After a visit about aches, pains and various medical issues, a patient was commenting on getting older. Similar to other patients, I expected him to say something like, “It’s no fun getting older.” To my surprise, the patient said, “I’m 85. That means I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Some people are almost always positive, and some are usually negative. Those who are positive have been found to have better outcomes and seem to enjoy themselves more, while unfortunately, those who tend to be more negative do not do as well. Granted, factors such as poor health and misfortune can diminish anyone’s attitude. Thankfully, with a little effort, all can change their mindset. It really is amazing how much gratitude and a positive demeanor can improve your health.
There are many small ways to brighten your outlook. To start with, begin and end your day listing what you are grateful for.
Stop comparing yourself to others. This is one of the reasons social media has been shown to make people unhappy. If people are constantly looking at how others are doing, dressing and traveling, they cannot resist comparing and think they are missing out.
Exercise helps you feel better. Getting fresh air, some sun and that heart pumping creates endorphins in your brain that can help improve your mental health, in addition to the benefits to your physical health.
Look to build lasting relationships. Studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with friends and family are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer. Start building those relationships now. It takes time to gain trust, to listen and to show you care.
As we get older, our world tends to get smaller. The places we go may decrease, and the people we see may become fewer; our daily activities may become more limited. However, that does not need to lead to less happiness. In fact, quite the contrary.
There is a poem that starts with “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple." It draws on the wisdom of being yourself. When the pressure to perform and impress has passed, it can be liberating to know more about yourself, what you like and what you do not like. Then you will be free to just enjoy your day and maybe wear purple with a red hat, if you feel so inclined.
Andrew Ellsworth, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show based on science, built on trust for 21 seasons, broadcast on SDPB and streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.
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