What Does “Wellness” mean as we Age

“Wellness,” generally refers to more than the lack of illness or being physically compromised.  We can feel integrated and whole even when not all is well with our bodies.  I can speak to this from my experience with chemotherapy, while fatigued and exhausted at times, there was an underlying sense of, “all is well.” In wellness there is a sense of integration, of functioning at our maximum, whatever the given situation may be.   Wellness has to do with our whole selves, with all that we are, our body, mind/emotions, social connections, and our spirit.  In this article I want to talk about each one of these areas in a general way.

Physical Wellness

We are physical beings. We live in our bodies as a part of who we are.  So, what happens to our bodies and how we treat our bodies is important to our sense of wholeness and well-being. This is especially true as we age, isn’t it.

Our bodies change as we age. How do we feel about those changes? What do we say to ourselves about our bodies aging? These are important considerations as we come into our 50s and beyond because while we can talk about each one of these areas separately they all converge to form who we are as a whole and in the end are inseparable. We are not, in reality, segmented into pieces. One area effects all other areas, so the divisions are simply a tools we can use to aid in self-understanding and personal growth.

Our physicality, our physical being, needs nurture, attention, care, and patience just like our spirits and others areas of ourselves. As I reflect on my own journey, this may have been the most neglected part of my younger years. I wonder what yours was? We often don’t get the balancing act done very well, do we, especially in our earlier years when there are so many demands begging for our attention.

Having a more relaxed schedule and being better able to choose our involvements is one of the joys of aging, especially as we reach our retirement years. While there is a lot of “letting go” that has to happen in the process, the eventual ability to enjoy our current choices grows. I care for my body better now than I ever have! It has served me so well and I appreciate my body more than I did in earlier times.

Ways we can focus on body-care as we age are as numerous as the women we are. Some of us will enjoy one thing and others of us will gravitate toward something else. There are some basics though, for all of us, that contribute to wellness as we age. I will list some I believe are important for all of us:

  • a gentle form of routine exercise and stretching
  • a nutritious, delicious, and varied diet
  • maintaining, or getting to, a healthy weight
  • good care of our hair, skin, and nails to avoid infection and injury/damage
  • deep breathing
  • consistent use of sunscreen
  • adequate fluid intake daily
  • 8 hours of REM sleep per night

These are things to consider as our bodies age and we learn to appreciate and care for them at this stage in our lives. When our body feels good, it contributes to our well-being in other areas.

 

A healthy mind and emotions

This is a wonderful time in life.  We can now ask ourselves questions we may not have been able to tolerate very well when we were younger. Now we can not only tolerate them, but we are often more ready to engage with them. Questions like, “Do I like the way I think and feel?” “What are the ways of thinking I have developed over the years?”  “Do I like myself?” It can take a while to sort through some of these questions. Other answers will surface quickly for us.

The wonderful thing about our minds, our thoughts, and our feelings is that they are fluid. If we don’t like them, we can work at changing them. What good news is that! Later on I will be adding articles to this website to help us understand much more clearly how we have either intentionally or unintentionally developed our thoughts and feelings and what some tools are that can help us work at healthy ways of thinking and feeling.

No, our feelings are not just plopped on us. They have been created for decades by the way we think about ourselves, others, and our world. Understanding our emotions in this way is so hopeful and freeing.  It means we are not locked in.  We can change what we don’t like.  Do you know what you think? Can you name your feelings quickly? We do well to pay attention because happiness, joy, and contentment are very closely connected to these questions.

I think this is the single most powerful understanding for helping us nurture a healthy mind and emotions as we age.

Social Wellbeing

This is another area to which we can pay attention as we grow beyond our 50s. As we age, so do our friends and family, so sometimes we face losses. Being intentional about these losses and allowing ourselves to grieve can help us move forward to develop new and equally meaningful relationships, even while we miss the older, long-standing ones.

With the mobility of our culture today, it is common for our children to be at other places around the world or in other cities so while social media and ease of communication helps us stay in touch, we often miss our family being around us. There is also a parallel freedom that can go with this, because our kids are solidly on their own by now.

We do well to simply assess our current social connections so as not to allow ourselves to become too lonely and depressed, wishing for what was. Developing some new relationships can go a long way in sustaining us into our 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Caring for Ourselves Spiritually

I am Christian, with a judeo christian heritage for as far back as I can trace my family line. My exposure to faith traditions different from my own have brought me through a deeply spiritual journey since my mid-teens. So, I hope you feel at home with me as we explore spiritual development and growth as our journeys unfold.

As a young teen with a deep desire for God, I read a lot, practiced a sincere journaling discipline, and engaged in many of the classic spiritual disciplines which have embedded themselves into my current life. It is the place of my deepest joy!  I hope you join me as I offer a variety of invitations in this area as part of  wellness beyond your 50s.

Practices such as meditation, prayer, journaling, labyrinth walking, silence, and solitude can deepen us and heal many wounds as we dispose ourselves to a love that is without beginning or end. We are very dearly held in this love as we walk into the years after 50 and beyond.

Join me on the Journey!

I would be amiss to not say that some of us get stuck, maybe most of us, somewhere along this aging after 50 journey. The most important invitation I can offer is for us to not ignore the stuckness when we recognize it. There are really good therapists, counselors, even lay persons who can listen to us until we find our way. We need to avail ourselves of those gracious services lest we spend our later years in depression, and despair. I myself, have sought help at some of the most difficult junctures in my life. It is a sign of strength, not weakness to reach for help.

What does “wellness” mean as we age? It may mean a little something different for all of us, but in some under girding way it means a deep sense of integration and acceptance of all that has been in our lives.  In some ways it means letting go, while it also means the holding together of all the areas of our lives into a cohesive whole that is resilient, joyful, and deeply grateful.

I would love to hear from you so please leave me any comments or questions and I will respond a soon as I can.

 

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