You are as young as you feel, has been said before. But can you really think yourself young? According to a new book, learning to reject fatalistic beliefs about old age and taking a positive approach to ageing can lead to healthier and more spritely latter years.
The ageing process should be seen as an opportunity for growth rather than an association with decline and helplessness, explains David Robson, author of The Expectation Effect: How your Mindset Can Transform Your Life (Published by Canongate 6 Jan).
“If you believe that you are frail and helpless, small difficulties will start to feel more threatening,” says Robson.
“But there is a wealth of research that now spans five decades confirming that people who see the ageing process as a potential for personal growth tend to enjoy much better health into their 70s, 80s and 90s.”
Recent findings suggest that our own expectations of old age can even play a role in warding off Alzheimer’s disease. A study with 4,765 participants, tracked over four years, found that those who saw old age as an inevitable period of decline doubled their risk of developing the disease.
Other studies have found that a good mindset regarding old age can also reduce the likelihood of heart disease and many other illnesses.
“Our age beliefs can have a direct effect on our physiology,” explains Robson. “Elderly people who have been primed with negative age stereotypes tend to have higher systolic blood pressure in response to challenges, while those who have seen positive stereotypes demonstrate a more muted reaction.
“Meanwhile our culture is saturated with messages that reinforce the damaging age beliefs. Just consider greetings cards, which commonly play on of images depicting confused and forgetful older people.”
The solution for all of us is to rethink our perceptions of what it means to grow into our golden years. Many people needlessly have pessimistic views of their capabilities, according to Robson, but with a healthy attitude that keeps exercise of both mind and body in the forefront as well as a rejection of cultural stereotypes, then the elixir of youth is close at hand.
For more details: https://davidrobson.me/the-expectation-effect/