Hello beautiful soul! Today let’s talk about the difference between growing older and ageing, and why one is a natural process of life and the other is simply cultural and not a necessary part of growing older.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that the thought of growing older does stir a certain degree of fear/ anxiety/sadness in many people. In fact, if you pay close attention you will notice that there is a set of pretty negative beliefs around the passing of time and what it is meant to imply for us all. As if instead of looking forward to the wisdom we gain through experience, we should be fearing the "inevitable decline" that comes with age. And, judging by many advertising campaigns, It also seems as if eternal youth is the ultimate recipe to happiness. And that, my dear friends, is mission impossible! The problem is not the passing of time, the issue is what we do with it and how we choose to look at life. Once again, it is about choosing power over helplessness, because I am here to tell you that there is another way to look at this.
Now the fact that most people seem to think that growing older equals to decline & failing capacities, does not make it true. May I remind you that at some point in our obscure past MOST PEOPLE THOUGHT THE EARTH WAS FLAT! right? Ok, now I’d like you to look at the current theory of ageing as if it were a representation of flat-earth-landia, because it is! And, you gotta stop having those crazy thoughts if you want to live a long, healthy & fulfilled life. Mindset really is key!
I personally want to live well into my hundreds so I can experience life to the full, and have time to give back all the wisdom and love I have acquired through my journey. It is my way of contributing to this world becoming a better place with time. So for quite some years now, I have been looking into how I can do that. And let me tell you, there is a complete other way of looking at this.
This post aims to give you a new perspective, as well as the tools you need to kick start your healthy centenarian mindset and live the long, vibrant, fulfilling life you deserve. Most of this article is based on the findings Dr. Mario Martinez exposes in his book: The MindBody Code, because it has had such an impact on my own life. Dr. Mario Martinez is a clinical neuropsychologist who has been studying the wellness of growing older for decades and if you haven’t read his work yet, I recommend you go grab yourself some of his material pronto. It is groundbreaking, thought provoking and life changing.
Alright then, let’s go debunk some good old ageing myths!
GROWING OLDER DOES NOT EQUAL AGEING/DECLINE:
“There is a difference between growing older and ageing. The first one is a normal process, the natural result of the passing of time. The second is not and is cultural.” Dr. Mario Martinez.
His way of looking at it, is that ageing is what you do with your time based on your cultural beliefs. Each culture has different “portals” around ageing. Think youth, middle age, retirement, senior citizenship etc. Those portals depend on culture, not genetics and vary from one society to the next. As Ghandi once said himself “You tend to become what you believe” so be careful what you choose to believe. If you want some science to back up that quote, try reading about epigenetics and how your emotional environment affects your biology. Oh wait my last blog post speaks about that. Have you read it yet?
Now one of the most ludicrous beliefs out there, if you ask me, is the notion of middle age. First of all good luck on determining when that is. Do you know when you are going to die? I personally prefer not to be let into that secret too soon. Oh and the implications that after you reach that imaginary/arbitrary mark that it is all down hill, are not only really disheartening but also detrimental to your health. A study conducted by Harvard Sociologist Ellen Langer, examining why some people looked much younger than others, showed that people who looked significantly younger than their age believed that middle age started 15 years later than those who looked significantly older. As you can see, the markers we set influence our biology. It makes you think right? That is how powerful your beliefs are.
So, let’s start to change that. Yes, you can grow old, be fit and healthy, and that, beautiful soul, largely depends on you, on your lifestyle and, above all, on your beliefs.
As with everything it is a matter of perspective. One of the points Dr. Mario Martinez makes in his book is that gerontology mostly studies the pathology of ageing rather than the wellness of growing older. And, that is not a very positive way of looking at things in the first place. Luckily, over the last decades serious studies have started to come out on the wellness of growing older and there is a lot of hope for us all.
It turns out that not everybody declines with age, on the contrary, and just as well since centenarians are the fastest growing segment population in the US, for example (15% of those people live alone). They account for 75,000 citizens and It is expected that by 2030 there will be 4.5 million of them in the .U.S alone. And no, that does not necessarily mean more work for hospitals and retirement homes, because if we shift our beliefs these people can actually bring tremendous value to our society. And, you and I can learn how to become like them one day too.
According to recent studies on healthy centenarians there is usually no real genetic factor involved. What truly sets all of these people apart is the way they choose to look at the world and the supportive communities they build around them. These studies span all social backgrounds and cultures. No matter where healthy centenarians come from, they have a definite mindset that keeps them healthy and fulfilled: a growth mindset. The older they get the healthier they become. According to a New England Centenarian Study by Harvard Medical School, men in their 90s were found to have better cognitive abilities than men in their 70s or 80s. That means that as you grow older healthy, the probability of you getting better goes up.
Centenarians do not die of long, deteriorating diseases. There are no cancers registered in the studies conducted. Most of them die in their sleep or from a sudden accident.
So what exactly is the secret to their mindset?
HOW YOUR MIND & CULTURE AFFECT YOUR BIOLOGY:
To grasp the centenarian mindset, you also have to understand how much your thoughts & culture affect your biology and be prepared to take full responsibility for that.
The mind is very powerful and studies are showing that one can age by observation, through simply being around people who are ageing themselves rather than embracing life and growing older.
One of the studies cited in this book blew my mind and really highlights how our beliefs do in fact shape our biology.
This study examined a group of 80 years olds, dividing them into two groups. Group A was told that they were going to a place where they would live as if they were 50 again. They were given name tags with pictures of themselves at that age and during their entire stay, they were immersed in an environment where they got to act as if they were 50 years old again, whether it be through the music they listened to, the activities they did etc. Group B on the other hand, were told they were going to a place where they would reminisce about how it was to be 50 again. All they did was talk about the good old days for 5 days.
Before the 5 days both groups were put through medical tests, measuring muscle tone and other physical parameters used to monitor ageing. Before and after pictures were also taken. At the end of the 5 days, Group A showed significant improvement in all their medical tests. Their photographs were presented to an objective panel of people who perceived them as looking years younger by the end of the experiment. And what about Group B? Well they got worse, because they were put into nostalgia mode and that also affected their biology in a negative way.
This is pretty thought provoking huh?
Another Harvard study performed on the Tarahumara indigenous tribe of the Sierra Madre, in Mexico, shows that thanks to the cultural belief that their hearts get stronger with age, people over 60 in those tribes had better cardio vascular capacities than people in their 20s. These tribes are known as runners. They are so good at running that the way they hunt is to exhaust their prey by running after it. They believe that as you grow older your heart gets stronger and you become a better runner, and so it is.
Ageism .i.e the prejudice that failing capacities are normal for the older is a toxic belief. And, if you think that the way your culture handles the passing of time does not affect you, think again!
However, this is actually very empowering information because with the right attitude you can absolutely override the status quo and create a life of prolonged wellness on your own terms. You create your reality!
The book is truly fascinating and I won’t give everything away in this article. My objective is to get you thinking about this, so you can do your own research and take it in your stride. If you want to look into it, there is plenty of material out there and I shall also leave a list of useful resources below.
THE HEALTHY CENTENARIAN MINDSET:
As I said before, what really sets those people apart is their way of handling and looking at life. They do not necessarily have better genes than you and me, they do not necessarily come from privileged backgrounds and they most certainly have not had a life void of obstacles.
However, the way they look at things makes all the difference: they choose to grow older rather than age. Rather than being afraid of the passing of time, they look forward to the years to come. They are negotiators and co-creators who take responsibility for their decisions. When they see a doctor they take active part in their recovery. They do not simply hand over all the power to him/her, expecting a quick fix like most people do. They listen, do their research and based on the information, take the appropriate advice and action. In fact, due to their proactive stance, most of them rarely go to the doctor at all. Their philosophy is: how can I get help, so I can help myself.
They are usually fearless about challenges as well. They take them in their stride. Again it is that sense of responsibility for one’s own life that gives them that power. They tend to have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves seriously. They forgive easily and are optimists. They believe they are in charge of their lives and usually have a degree of commitment and involvement within a community. They are healthy narcissists (they love themselves but not at the expense of others).
They have no notion of middle age and do not talk about age in general. Most look and act much younger than their age. They tend to associate with young people or “young people at heart”, which keeps them healthy and vibrant as well.
Now here are a few wellness commonalities that emerged from those studies:
2. Take pleasure in rituals
Centenarians enjoy their rituals. They might smoke a cigar or have a brandy at the end of every day, but again they come from a place of pleasure, not from addiction. That is why it does not affect their overall health. A ritual is something that allows them to identify with their joy and to celebrate. It is not a routine.
3. Live a healthy, happy, empowered lifestyle
The brain and the mind do not deteriorate together: a healthy mind depends on the kind of lifestyle you choose for yourself. It is not what happens to you that matters but how you perceive it that does. A challenge with the right mindset can be exciting and growth inducing. Remaining in a disempowering job on the other hand, can wreak havoc on your health. You get to choose if you are in charge or not. Healthy centenarians take charge of their lives by taking responsibility for were they are at and changing what they do not like. They usually have a purpose, they love being of service to others, although they do not live for others which is an important distinction.
4. Loose the ageing portals
Centenarians have no sense of ageing. They are present centred and remain optimistic about the future but they do not live for the future. They do not waste their life away in a disempowering job, waiting for retirement for example. They have a sense of purpose and simply move from one stage of their lives to another.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
Healthy centenarians live in subcultures that revere their elders and support their beliefs. If you do not have immediate access to that, create your own by reading books, watching talks, attending seminars and going out of your way to meet people who will support and validate your beliefs.
6. Believe in something greater than you
Amongst the recorded healthy centenarians there were no atheists. It doesn’t necessary mean that all healthy centenarians are religious, but they are spiritual in the sense that they believe in something greater than them, in a benign force/universe/god etc.
As you will have gathered from all of this: mindset in an important component of health. And the good news is that it can be learned. So, here is your own checklist to get you started:
YOUR CENTENARIAN COMMITMENT CHECKLIST (there is no age to start, you can adopt these at 14 or 75):
And there you have it beautiful Soul. I hope this article has made you think a little and that you are contemplating adopting some of those healthy behaviours yourself. In order for our world to be a better place, we also need to shift our perception around how we make use of the passing of time and how we treat our elderly. I, myself, have committed not to disclose my age for over a year now and have felt freer as a result. This is just a new way for me to truly show up as my authentic self without pegging myself into someone else’s box.
As we have seen the less you let outdated cultural beliefs shape you, the healthier you will be. I really dream of a day when questions like what do you do? and how old are you? will be replaced by the likes of: what excites you most right now? What experience has been most growth inducing for you? What do you love about your life? and … fill in the blank.
Arbitrary factors such as your age do not determine who you are as a person and what you can do. The world is your oyster, learn to live it on your own terms.
May you live a long, fulfilled and healthy life!
With all my love,
As a BioNeuroEmotion (BNE) practitioner, I empower other Soul Seekers to move beyond their own limitations so they can take charge of their lives and embody their full potential. Should this resonate, you can find out more about my work here.
Podcasts and inspiring videos for you to start your own subculture:
Hello beautiful Soul. Today let’s delve into the fascinating topic of conscious parenting and how you can make a difference in your child’s life by making a difference in your own, first.
Although I am not a mother yet, I understand just how powerful that role is and I want you to take that power in your stride as well. This post does focus primarily on motherhood. However, by no means is it undermining the importance of fatherhood during those early stages. So fathers, or fathers to be, feel free to read on. This will be helpful for you as well.
You will learn how emotions, beliefs and behaviours can be passed on from generation to generation, why that happens and what you can do to provide the best emotional environment for your child before & after birth to kick-start his/her journey on this beautiful blue planet of ours.
If you understand that major changes start at home, this article is for you. In fact this post is for anyone who strives to be a better version of themselves, so they can have a positive impact on their world regardless of their gender or relationship status.
Are you in? All right let’s dive in then!
EPIGENETICS AND WHY ENVIRONMENT MATTERS
Epi- what? I hear some of you say. Let me explain in simpler terms.
Science is rapidly evolving, embracing new paradigms and ways of understanding the world. Epigenetics is in itself one of the greatest, empowering scientific discoveries of our times. If you are not familiar with it yet, by definition it means beyond or above genetics.
Not so long ago, we believed that our genome or DNA pretty much controlled our existence. We thought that it was all written in our genes. And, that, my dear friend, could not be further from the truth. Recent research suggests that flawed genes cause less than 1% of all diseases. This is such an empowering realisation, because it means that we have much more control over our health than we thought up until now
To put things simply: think of your genome (DNA) as the hardware of your computer and of your epigenome (the chemical components surrounding your DNA) as the software that tells the hardware what to do.
Without the software, the hardware is pretty useless right? Well the same goes for your DNA. In other words, your epigenome determines which genes are expressed and which are not. Under the right circumstances, some genes will be expressed and in others, they will be silenced. Simply put: your software scans your environment before telling your hardware how to operate.
Take identical twins who are born with the exact same genetic makeup, for example. As they age, their environment begins to differ and their epigenetic information changes. In adulthood, they become increasingly different from one another and, in some cases, they can end up looking like day and night as they grow older (this short clip will give you a good explanation).
As you have probably gathered by now, environment is key. By environment I am referring to both the physical and the emotional. In other words your diet, lifestyle, thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs greatly affect your biology.
ON INHERITING EPIGENETIC INFORMATION
Now, it is important to understand that epigenetic information can also be passed down from generation to generation. In other words, you do not only inherit some of your ancestors basic hardware (genome), you also inherit some of the software they used to navigate their own complex world (epigenome). Yes, that's right, emotions, beliefs and behaviours can be passed on as well.
Both the sperm and the egg come with their own “software information”, that is to say “tags” that have turned on and off certain genes, for the purpose of adaptation. This is done through a process known as methylation. Through this process inherited emotional trauma, for example, can leave molecular scars, which are literally tagged on to the DNA.
Therefore, as much as you can inherit your grandmother's physical traits, you can also inherit the depression she suffered as a result of being abandoned at birth. Similarly, if she was adopted by loving and caring parents, you might inherit the positive traits she gained as a consequence of that experience.
This is nature's intent to help us adapt to our environment and survive as a species. We inherit the strengths our grandparents and parents acquired through experience and we also inherit some of the emotional trauma they were unable to overcome, so we can overcome it.
To the unconscious mind (your 95%) and from a biological standpoint, there is no such thing as a good or bad experience. An experience is just an experience. This is not a curse, but a way for the family clan to grow and strive. It is key to our evolution as a species.
Understanding all of this, is also becoming aware that the way we choose to live our own life and deal with our own difficulties, will have an impact on future generations.
LIFE PRIOR TO CONCEPTION:
Your baby’s journey starts even before that magical night he/she was conceived.
That means that as you go through life and evolve, the epigenetic information you are potentially passing on evolves with you. Simply put: you have a say in it all. So, when you choose to self-actualise and grow through awareness, you are not only doing yourself a favour, you are benefiting your child as well.
The tools you use to face your own difficulties, your degree of self-awareness, how in touch you are with your emotions and needs, the relationship you establish as a couple plays a crucial role in your future child’s personality.
As cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton puts it in his wonderful book, The Biology of Belief: "Research reveals that parents act as genetic engineers for their children in the months before conception (...) In the final stages of egg and sperm maturation, a process called genomic imprinting adjusts the activity of specific groups of genes that will shape the characteristics of the child yet to be conceived. Research suggests that what is going on in the life of the parents during that process has a profound influence on the mind and body of their child (...)"
Pre-conception experiences can affect the non DNA information that is being passed on and can manifest later on in life as behavioural patterns such as relationship issues, money issues, problems around conceiving and difficult social interactions, as well as physical symptoms and illnesses.
At this point, I would like to stress that this not about judging yourself for the “mistakes” you might be thinking you made at that point. I know how critical parents can be towards themselves. Please do not fall into that trap. Remember that understanding is key to transcending and I will be talking more about that too.
For now, let’s look at what happens in the womb, shall we?
THE WOMB: OUR VERY FIRST ENVIRONMENT
Gone are the days when we thought the foetus was a blank page and that its history would be written after birth.
As we have seen, not only does the baby inherit genetic information at conception, but it is also given its parent’s epigenetic information through the methylation process. It is interesting to know that methylation patterns are largely reprogrammed during the very first stages of pregnancy. That is why it so important to understand what our parents’ emotional circumstances were when they conceived us, to better understand ourselves.
How they felt, and especially how our mother felt, will largely determine the software we downloaded as a result. And, the same will apply to the information your child will receive from you. By being conscious and aware of your own emotional environment, you can re-write the information your child might have received otherwise.
Recent studies are showing that the foetus' nervous system registers all the experiences it goes through whilst in the uterus and these can make up for up to half of the baby's personality at birth.
I cannot stress this enough: as a parent it is important to understand how your emotional environment affects your child’s wellbeing. It is not just what you do on a physical level that matters.
As Dr. Bruce Lipton puts it: “The developing child receives far more than nutrients from the mother’s blood. Along with nutrients, the foetus absorbs excess glucose if the mother is diabetic and excess cortisol and other fight-flight hormones, if the mother is chronically stressed.”
In a conference of his I recently attended in London, he played an impactful video from an Italian conscious parenting organisation. In the short clip, you could see two parents having a loud argument, while the mother was going through a sonogram. The foetus jumped when the argument started and it literally arched its body and jumped up, as if it were on a trampoline, at the sound of shattering of glass.
The baby feels and experiences absolutely everything the mother is going through. That is why her role is so important. However, the father’s responsibility is just as crucial. To quote Dr. Lipton again: “Mothers and fathers are in the conception and pregnancy together, even though it is the mother who carries the child in the womb. What the father does profoundly affects the mother, which in turn affects the child.”
The father’s role is to make sure the mother feels safe, supported and protected so she can provide the best emotional environment for her child. If he is unable to do that and the mother starts questioning her own ability to survive, this will profoundly change the interaction between the mother and the unborn baby.
I suspect this has already given you room for thought and I will not extend myself in details. There is plenty of available material out there for you to continue delving in to all of this and I shall leave a list of helpful resources below.
UNDERSTANDING IS KEY TO TRANSCENDING:
Dear parents out there, once again please note that this is not about feeling guilty for how you may or may have not acted up until now.
There is a clear distinction between the word blame and responsibility. Taking responsibility is empowering us to change what we don't like or didn’t know beforehand. And, the best gift we can give our children is to learn from our mistakes and use them to transcend our current paradigm, by taking care of our own emotional environment, which is theirs by extension.
Just to give you an Idea, BioNeuroEmotion (BNE) practitioners rarely see children. If the child has an issue, we always ask to see the parents, because after thousands of case studies, we have seen that the root cause lies in their emotional environment. Your child’s emotional environment is the one you provide for them, through the way you choose to experience life and deal with the difficulties that come up for you.
Any improvement you make in your own life will automatically benefit you child at whatever stage of their childhood.
It is about being mindful of how we choose to experience our lives at present. A "mistake" is just another experience that gives us the opportunity to grow and learn. The more we give ourselves those opportunities, the greater humanity will benefit as a whole. This is not about being perfect. This is about being honest and real with ourselves, so we can blossom and our children can grow up in a better world.
If your adult child asks you about what was going on when you were pregnant and it was not as rosy as you would like them to think, be honest with them so they can understand why they might be feeling a certain way. Don’t hide those truths from them, as painful as they might feel to you. Transcendence can only happen through awareness. Also have that conversation with your own parents. It’s incredibly cathartic.
And if right now you are pregnant, really make sure you nurture yourself and listen to your needs first. If you do not feel supported and/or safe, ask yourself why? Take responsibility for where you are now, so you can empower yourself to change what you do not like by being coherent, expressing your emotions and needs to your partner, allowing him/her to support you and seeking the appropriate help if you feel the need to. Do it for you first, knowing that your child will be happier as a consequence.
Dearest mothers out there, please bear in mind that your role is of vital importance. Motherhood is a powerful gift as well as a responsibility, and the universe chose you because you are more than capable of pulling it off.
So, when it does get hard, always remember that nature gave you the right tools to do a great job. And those tools, beautiful soul, are to be found within. Be kind and honest with yourself at the same time. Take care of yourself and respect your boundaries. Your children will be the first to benefit from your coherent choices because, to quote Dr. Lipton one last time: "conscious parenting is a new step in the evolution of our species."
And there you have it dear soul. I hope you enjoyed the read and if you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share, please do not hesitate to pop them in the comment section below. I would love to connect further with you that way!
With all my love,
As a BNE practitioner I help consciously aware people identify the emotional root cause of any re-occurring pattern, issue or physical ailment they might have, so they can shift their perception and show up as their best selves. Should this resonate, you can find out more about my work here.
Hi, I´m Dannie
A fellow soul seeker, blogger & certified BioNeuroEmotion® (BNE) practitioner who is passionate about growing, self actualising & learning in order to lead a more coherent/conscious life and help others do the same.