Put Spring Back in Your Life
Yes, I did it.
I’m guilty of it as well; you’re not the only one.
In fact, just the other day I gave a speech in which I talked about entering the “winter years of my life.” It sounded poetic, and, besides, winter is a beautiful time of year, especially around Christmas time.
But I got to thinking: Why do we refer to the senior years as the winter years? Who wants to live through years of winter? Cold, confined indoors for days, craving for sunshine, watching an ever-expanding waistline. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of speaking of the winter years, we described our senior years as the springtime of life? I think that would be not only wonderful, it would be the right thing to do, and here’s why.
What makes spring?
There are four conventional seasons: winter (the coldest season), summer (the warmest season), fall or autumn (the cooling-off season) and spring. Summer and winter are the extreme seasons of the year. Spring falls between them, after winter, and brings with it warmer temperatures.
Warmer temperatures means the ground, which may have frozen over the winter months, grows softer and more yielding to plants. Spring is often marked by increased rainfall, which helps to water the infant seeds taking root in the ground.
Animals that spent the winter in hibernation come out of their dens, while those that traveled to warmer regions return. Many animals give birth in the spring. Winter coats are shed by those that sported them, and some animals may change coloration to blend in with their new surroundings.
Ooh, that sounds so good! Warmer weather. Plants growing. Flowers blooming. Birds singing. Animals running around. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere (say, North America, Europe), you’ll experience this wonderful metamorphosis of nature from March to June. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere (say, Australia, New Zealand), you’d have to wait for September to December.
Springtime can also mean some not-so-good things: an increase in flooding as the rising rainfall of spring combined with melting snow overwhelms rivers; storms, as warm air from the equator combines with still-cool air farther north or south; and tornadoes, as air of different temperatures combine. But these acts of nature do not stop spring from being nature’s season of new beginnings, because everything we see in nature during this time of year points to rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth.
In the same way, you should not allow the challenges of growing old to stop you from trying and enjoying new beginnings in your senior years.
There is no denying that you will experience physiological changes as you grow older. These changes are part of the normal aging process. So, yes, you may become more rotund over the years. Your eyesight may need to be enhanced with bifocals. Your gait may grow slower and your steps less sure. Your joints may ache. But none of this means that you should sit and wait—or to lie in wait—for death! As you go through the normal aging process, you can choose to make those years a time of spring, not winter.
The early Christian apologist Paul observed this paradox of human existence: We can be renewed inwardly even as we are aging outwardly, he wrote in the book of 2 Corinthians 4:16.
It is important first to realize that you are wired for growth, change, adaptation throughout your life. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Neuroscientists now know that the human brain—developing and adult brain—can reorganize itself and develop new neural connections that enable one to learn new things or new ways of doing old things in response to changes in one’s environment or an injury.
This ability of the brain to adapt is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. Your brain’s plasticity affects your memory and your ability to learn new skills. Here are eight strategies to increase your brain’s capacity to learn new things:
- Exercise (aerobic and high-intensity)
- DHA (Omega-3)
- Curcumin natural supplement
- Learning new skills
Any and all new skills do not improve your brain’s plasticity. Here are examples of skills that neuroscientists say would upgrade your brain:
- learning to play the guitar, piano, or some other musical instrument
- learning a new language
- driving a new route to work
- brushing your teeth with your less-dominant hand
- changing the way you do your day-to-day activities
Once you accept that your brain is not done with learning, you can get on with learning new things and doing the things that empower your brain to power you.
So wake up those plans, dreams, ideas that have been hibernating in you for years. Make it springtime!
Who says it’s too late for you to do these things and more? Who says you’re too old? Maybe it has taken these years for you to have a story that’s worth telling, or to find your voice, or to save the money to travel, or to let go of prejudices and enjoy new friendships. Maybe it’s taken these years to become your best self.
Morjorie Newlin started bodybuilding at age 72.
Amy Craton earned her undergraduate degree in creative writing and English at age 94, some 50 years after she had started the degree.
Zoe Lady Maynard began ceramic art classes at age 87 and held her first Follow Your Dream exhibition a few months later.
Morgan Freeman was 52 years old when he landed the supporting role in the film that propelled him to fame, “Driving Miss Daisy”.
ME, at 101 years old, was a master pianist with dementia who performed regularly at assisted-living facilities in California.
Craig Richard Coley, entered prison at age 31. After 38 years of imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit, he was released to start his life over at age 70. He plans to spend his 71st birthday traveling.
I began my professional career as a young high school teacher and spent more than a decade teaching English and drama. By the time of my thirties, I was burned out from teaching and became interested in bodybuilding. I guess it was a way to reclaim myself. I did well at it, even entered a few competitions, and by the time I turned 40, I had a better-looking body than I did at 20-something! But more important, I learned a lifetime of lessons about health and wellness, which I have tried to share with others in my book The Ten Guiding Lights to Health and Wholeness. Today, at 50, I am doing graduate work in integrative health. And, as I study, I am realizing that I am drawing on the wisdom of all those experiences—teacher, drama coach, bodybuilder and personal trainer—to make a new beginning, to yield new fruit in my life. If fruit is coming, then it must be in spring! I’m in the springtime of my life, again.
You can make whatever age you are a time of spring. You are not too old to do some of the things you dreamed about when you were younger, or to complete some of the things you started. You have the capacity to learn new skills and new ways to do old things. Make each day about rebirth, rejuvenation, regrowth, renewal. Put spring back in your life and become of member of Woodhaven at Home!
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