health, and other areas that indicate a lifestyle and culture of sickness and disease. (If you haven’t check out the practices of centenarians in the Netflix special Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones— pretty fascinating stuff).
For most, of you, fleeing to Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, or even California likely doesn’t feel like an option. But, there are still ways that you can implement an all-around healthy lifestyle by choosing who surrounds you.
A few tips on how to choose who, and how, people influence your health:
- Know you first. It is never too late to get to know yourself: your values, interests, and purpose. You have heard this before, but don’t glaze over it if you want deeper connections than the co-partying you did in college, or the ease of relationships out of proximity.
- Take quiet time to reflect on your relationships. Do not cast blame and victimize yourself while considering the impact each person has on your well-being and overall health. Lean away from judgment and shame, and into curiosity and acceptance. Your health is your responsibility. Consider how you are interacting in the relationship. If it can’t support your desire for health, then you can make changes in a considerate way.
- Have the hard conversations from a place of love. You are living under inflammation causing stress by working to skirt around them. Relationships can end, or shift, gracefully with honesty. And, you may be surprised—your friends and family might also be interested in making changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
- Nurture the relationships that matter to you. Be a vessel not a sponge. It is possible to listen and sit with someone who is experiencing hardship without taking it on by offering solutions, or absorbing their energy. Establish and uphold loving boundaries. Try to generally stop taking everything so personally. Practice this for your overall mental and physical health.
- Check your language. How you define and perceive aging matters–stop calling yourself and each other “old.” You are always getting older, and your body likely reflects the wear and tear of more years alive. But, defining yourself as “old” can be slippery slope to adopting our culture’s definition of it: invisible, used-up, unimportant, filled with medications, riddled with debilitating illness…waiting to die. I recently had a 70+ year old friend tearfully tell me how negatively impactful it was to have a friend constantly use the excuse of “I am an old lady” to turn down activity options while traveling. There is a way to smartly understand your body through the years without leaning on the “I’m old” excuse!
- And the easiest, yet far from simplest one—BE YOU! Stop giving people who you think they want (people pleasing), and know that if you show up as your most authentic self you will eventually attract “your” people. Look for like-minded friends and communities. If you are focused on improving and upholding your health, find communities and bravery get involved. If needed, take a big leap and change locations. Explore new hobbies. Take some risks. Have fun!
We are all works in progress on this topic, so let’s bond together with grace, rather than come at each other in judgment or self-righteousness. Choose who you surround yourself with from a place of love, of yourself and others.
Thanks for letting me into your circle. 🙂