Whether you are into making New Year Resolutions or not promise yourself to henceforth challenge any negative perceptions you have about ageing. We all absorb messages that society and the media give us about ageing, many of which are pessimistic and depressing. We take these on board consciously but also subconsciously so may not even be aware that they are affecting us. Research shows, however, that negative perceptions we hold about ageing become our self perceptions of our own future and can actually influence our thoughts and behaviour, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We often ‘play down’ to negative expectations we hold. The research reveals that it is not simply our thoughts or attitudes that are affected, but our physical health as well.
Here is a link to just one scientific paper of many which explains this phenomenon. In “Self fulfilling Prophecy – How Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years” by Jennifer L. Smith, PhD, Senior Research Manager at The Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, the author explains how negative perceptions of ageing have harmful consequences for older adults’ bodies, minds, and healthy behaviours in areas such as longevity, illness, functional health, brain health, psychological wellbeing, and healthy behaviours. Link to article
Fortunately, research also shows that we can challenge and correct our negative perceptions once we are more aware of them. We can stop using language like “I am having another senior moment” / “I forget everything these days” / “I will soon be unable to do any exercise”. We can watch out for positive role models – they are plentiful, if not in the main media stories. And we can learn more about the facts of ageing to dispel myths and reveal some of the positive changes that ageing often brings.
As the article says : “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” – Henry Ford. “Older adults who associate aging with ongoing growth and pursuit of meaningful activities are more likely to engage in behaviors and view experiences in adaptive ways. As a result, these beneficial thought and behavior patterns further reinforce older adults’ positive perceptions of aging.”
So, make a start now. Challenge your negative thoughts and speech and think positively, because what you think, you will become. Happy New Year!