As you age, sometimes your body’s adjustments make it hard to understand what it is saying. Even if you already knew how to listen to it, you may need to learn again.
But many of us never did learn this vital, life-enhancing skill. Some people only take the time to learn to listen to their bodies as they get older and can find the time for themselves.
Learning to Listen to Your Body’s Changes
This is not something that is going to happen overnight. Like learning a new language, it will take time and your understanding of the meaning of different messages will get more nuanced over the years.
Here are some things you may find useful:
- Keep a journal. It will help you catalog your body’s changes and understand them better.
- Try meditation.
- When something makes you tense up, stop, take a breath, close your eyes and try to let it pass without judgment.
Your first goal should just be hearing what your body is saying. Don’t try to decide yet exactly what you will do with that information.
The Benefits of Brainstorming
It’s a little bit like brainstorming exercises. Brainstorming works best if you just write down every idea that pops into your head, no matter how dumb-sounding or outrageous.
If you brainstorm about a stressful situation, your initial reactions will tend to be extreme, like “Let’s ship my difficult teenager to the moon!” If you don’t write that down, you may never get to the more practical idea of “I will ask my sister to take my difficult teenager for the weekend so we can get a break from each other.”
The same thing happens with listening to your body. Simply be willing to hear that “something hurts and I have been ignoring it” and also “that something is in this part of my body.”
People sometimes don’t want to hear that because they may be afraid. They may think, “What if it’s cancer?”
If it is cancer, an early diagnosis leads to the best prognosis. But the odds are good it’s actually something much less serious, like chronic dehydration.
Chronic dehydration is surprisingly common in older people. Loss of muscle mass and an increased tendency to be on medication mean you may need to adjust your fluid intake to accommodate your body’s changes as you age.
One of the things dehydration causes is constipation. So the answer may just be “I’m dehydrated and need to drink more water so I will stop hurting so much.”
What Kind of Changes Can You Expect?
Here are some common changes associated with aging:
- You perspire less, especially if you are a post-menopausal woman.
- You lose muscle mass.
- You gain fat.
- Your eyesight and hearing get worse.
- Your taste buds get less sensitive.
- Your teeth also get less sensitive.
- You catch fewer colds.
- Post-menopausal women get fewer migraines.
One change not on that list is that older people tend to be happier than middle-aged people. They are more content with their lives.
This may be because we have worked out a lot of our personal issues from our youth. Our social skills tend to be better. We understand ourselves better and know what works for us in a way we didn’t when we were in our 20s or 30s.
Physical Well-Being is Important
However, there is some truth to the saying “A sound mind in a sound body.” One of the best ways to make sure you live a happy life is to make your physical well-being a high priority.
Studies show that diet and lifestyle both significantly impact the risk of every major deadly disease, such as heart disease and cancer. Yet the world at large seems overly focused on medication and surgeries as the only kind of “health care” that matters.
Everything you do every minute of your life impacts your health. How you choose to eat and how you choose to live have more power to protect your health than most people appreciate.
So start a journal and learn to listen to your body. Over time, you will eat and live in a more informed way and get better.