If you met me when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, one of the easiest ways to bore me would be to engage me in a conversation about the importance of saving for retirement. It seemed so far away; I didn’t have a lot of extra money to put away; and I assumed that I would be able to play “catch-up” when I got older. While I’ve done OK financially over the years, and I’m having too much fun to think about retiring, those of my peers who are really wealthy started to build a lifestyle around saving and financial planning from an early age. It went into their decisions about jobs, delaying gratifications, and other financial choices.
I don’t envy some of them, however, because they didn’t give enough attention to healthy living, staying intellectually active, and having large numbers of friendships encompassing a variety of age groups. As a result, they haven’t aged awesomely.
Being well off financially and aging awesomely are not mutually exclusive concepts, however. One thing that they have in common is that you don’t have to be old, or even middle-aged, to begin the process. We know enough now about the negative effects of smoking, the dangers of obesity, the value of exercise and proper nutrition and adequate sleep to begin building in healthy behaviors from an early age. In the past couple of decades, we’ve learned an increasing amount about neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change by growing new cells and new neural pathways throughout the life span. Not long ago it was thought that brain growth had stopped by around age 30. We now know about the importance of making social connections, and the field of Positive Psychology (and my contribution to it – Goal-Achieving Psychotherapy) has taught us that psychotherapy doesn’t have to be focused on mental illness but on helping people to thrive and flourish. The Mental Health Gym is really based on these concepts, and I’m proud that Gym membership encompasses a wide age span of people committed to personal growth and change.
Think of this. Some companies, school systems, and police and fire departments offer full retirement to people before the age of 60. Those who live into their 90’s and beyond may actually spend more of their life time being retired than they did working. In an effort to provide lifestyle guidance to help people age awesomely, I’m now working on a book that I hope to have out this year, tentatively titled, Aging Awesomely: Using advances in science to win at growing older.
I hope that young and old will read it. Because I feel so strongly about getting this information out into the world, I’m actually interrupting the writing of a more comprehensive book on Goal-Achieving Psychotherapy, tentatively titled, Psychology for Life, to get the aging book out in a relative hurry. And I’m always interested in getting your comments, guidance, criticisms, and even encouragement as I go through the writing process.
To get up to date on this and other mental fitness matters, visit www.TheMentalHealthGym.com.