Learning new healthy habits in later life can feel as hopeless as squeezing water out of a rock. This is especially true because most of us tend to settle into routines that are often impossible to break in old age.
We’re all creatures of habit. We typically wake up at the same hour each morning. We sleepwalk our way to the bathroom to brush our teeth.
We wander over to the kitchen for the same cup of morning coffee. We brew that cup of coffee with as much fidelity to the same formula with which we brewed our cup of coffee yesterday because we want the same exact taste.
Then we hit the shower and gird ourselves for the day. Whatever we do next is whatever it is that happens to be on our schedule – whether that schedule is dictated by a calendar in a smartphone or a notebook.
We follow the same patterns every day without much difficulty in our later years. In fact, our old habits become so easy that we often don’t even realize how much they have shaped our lives.
Their unfolding comes automatically, one daily routine after another. They rarely need prompting except for the occasional little cues: a beeping phone, a post-it note stuck on the mirror, or even a mark on a calendar by the refrigerator.
We stick to our routines without resistance and without the aid of even an ounce of willpower. So why is it so hard to form new healthy habits?
- 1 Why Learning New Healthy Habits Can Seem Impossible?
- 2 6 Healthy Habits to Help You Achieve Higher Goals in Your Senior Years
- 3 Learning to Take Baby Steps Toward Giant Changes in Your Senior Years
Why Learning New Healthy Habits Can Seem Impossible?
Scientists who study human behaviour say we cannot hope to establish the right habits if we go about learning them the wrong way.
Often, we make bold promises to ourselves: We will start exercising. We will eat better. We will learn to relax. We will lose weight. But we rarely take the measures needed to prepare ourselves for success.
The fact is, while wanting to learn new healthy habits is commendable, we cannot hope to become different people overnight.
Stanford University researcher, B.J. Fogg, author of the bestselling book, Tiny Habits, notes that making abrupt and ambitious changes in behavior requires a high level of motivation.
For many, sustaining the energy and drive for such a transformation for an extended period is just impossible. That’s why Fogg says the best way to learn healthy habits is to start with easy ones.
“Make the habit something you really want,” Fogg says. “Make the habit really, really easy to do – tiny.”
6 Healthy Habits to Help You Achieve Higher Goals in Your Senior Years
Fogg suggests starting with small changes in outlook and attitude that do not necessarily entail a huge commitment like that which going to the gym or cutting down on your favourite sweets might entail.
Big changes can be overwhelming. Starting small with healthy habits that are easier for you to learn will allow you to make gradual adjustments. Gradual, measured changes are easier to manage and embrace over time.
These small victories –which often involve easy changes in attitude – give you a chance to test the viability and feasibility of your plans without diving in headfirst. This way, you can assess the impact of your bigger goals and make adjustments as you go along.
Below is a list of small, healthy habits that can start you on your way to big changes in your later years.
The first item on your list of healthy habits should be a pledge to cultivate gratitude. This will help you to keep an optimistic attitude toward the challenges of later life. A grateful attitude toward life promotes resilience and a more positive perspective.
Expressing your gratitude and appreciation for friends, family, and caregivers helps you form stronger social connections. Openly acknowledging and appreciating the support you receive from the people in your life can bring immense joy and fulfilment.
Studies suggest that grateful individuals tend to engage in healthier behaviours. These healthy habits can lead to other habits that lead to better physical health and well-being all around.
Maintaining good health is crucial among older people, and gratitude can motivate you to prioritize your well-being.
Practice Reminiscing for Wellness
We have all felt that stab of nostalgia, that sweet, tender aching, that happens when something –a smell or a sound, perhaps – brings back a flood of memories that up until that moment, you had all but completely forgotten.
You may be driving by the old neighbourhood or your old high school when an unexpected cascade of images pounces on you: some long-gone friend’s smiling face; a tree that stood in front of the house in which you grew up; the garden in the backyard.
The brain circuit that kept that memory in your mind hadn’t fired in decades, and it might never have been activated were it not for that particular sound or smell – that trigger.
These recollections can summon emotions that have a positive impact on your mood and overall well-being, say psychologists. They can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and reduce anxiety and depression – all of which are bigger goals that the simple act of reminiscing might help you achieve.
That dynamic, in a nutshell, is the basis of reminiscence therapy. And it is something many of us do every day without even knowing it. Make a healthy habit of listening to music, movies, or food from your past. Surround yourself with mementos from your youth – old trophies, photos, and trinkets.
Relish the happy memories that come flooding back with these prompts. That should be easy enough to do and you probably do it, anyway, when you watch old films or listen to music.
You can even take it a step further and share and discuss fond experiences from the past with others. It’ll be good for you.
Do you think you’re a compassionate person? Do you feel empathy for people who suffer from serious health and mental difficulties? Self-compassion is about turning that same instinct to serve you, as well.
This healthy habit involves being gentle and understanding towards oneself rather than harshly self-criticism, as many of us can at times be. It’s about acknowledging mistakes or shortcomings with empathy and recognizing that imperfections are part of being human.
Recognizing that personal struggles and challenges are part of the shared human experience is crucial to your well-being, especially as you age. Understanding that everyone faces difficulties at some point helps you to feel less isolated or inadequate in times of struggle.
Make a healthy habit of being kind to yourself. Self-compassion isn’t about self-indulgence or avoiding personal responsibility. Instead, it’s about offering oneself the same care and support that one would readily extend to others. That shouldn’t be hard for anyone to do.
Learn Eco-Friendly Living
Who doesn’t want cleaner air, lower energy bills, and a healthier environment? Seniors have a unique perspective on the long-term effects of environmental degradation.
By making a healthy habit of eco-friendly measures such as recycling and reducing energy consumption, you can contribute to preserving the planet for future generations. This does not require much. You can start by separating your rubbish accordingly. Then you can graduate to cutting down on your use of energy.
You don’t have to rush into it, too. You don’t need to go to the Amazon to preserve the world’s biodiversity. Keep to a pace that comes easy and natural to you. From there, you can gradually build a healthy habit of a lifestyle that promotes a greener, cleaner environment for your grandchildren and loved ones.
Cleaner air and water resulting from eco-friendly practices can directly benefit seniors’ health. Reduced pollution can lead to fewer respiratory issues and better overall well-being among older people.
Healthy habits such as using energy-efficient bulbs and appliances, or conserving water can result in cost savings. You’ll see a reduction in the cost of your energy consumption as soon as your next bill arrives.
Even the smallest reductions in energy costs can make a significant difference over time. This will help to improve your financial stability, which is yet another bigger goal that is often difficult to accomplish.
Seniors often hold influential roles in families and communities, too. By practising eco-friendly habits, you set an excellent example for younger generations, instilling them with a sense of environmental responsibility.
Embrace a Positive Attitude
Embracing change and gradually learning to adapt are crucial for maintaining a positive outlook, especially in life’s unpredictable moments. Making a healthy habit of at least trying to assume a positive mindset can help you navigate the challenges of later life with greater ease.
This allows for a more open attitude towards learning from mistakes, exploring desires, and recognizing new possibilities. Conversely, when change is met with inflexibility or fear, it often leads to stress and strain, leaving one feeling overwhelmed and more prone to feelings of failure or even hopelessness.
These emotions become heavy burdens over time. They may even become overwhelming, which could make you susceptible to a sense of inadequacy or despondency.
So, be a glass-half-full person. Be positive.
Keep Your Doctor’s Appointments and Scheduled Health Screenings6
We all know that consistent visits to the doctor are essential to the maintenance of good health. We are all equally aware that it can sometimes be difficult to stick to checkup and screening schedules.
Many avoid it. Others simply feel they don’t have time. Even so, as we age, our bodies become more vulnerable to various illnesses. This makes regular checkups and health screenings crucial.
Making a healthy habit of keeping to your appointments with the doctor should be easy. You’re going to have to see your doctor, anyway, at some point or another. Why not learn to make a healthy habit of it?
This is especially important for older people who deal with underlying health conditions. Your visits and health screenings allow doctors to closely monitor any existing health issues.
This ensures proper management and the necessary treatments and medications to support your overall well-being. Regular health checkups also aid in identifying early signs of diseases or changes in health patterns, allowing for timely intervention.
This should not be difficult for you. After all, you could not have reached the age of seniority if you didn’t know how to take care of yourself.
Learning to Take Baby Steps Toward Giant Changes in Your Senior Years
Imagine yourself a year from now. Then imagine yourself 10 years from now. Will you be more contented or less contented than you are today?
We all know what it takes to learn healthy habits. There is nothing miraculous about the effort to live a healthy life: it involves well-known and rational steps. Yet we also know that it’s not always easy.
Despite our best intentions, we gain weight, we don’t exercise or eat well, we fail to take our medications on time, and stress and sleeplessness often dominate our lives.
But none of this is inevitable in your senior years, either. Your success or failure in learning healthy habits involves the right mindset and approach.
Choosing which habits to adjust, and more importantly, understanding what comes easy and natural to you can help you establish healthy habits that endure and allow you to achieve higher goals in your golden years.
What do you think?