Howard Napper is a yoga teacher & aging expert with the unique ability to cut through much of the hype surrounding the ‘Anti-Ageing’ movement.
He is also the expert who created the yoga sequences on my DVD, (“Glynis Barber’s Anti-Aging Yoga Secrets”) which was released this week! We had great fun with it on QVC earlier this week and are thrilled that it will be available online from next week. Here he looks at society’s view on ageing and at how to keep yourself “biologically” youthful.
Hope I die before I get old
To say there is a modern day obsession with looking younger than our years could be something of an understatement. And with an anti-ageing industry turning over a staggering 170 billion pounds annually, it’s also worth pointing out it’s an obsession we are happy to pay big money for.
At first glance it might appear that we’ve always had an obsession with youth, but it is only recently that we have developed a mandate requiring us not to look our years. Yes, women through the centuries might have always yearned for flawless skin, but there was a time not long ago when the later stages of life were revered and seen as something to look forward to. Middle age was a period in life where one would achieve a respect not found when young, develop wisdom and even discover spiritual connection. Like a good bottle of wine, life was considered to get better with age.
But all this changed in the 60’s and 70’s, when the old secure framework of morality, authority and discipline disintegrated and the teenager was invented. This was the first time in history when the old and young generations stood in stark contrast to each other. As a result many young people ostracized anyone they considered to be old – this usually meant over the age of 30.
The feelings of the time were probably best summed in the 1965 song “My Generation” by the Who, with the line, “I hope I die before I get old.”
What emerged from this clash of generations was a negative attitude towards age that has now developed into an epidemic of ageism. The irony of course is that it is the generation that created this ageism that is now feeling its sting.
For many, the process of growing old in a youth-centred world is not easy. But the struggle is not to do with vanity per se, rather it is more to do with continually having to question one’s place in the world. Whether we like it or not, we have now created a world where youth is looked upon as something of a commodity and to lose it can leave us feeling emotionally bankrupt.
It seems we are never fully prepared for the transition of fading youth and as a result our self-esteem is tested every day. When we struggle to transition from one period of life to another, we can become emotionally stuck and depressed. At the time we might be totally unaware of the cause, but nevertheless the pain is very real. This kind of depression can have many side effects including anxiety, substance abuse, sleeping disorders, relationship problems and in extreme cases suicide.
Most people’s idea of a midlife crisis is something of a cliché, but when you are in the midst of one, it can be very dark and real. In no way is it trivial to admit that aging is difficult.
But if approached properly, ageing needn’t feel like a prison sentence. The key to successfully transitioning through any period of life is the ability to keep reevaluating and redefining your values as you go along. Values change as we age and we have to be able change with them.
It is very unlikely that the values we set out with in our 20’s are still going to be working for us in our late 30’s and early 40’s. And these kinds of changes occur throughout our life.
We have also lost the ability to create appropriate role models for the ageing process. Before the rise of a celebrity culture, the role models we looked to as we aged were usually people around us like our parents and others within the community. Without healthy role models it’s almost impossible to navigate all the hype, airbrushing and pressure that is on us to look a certain way.
It’s not the passing of years that makes us old, rather it’s a loss of our youthful sprit, as well as the combined effects of inactivity, poor nutrition and illness.
In order to truly be happy and healthy no matter what stage of life we are at, it would serve us well to rediscover many of the values of the past and perhaps believe once again that life can truly begin at 50 – or 40, or 60, or any age for that matter.
10 simple tips for healthy ageing:
- Our ability to age well boils down to adopting a healthy lifestyle – our genes only account for approximately 20% of the way we age.
- Exercise is the only real anti-ageing pill we have – look for less obvious ways to exercise like getting a dog, using the stairs instead of the lift, etc.
- Chronic inflammation in the body is the root cause of many degenerative diseases. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet using foods and herbs like ginger, turmeric and salmon.
- Avoid eating processed foods. If a food has more than 2 or 3 ingredients it usually means it has been processed.
- Keep your insulin levels to a minimum by reducing sugars and simple carbohydrates. This includes things like fruit juice, died fruit and anything made with flour.
- Stress is the #1 premature ager – reduce stress levels by using breathing techniques and adopting effective coping mechanisms.
- Acceptance is a key part of ageing well – stay focused on the benefits ahead and not on what you feel you might be losing.
- Look out for good ageing role models amongst friends and celebrities, avoid the ones you feel have fallen into ageing traps.
- Our chronological age means very little in optimum ageing – simply aim to be the best you can be at any age.
- Our biological age is a far more accurate reflection of our true age – it is not linear and can go up and down depending on whether we make good or bad health choices.
Finally, always remember happy people live longer!!
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