September 20, 2021
I turned 37 on August 20th at 1:04 a.m. (I’ve had to reference my birth certificate enough during my adult life to have memorized the details). Thirty-seven isn’t a milestone birthday, and one could argue that I should have spent it lamenting my transition to a number that’s closer to 40 than it is to 35.
Instead, I spent the morning of my birthday giving my age some thought. Just like we can choose what kind of a day we want to have, we can also choose how to approach our own aging process. I had to laugh because I used to think of the term “aging gracefully” as only applying to the elderly and yet here I was, freshly 37, deciding that was exactly what I wanted to do.
Accepting the Body’s Aging Process
The body is going to get older. That’s something we can’t prevent, and at 37 I’m beginning to experience limitations that weren’t there in my twenties. I’m a slow runner – it’s probably more like jogging if I’m being honest – and some days I just don’t run (jog) as far as I wanted to. And other days, my body would rather take a peaceful walk to the park up the street than pound the pavement in running shoes.
As uncomfortable as it can be to feel my body slowing down a little bit and having different needs as I get older, my daily mindfulness practice helps me realize:
- I’m grateful. I’m healthy with full mobility, and I’m grateful for every day that I can simply throw my shoes on and get outside to enjoy the day.
- I’m aware. When I’m practicing mindfulness, I’m bringing awareness to my body and asking it, “what’s here today?” Is there pain, soreness, or tension that I should be aware of? This simple check-in allows me to honor where my body’s at on a daily basis and give it what it needs without judgment, even if that means a walk instead of a run.
- The importance of mindful movement. This may sound strange, but I have a tendency to tune my body out when I’m exercising and just focus on the task at hand. But staying in the present moment and engaging all the senses allows my body to enjoy the experience on other levels rather than honing in on how much slower I’m going today than yesterday and other unhelpful thinking spirals.
The Mind Can Age Gracefully, Too
Aging gracefully isn’t just a concept that I’ve applied to my body; I’ve also chosen the same path for my mind. We live in a culture that’s full of comparisons, and it can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of, “Am I achieving everything I’m supposed to at this age? Am I taking care of myself as well as other people my age are?” It definitely feels like those thoughts take years off of my life, and fortunately, that’s another area where mindfulness has helped.
The worry and unknowns of what’s next for me at age 38 and beyond can easily derail me from living in and enjoying the present moment. Participating in a Mindful Daily session each day allows me to direct the “what’s here today?” question to my mind – is my mind taking me into bad neighborhoods? What are the thoughts and emotions that are coming up for me today? The 14 minutes of a Mindful Daily give me the time and space I need to make room for however I’m feeling, whether I’m happy and fully present or whether I’m a little scared and distracted. Mindfulness has helped me bring awareness and acceptance to it all, and with each out-breath I take, I choose to move forward gracefully.
Written by Becky Greiner