I was just watching “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN. Today’s guest was Dr. Christiane Northrup, whom I’ve written about recently. Northrup shared with Oprah an idea from her new book about aging: once a person announces her age, people start putting her in a box and applying certain expectations and limitations based on the number. But as study after study is showing, the way our bodies age depends less on genes and more on what we believe. Our age is a function of our mindset.
My dear friend BG will be turning 70 soon. Although she is seven years older than I am, she has always had more energy and stamina, and that’s been the case throughout the 31 years we’ve known each other. When we worked together in Kentucky, we regularly went to the pool to swim laps during lunch, and she would slip by me with ease. When I moved to Georgia and she visited my house, we took a walk and in the return stretch, which involved climbing back up to the top of the hill, I was huffing and sweating while she swung her arms and effortlessly passed me by.
Another woman, who happens to be 13 years my senior, made me notice the difference. While I was gingerly making my way down a concrete staircase, carefully holding onto the metal bannister, she quickly and lightly skipped down without holding anything. What makes each of these women move as a much younger person is the way they think of themselves. They believe that they can do as much as they choose to do.
During the three years I spent working on a study about aging, despite the positive things the women were teaching me, I kept falling into the habit of focusing on aging until I unconsciously took on a sense of being old. I reduced the amount of yard work I did. I slowed the pace of my workouts. I was buying into the notion that due to my age, I couldn’t do the things I used to.
All of this is to point to the fact that age is a state of mind. As Dr. Northrup said this morning, “Belief trumps genes.” No matter what you have inherited, no matter how long you have been on Earth, the way you move and your body’s capabilities primarily depend on your beliefs and expectations. So what do you believe? If you think your days of being active are behind you, they will be. If you believe you are as young as you feel, the sky’s the limit. Broaden what’s possible for you by stretching what you believe.