“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” — Mark Twain
When I was a kid and Christmas loomed on the horizon, I used to excitedly await the arrival of the JC Penney and/or Sears catalog so that I could go straight to the toy section and look at all of the cool stuff. And, while I knew most of the cooler stuff in there was out of my reach, it still was so much fun to gawk at everything.
I would sit for hours carefully studying those photos of all of the incredible toys. From Evel Knievel stunt motorcycles to yellow Banana Bikes to BB guns to whatever, my brain swooned from all of the possibilities. Of course, the degree of how far I was willing to push the limits with my Christmas list was predetermined by my own measurement of how good vs. how bad I had been.
The older I got, the list of things I got excited about definitely changed, but the excitement and anticipation of something special for Christmas never really did. When I was a teenager, I found the guitar, and it became one of the centerpieces of who and what I have been in the now 45 or so years since. And, many of my Christmases in the interim have had something guitar-related in the center of it as a result.
I find myself today spending a lot of time looking online at the newest and coolest guitar gadgets, and every now and then actually reward my efforts at “being good” with a new something I can sink myself into that makes me want to play every chance I get. It helps me feel young.
I’m always tickled when my students at Central find out I’m still playing lead guitar in a rock band (or two). They raise their eyebrows and say “you’re actually in a band, Mr. Young?” When I tell them I’ve been in a band of some sort since I was 15, I can see them trying to do the math about how many years that means.
Sometimes they even pull their phones out to help them confirm their answer.
But you know, playing the guitar is one of the things that I find joy in doing. I’ve always said that it helps keep me young because I find a tangible connection to my youth through it.
I think there is much to be said about finding your “thing” to help keep you young. And when I say that, I really mean to help keep your spirit young, because the older I get the more I think that part of our being is perhaps the most important regarding our outlook on life.
A recent study presented at the annual American Psychological Association convention involved surveying adults aged 60 to 90 and adults aged 18 to 36 every day for nine days. Each participant was asked how old they felt that day, and how in-control of their life and actions they felt that day.
Of course, some days were predictably better than others. Some days are just hard, and on those days even the younger people felt old living them. But for the most part, the days when the subjects had something to be excited about and felt like they were in control of that “thing” tended to help people feel younger.
Believe it or not, feeling younger than your actual age has also been linked to a lower dementia risk and better mental health, and studies suggest that subjective age may be just as important to your health as chronological age.
In other words, how old you feel matters just as much as how old you actually are. If you think about it, that makes sense.
All totaled, a sense of purpose seems to boost mental and emotional health and drive down subjective age, in turn motivating people to make healthier choices. When you have a life motivated by purpose, you tend to want to take better care of yourself — which in turn leads to feeling younger.
So what does all that mean for you? Go find your positive ‘thing’ that gives you something to look forward to in your life to keep you active, engaged, and excited. And whatever it may be, it also needs to be something that doesn’t have to depend on anyone but you to happen, although if you are able to find something that causes you to interact with others that by itself has positive benefits.
What could that “thing” be for you? Well, again, every pot has to sit on its own bottom, so what would work for you probably wouldn’t work for me — and that is perfectly fine. Everyone has their own “happy place” and it’s up to each one of us to find ours.
For me, every time I strap on one of those guitars and play a classic song. I’m immediately connected to a time and place from my younger days, and that normally is enough by itself to help with this thing called life.
This Christmas, give yourself the gift of feeling young by finding your “thing” and making it a regular part of being you — even if that means becoming part of a rock ’n’ roll band.