2024 July 2 Believe in your greatness

Jul 02, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, subscribe, tell your friends, and send me a message. Thanks for joining me today to talk about ageism. Let's talk about thinking your way to better health and the things that affect your self image.


I'm sure you have heard of the placebo effect.  That's where someone believes that a treatment or medicine will help them. Typically it has to do with their health. They believe something's going to help them; even if it has no medicinal benefit, their health will still improve.


It's literally the belief that's curing them, nothing else. This has been studied a lot, and there are a lot of very well-controlled studies that show why the placebo effect is a very well accepted, well documented phenomenon because, like many things in life, your brain is heavily involved.


If your brain believes it's going to happen, then it'll make it happen. Of course, like a lot of things in life, there's always an inverse phenomena. In this case, it's called the nocebo effect. You have a placebo effect that helps you. The nocebo effect is where a negative outcome occurs due to belief that the intervention will cause harm. (I got that from MEDLINE. Thank you for your wording.)


These two things together show that the brain has tremendous power over all aspects of our bodies and our lives, even our health.  Where it gets really interesting, though, is when you remember that many of our core beliefs are not consciously created, but rather the result of our surroundings, of so called common knowledge. 


So let's take a few random examples. Old people are  stupid. Old people are always tired and sick. Old people are a drain on society. Old people are cranky. Old people are forgetful and senile.  They aren't random at all. They're all very common themes that you see tens or even hundreds of times each day in many different ways. Social media, memes, jokes, comments from others, advertisements, common knowledge, sarcasm. What does your mind do with this constant barrage, this influx of false truth (because there's nothing true about it)?  It starts to believe it. 


If we don't understand how some app works on our phone, and we're 20, we write a scathing review on X, formerly known as Twitter. We say how bad the user interface is designed and we give it a one star rating. We tell all our friends.  However, with the same app, the same phone, if we're 60 or 70, we just assume our phone is smarter than we are. We're stupid, and we probably should just get a flip phone.


Although ageism is usually thought of as discrimination based upon somebody being older, it's any discrimination based solely upon age, so everything I say here can be applied to any other age as well.  If you're younger, you may have heard someone say they'd trust somebody more if they had a few gray hairs in their head.  That's ageism against youth. It goes both ways. 


But with so much of Western society focused on youth,  ageism against the elderly is actually quite widespread and very damaging. How damaging, you ask? Damaging to the point that research by Becca Levy, PhD in her book Breaking the Code, suggests that ageism takes up to seven and a half years off your life. That's approaching a decade.  If that weren't bad enough, it can also lower the quality of your life, as you talk yourself  into ill health and a worse lifestyle because you let your mind become trained into expecting those bad outcomes. 


Becca's studies and her meta studies were based around similar lifestyle cohorts and the general trend was that when similar lifestyles were compared, there were consistent improvements in health and quality of life when people had a better self attitude. 


Another quick note of interest:  Becca's research also found that in countries like Japan, where the elderly are respected and treasured, the elderly population was generally much more active and participated much more in the general society with a far better quality of life and better health outcome overall. 


I recently saw two stories about older athletes. In both stories, the people who are highlighted hadn't been athletic their whole lives, but rather they started in their 50s or later because they were unhappy with their physical condition and health. One was a woman who started running in these extreme sports like mud runs and obstacles. After a few years, she consistently finishes near the top of her age category almost every time she competes. More importantly, she now feels better, has more energy, is more confident, she's happier, and she's improved the overall quality of her life.


Besides just feeling better, when you build muscle (this especially applies to a woman), you're less likely to fall, and you tend to gain bone density. Both of these apply to both genders, but bone density is particularly important for women. Exercise may lessen menopause symptoms, clearly a big plus, no drugs involved. Most people who exercise typically have more energy and better focus because your body overall is operating in a better state. It's a win in every single way. The best part is it doesn't require pills, prescriptions, or doctor's visits.  It's just letting your mind and your body heal naturally.  


You can build up your body, but what about your mind? There are plenty of studies showing that exercising your mind, challenging your mind, helps keep it sharp and can reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer's. Being mentally active is part of the reason I still work in a somewhat demanding job. It's nothing like some of the jobs I've worked in in the past, but I still have to manage a lot of disparate thoughts and activities, and that forces my mind to keep those pathways operating, as opposed to sitting around watching soap operas and not really doing much of anything.


That's when all those pathways deteriorate. Neural pathways are formed from what you do. It's how your beliefs are formed, and also your habits and your skills. Muscle memory obviously doesn't happen in your muscles, but it happens in the nerves in your brain. When you do things repetitively, those pathways stay active. When you don't do anything, your brain, just like the rest of your body, will start to atrophy and it loses its sharpness. Being mentally active keeps you sharp.  


You may have another objection. Remember, objections are just your inner brain trying to keep you safe by not trying something new. The next objection is often that you can't learn anything new. This is absolutely false. Of course you can learn something new! 


There's a fellow named Michael Lantz. If you look up Michael Lance Fitness, you'll come across him. He has a business all about fitness and health. He has a presence on Instagram and Facebook, and he is 67. Doing all that stuff is not so bad for an old guy, right? He doesn't have an I'm too old to learn or I'm too old to do this attitude. He enjoys his life, he works hard to get his message of fitness out, and he looks pretty good. He's active on all these things. He's doing research, he's presenting stories, and he's running a fitness group. A lot of these skills he learned later in life. If you have the attitude, the desire, and the will, you really can do pretty much anything you set your mind to. 


He really only started down this path of fitness after his father passed away of cancer with complications from being obese. He realized he needed to change his own life, and change it he did. Now, 18-20 years later, he also performs in these competitions and obstacle courses. He runs his business. He's on Instagram with new posts a couple times a week. He's a super active guy. We can all change into whatever we want to be if we just believe in ourselves and in our vision. 


Next time you hear an ageist comment, call the person out on it. Politely, of course.  You don't have to believe the false narratives that are presented to you by society and social media.  Are we all 28 years old? No, and honestly, I don't want to be 28 years old again. We have so many more superpowers now that, for me at least, I couldn't even imagine when I was younger. That sort of perspective is absolutely priceless. Now I have the determination and perseverance to apply myself to things that, before, I would have started and let fizzle out. Success in almost everything comes from consistency and commitment, so remember your strengths. Ignore the negative talk and live your life to the absolute fullest. 


That's it for the evening. I hope this helps you gain both a little better perspective on yourself and how to be more comfortable with all that you are, both in the strengths and maybe some areas that need a little attention. In the West, ageism against older folks is not only prevalent, it's almost expected. You don't have to let it affect you. Instead, use it to strengthen your determination and self confidence.


Your homework (always optional) is to be aware of the comments and attitudes you might get in normal conversation, or that you see in social media and in advertising.  Extra points if you write them down, analyze them, and realize how they're wrong. Then write down the reality of the situation and your associated strength. Double extra points if you then turn that into an improvement goal, such as for personal fitness or a new skill. Most importantly, just have fun with it, realize you're awesome, and appreciate all the things you've gained.  That's it for the evening. 


Please remember, as always, the many current wars that are going on. There's Ukraine, Israel, Palestine. Nigeria is a train wreck right now. There's one in the Caribbean. There are a lot of things going on that can use your attention and deserve our support. We have UKR7.com, a site  where you can support Ukraine, the World Central Kitchen at WCK.org. They do wonderful things in the world. They'll probably be in the Caribbean again after the recent hurricane. If you want to donate locally, that would also be helpful. 


Remember, there are a lot of ways to make the world a better place. Just a smile to somebody you meet on the street can change someone's whole day. One of the best ways you can care for yourself is to care for others. It gives you a different perspective, takes you outside of looking inward and looking outward and you see much more of the world.


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along. Please subscribe, hit that like button, and if not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear.


Have a great week. Live the life that you've dreamed of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you.

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