The Positive Aspects of Aging

      It arguably seems that within Psychology, we are focusing upon phenomenon that is negative, or otherwise out of the ordinary. You may think of therapy for example, or mental illness…even aging, as subjects which cause concern. It is so focused on identifying people’s downfalls and how to avoid such conditions. In fact, many psychologists would say that there is an innate perspective within us to seek positive attributes within ourselves as well. “Positive Psychology” is a fairly recent term to this concept which was only recently coined in 1998. The APA Division 17 Section on Positive Psychology briefly define the field as “the study of human strengths and wellbeing”. To place this into perspective, you can imagine how there are factors that may cause us to age over time, but there are also powers within ourselves to help defeat the biological clock both mentally and physically.

      Dr. Glenn Ostir, a researcher within the positive psychology field tells BBC News “I believe that there is a connection between mind and body–and that our thoughts and attitudes/emotions affect physical functioning, and over all health, whether through direct mechanisms, such as immune fuction, or indirect mechanisms such as support networks”. This statement may resonate with you personally, maybe as you have found yourself catching illnesses in the most stressful and worst timings throughout your life, as your personal life had affected your immune system. You may have also found that your work across different contexts may have been affected by disputes with friends, or generally having a lack of social connections. As positive psychologists would say, the very opposite of these statements can help you for the best. For example, if you are exercising and becoming more involved in your community, you will find your mental and physical wellbeing to improve exceptionally. Perhaps our answer is to not only focus on factors to avoid, but to seek the most positive actions we can for ourselves.

      Speaking of a predisposition toward negative thoughts, we tend to only think about aging in terms of losses that may occur. You think loss of hair, loss of memory, loss of independence. What is less likely to be imagined first would be strengths such as “wisdom”, satisfaction with having raised a family, and long term goals that were achieved. Unfortunately, it is the losses which are most concrete and obvious to the naked eye. Along with that, they are more easily tested within research. Wisdom on the other hand is an example of an abstract attainment through aging. Wisdom is objectively definied as “rich factual and procedural knowledge, lifespan contextualism, relativism of values and life priorities, and recognition and management of uncertainty,” by Australian Psychologist. As you can see, this is a very situation sensitive, subjective, and individual experience that would be very difficult to test objectively. However, it is partially through wisdom that many older people learn to be more resilient to stress according to Australian Psychologist. Unfortunately, it may be difficult for older folks to look into this as those around them are focusing upon their losses.

      With this insight, where can we go from here? It is apparent that our mind and body seem to be interconnected more than we think. If we can focus on the gains that we achieve while aging, we can upkeep our emotional stamina, and support networks as well. Meanwhile, these positive effects we are fulfilling onto ourselves can ultimately help immune system functioning and ward against physical illnesses. We need to be proactive about our health and not assume that aging is a natural phenomenon that we shall fall victim to. I encourage you to read my other blog entries if you have not already, on ways to get started on this journey toward self improvement.

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3 thoughts on “The Positive Aspects of Aging

  1. The argument about how mentality is related to health and illness that Optimistic Aging presents is one of the best modern arguments in relation to psychological health. I have personal testimony for the fact that people are quite susceptible to illness during stressful times in life. This information has been insightful in respect to how my family is far away and hard to contact while dealing with my health issues. I have learned more about the influence of wisdom on how I can use my experience to increase my chances of resilience through hard times. I think people would be wise to adopt a more positive perspective in their life in order to improve their overall well being and health.

  2. Your blog was quite enjoyable. The topic which was on “Positive Psychology” was also something that comes to my mind when I think about aging. It is true that we usually focus on the negative aspects of our development such as aging because these changes are easier to measure and assess rather than abstract ideas like wisdom as you have stated in your blog. I loved how you said “there are also powers within ourselves to help defeat the biological clock both mentally and physically”. This statement directly relates to our reading on how we can have more control over how we age and how fast we will age. Through your blog I have learned that the power of how we think either negatively or positively will influence our health. The only thing I wished you had written about is how we can develop a more positive thought process.

  3. I think you explored a very interesting and note-worthy topic here. So often our culture turns to the tangible ways of healing/health, i.e. medications, surgery, diet and exercise, etc. but we neglect the intangible. Emotions and attitude definitely play a key role in health, if not more so than one’s physical health. I like that you encourage us to not “fall victim to” the phenomenon of aging. I think so often we view aging as this horrible monster that we are victims to, which is quite opposite of what it should be. If you want a great example of the effects of positivity, check out some of Masaru Emoto’s theories. He was the scientist who showed that positive words, thoughts, or music altered the molecular structure of water. Great post!

    Ps. The layout of your blog is stunning!

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