When Negative Thoughts of Aging Do Some Damage
This 3-part series of articles will stop you from aging. These articles will remove every wrinkle you have. These articles will absolutely one hundred percent undeniably make you look and feel the youngest you have ever looked and felt in your entire life. This is Part 2. Click here for Part 1.
How do we as individuals begin to change our mindsets regarding age and reap the rewards of this lens shift? The first step is to understand the problem. It is my belief that most everyone in our culture, male or female, has a problem with aging in some way. This makes sense because, at its core, our collective fear of aging stems from our universal fear of death. The more years we accumulate, the closer we perceive our end is near.
That topic is too heavy for this space, don’t worry. Instead, our focus is the other unimportant age-related garbage we throw on top of our mind, bodies and spirits that limit our happiness and actually accelerate our decay. Let’s begin with a simple exercise to see where you score on the age-is-screwing-with-my-smile scale:
Exercise: set the intention at the beginning of one day to be conscious of any age-related thoughts you may have. Then, write down those thoughts in your phone or notebook throughout the day and label them as “negative” or “positive.”
Example: You are a musician in your late twenties and you just read that one of your favorite DJ’s just had their first big hit, and she is only 21 years-old. How does that make you feel? Is your response: “good for her, she is incredibly talented and deserves it” or more like “God I am never going to make it, I’m such an over-the-hill loser.”
I would go ahead and label that thought as negative.
Maybe it’s something more innocuous, like you want to go to bed early instead of going out partying with your friends all night like you did in the past, and one of them jokingly refers to you as “grandpa.” Do you shrug it off with a smile or does that innocent comment make you feel a little insecure?
Now at the end of that day, before you go to bed, tally up how many thoughts you recorded about aging, then look at how many are categorized as negative or positive. Do the results shock you? Most likely it’s a lot more than expected. If you had only one, or maybe even zero, then my sincere applause, please stop reading and go spread the good word!
For the rest of us, if we can agree that our thoughts on aging are doing some damage and what types of thoughts those are, let’s begin the journey towards something greater.
Reprogramming for The Ageless You
Most of our anti-aging and age-related cultural discussions revolve around the physical and superficial. Particular diets, this and that antioxidant, skin cream and a dash more vitamin-whatever to give one the appearance of agelessness. While some of this knowledge and certain products can be extremely beneficial (and many just crap), most do not address that real and lasting change comes from within. A common cause for brushing off this long-held fact, is that people want the physical stuff and they want it now. Well, what many have known for centuries, and what science is increasingly corroborating, is that those internal changes will have a major effect on everything, inside and out.
Maxwell Maltz, noted surgeon, psychologist and author of the legendary multi-million copy besteller Psycho-Cybernetics, says,
“The most important psychologic discovery of this century is the discovery of the ‘self-image.’ Whether we realize it or not, each of us carried about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves . . . all your actions, feelings, behavior -- even your abilities - - are always consistent with this self image. In short, you will act like the sort of person you conceive yourself to be. Not only this, but you literally cannot act otherwise, in spite of all your conscious efforts or will power” (Maltz, Page 2).
Maltz’s book is the foundation for many self-improvement ideologies you’ve heard about or tried, and he goes on for two hundred pages more on how to begin to reprogram your subconscious self-image into a desired result, including aging. For our purposes here, its enough to understand that we all have a very powerful self-image, and that for most of us, that image itself is subject to aging, and in turn, affects how we age.
Close your eyes and think about your self-image. Is it the 10 year-old version or is it closer to how old you think you look now? Does it maybe even look older than you really are? How does this image feel? Powerful? Energetic? Happy? Silly? Does it feel like it could conquer mountains till the end of time or are your flaws overly exaggerated like some disfigured funhouse mirror?
What does it even mean to be ageless? Notice I have yet to use the term “young” or “younger” because “youth” is just a term we ascribe to a set of images and ideals. For example: when I was a teenager, I was significantly less healthy, had low self-esteem and very bad skin. I don’t want to be that younger self, but I do want to be young. Why? Because I associate youth, like most, with positive traits like “perpetual energy, innocence, happiness, nice skin and curiosity.” Of course, these traits are not at all exclusive to youth (many of us forget how depressed and lazy we were as teenagers), but culturally we assign those traits to youth.
Quick Exercise: Write down all the positive traits you associate with youth and being younger. Now, how many of those are really only attainable by being less in age than you already are? One or two, at the most. Some may require a bit more effort, some less effort, but the vast majority, if not all, are within your grasp at all times. Therefore our true goal is not to just be less in number, but rather more in these positive ideals.
Maltz often discusses the scientifically recognized concept of our goal-oriented “creative mechanism,” that automatic subconscious part of ourselves that allows us to accomplish goals without thinking, and how the goals we choose in relation to our self-image, have a profound effect.
“In expecting to grow ‘old’ at a given age we may unconsciously set up a negative goal image for our creative mechanism to accomplish. Or, in expecting ‘old age’ and fearing its onset, we may unwittingly do those very things necessary to bring it about” (Maltz, 238).
By fearing age, by focusing on it with negativity, we are polluting our self-image, our goals and thus bringing forth the very things we fear. Let us begin another exercise that utilizes some of Maltz’s techniques and others to reprogram our self-images towards an ageless self.
Visualize the activity you love to do the most: playing music, snowboarding, hiking, making love—anything that brings an instant smile to your face. Now imagine yourself growing older doing that same activity, but that smile never leaves your face, ever. Focus on the joy you feel, not the aging face. Feel that joy intensify until it engulfs your entire being. Visualize the truth that the happiness you are experiencing originates from within and cannot be taken away by any superficial projection of your physical self. You are beyond the thin social fabrics that shroud us in age-related insecurity.
In the next and final installment, we will expand upon how the techniques above and new fields in psychology and science will not just help you change your internal self-image, but how that internal change profoundly effects the physical on a biological level.
This is a 3 Part Series. Click here for Part 1.