Mindfulness For Healthy Aging: Promoting Self-Compassion and Body Positivity
There’s no doubt about it: growing older isn’t for wimps. Your body changes. Your appearance changes. You often simply don’t have the strength, stamina, and physical functioning that you once took for granted.
What that means, ultimately, is that, as you age, you may well develop a kind of love-hate relationship with your body. Your body may even feel almost unrecognizable, as if you’re walking around in a stranger’s skin.
The good news, though, is that, no matter what the aging process may bring, it is possible to feel like yourself again. It is possible to learn to inhabit your body comfortably and even joyfully. It all depends on your capacity to cultivate self-compassion and body positivity. And perhaps your best path for achieving both is through meditation and mindfulness.
The Critical Importance of Self-Compassion
We spend our lives endeavoring to show compassion to those in need. We admonish children and adults alike to be kind, always. But how many of us, really, exhibit such kindness and compassion toward ourselves?
For far too many of us, the answer is “almost never.” Instead, we are often judgmental, critical, and even cruel, especially when it comes to our bodies. This can be especially true as those inevitable signs of aging begin to emerge or when our bodies no longer can perform as they did when we were younger.
In the face of such a lack of self-compassion, it’s perhaps little wonder that so many struggle with body positivity as we age. Regular meditation and mindfulness practices, though, can help you become more cognizant of the negative self-talk you may be engaging in without even realizing it.
Once you become aware of your on-going internal dialogue, you can set about transforming it into something more affirming, productive, and healing. Ultimately, your goal is to use meditation and mindfulness to help you develop authentic self-esteem, a sense of self based in acceptance and validation of your life experiences at every stage of your life’s journey.
Positivity, Compassion, and Mindfulness
As we age, physiological changes that we may perceive as undesirable often claim the lion’s share of attention. We may notice the wrinkles and the sagging skin before we pay homage to the unique wisdom that we have cultivated over the course of a lifetime. We may lament the loss of our stamina and strength before we celebrate the particular skills and achievements that have accumulated across the decades.
Mindfulness, however, can be a powerful antidote for such tendencies. It requires us to become deeply centered in our bodies, how they feel and what they do. And when you become aware of your body in the present moment, it’s nearly impossible to compare it unfavorably to the past or fret about the future to come.
Rather, mindfulness supports strong, affirming mind-body connections that help you better appreciate and experience the miracle that your body is, right here and right now. And with such an appreciation often comes a renewed commitment to cherishing and nurturing that miracle in every way possible.
For example, when you use meditation and mindfulness to become more centered in your body, more aware of its functioning, you are also more likely both to detect nascent health concerns and to proactively intervene before they can progress into a significant problem. Varicose veins, for instance, often occur with age.
Though common and often benign, they can, at times, lead to life-threatening complications, including blood clots. When you are mindful of your body, when you feel compassionately and positively toward it, you’re not only going to be more aware of when things go wrong, but you’re also more likely to take action when they do.
This might involve your seeking treatment early on for your venous condition, or it might mean cultivating a lifestyle to support long-term wellness, even in the face of age-related challenges. You might, for instance, embrace a daily exercise regimen or a diet designed for health and longevity.
Throughout our lives, many of us experience a relationship with our bodies that can be described as ambivalent at best. The majority of people have something about themselves they would like to change.
We wish we looked differently.
We wish we could run faster or jump higher.
We wish our bodies could be more like the people we see in the magazines, at the movies, or on the athletic field.
Self-compassion and body positivity are often not a significant portion of our emotional lineup when we are young. Unfortunately, though, the problems only tend to worsen as we age, as we begin to compare our appearance and our performance to our younger selves.
The good news, though, is that compassion and positivity can be cultivated at any age, but they are especially important for supporting wellness as we grow older. And when you want to cultivate self-esteem and body acceptance and love, there are no better tools than meditation and mindfulness.