Yes, it's a picture of me sleeping. Sleep helps us stay health and youthful, ya know?

Yes, it’s a picture of me sleeping. Sleep helps us stay health and youthful. I like my 8 hours, when I can get it. How about you?

I recently entered what is commonly known as “middle age”. Sure, I have my share of wrinkles and gray hair, but I FEEL youthful and healthy. I’d like to share some of what works for me – and my clients – in hopes it will be useful to you too:

Meditate. It teaches you to listen to your body, tell yourself the truth about what’s going on with you and helps you get in touch with your desires, motivations and fears.  Meditation has been proven to help relieve stress, decrease chronic pain and improve sleep…and has recently been found to slow down cognitive decline.  What’s not to like?

Pay attention to your body, but don’t obsess. Take care of your health so you don’t worry unnecessarily.  Don’t weigh yourself too often.  Let your clothes be your guide…if they don’t fit comfortably, then decide how you’d like to handle that.  Exercise is wonderful, but it only works in the long run if you find something you enjoy.  Try new things and experiment with combining them.  Too much routine can be deadly: keep yourself interested.

Notice what you eat.  Try this Zen “paying attention” exercise.  Only eat when you are really paying attention to what you’re eating.  For most of us, we can only eat about 3 bites before we start to zone out.  When that happens, stop and refocus.  Come back to the present moment: what are you eating?  Do you really taste it?  This works particularly well with desserts.  For me, after the first 3 bites, I’m usually over my “craving” and can leave the rest alone.  This exercise alone helped me kick an ice cream “addiction”.

Sit still for a minute or two whenever you can.  It’ll calm you down and lower your blood pressure.

Be a little “goofy”. Let go of the “seriousness” of life.  About 5% of things are seriously important, the other 95% aren”t.  Can you laugh at silly things you do?  Try it and watch your blood pressure drop and that crease in your forehead disappear.

Cultivate friendships with 2-3 people who really love you.  2-3 really good friends is all you really need in life.  Do you have someone you can call at 2AM to take you to the ER, or someone who will come over ASAP if your lover dumps you?  If not, then you need to develop a couple of close friends.  It takes time and energy, don’t kid yourself.   Close friendships unfold over time…but your intention matters:  make an effort to be around people you really love and see who you grow close to.

Keep your body happy. Our bodies want some kind of movement and stretching to stay youthful, flexible and strong. For me, I like a variety of physical stuff: Iyengar yoga has been a mainstay for me for many years, so has going to the gym. I also love to swim, hike, rollerskate, ice skate and dance. Changing it up keeps me from getting bored. When I get bored, I move less. This does not make my body happy. For me, variety is key.

When in doubt, try moderation.  A little dessert, one glass of wine, one morning to lie in bed, one afternoon to do nothing but read magazines…moderation is a wonderful thing. Living in the extremes is exhausting.

Keep exercising your brain. if you keep doing the same old stuff over-and-over…no wonder you’re bored. Take a class or learn a new sport or skill: cultivating new skills is like aerobics for your self-esteem. You need new challenges to master to stay youthful.

If you love your work – don’t retire. Work part-time or a few hours a week, or volunteer. You may not need the money, but your brain needs the stimulation!

Give of yourself. This is the fastest way out of self-pity (which is terribly aging). Get out there in the world and help someone else. You don’t need to be Mother Theresa to make a difference. Got an hour a month? Some worthy organization would love to have you. Volunteering keeps you youthful: whether you’re 18 or 80, you need to be around people. Do something that makes your heart happy: a happy heart is a youthful heart.