The Secret to Aging Well

If you ever suffer from insomnia and find yourself watching late night infomercials, chances are you have been tempted by products that are “guaranteed” solutions for aging well.  Many people today are obsessed with trying to discover anti-aging secrets in nutrition, exercise, skin care, strong relationships, and the list goes on, in an effort to stay young – or at least young at heart.

Recent research conducted by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, reports evidence that suggests if you want to age well you may need to learn how to effectively let go of regrets. 

The poem Maud Muller by John Greenleaf Whittier ends with the well-known line, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!”  Do you agonize about missed opportunities? Are you still fretting over decisions gone bad or risks you were afraid to take that may have paid off handsomely? If so, you might be undermining your ability to age well. Chronic regret can make you “old before your time.”

In her research published in Science, Stefanie Brassen studied healthy young subjects (mean age: 25.4 years), healthy older subjects (65.8 years), and other older subjects (65.6 years) who had developed depression for the first time later in life. She noted how they each responded to regret and discovered that both the young and older depressed participants seemed to hold on to regrets about missed opportunities. On the other hand, healthy older participants seemed to let them go.

Many research studies have shown that ongoing stress and negative emotions, like regret, can be bad for physical and emotional health and longevity. If you have used your failures and disappointments to teach yourself how to let go of regrets, then you have learned how to manage a significant source of stress and, consequently, may be in a better position to live and age well.  Conversely, if you are one of millions of people who find themselves worrying about what might have been, you may want to take a serious look at ways to let go of life’s regrets, leave them in the past and begin embracing the positive possibilities of your future.

You probably wouldn’t believe me if I promised that it is a guaranteed Fountain of Youth – and I won’t – but I can promise that if you put the principles into practice in your life, your journey down the road of life will be much better. None of us can know what our futures hold, but we are beginning to understand that our futures are likely to be more satisfying if we can effectively let go of regret from the past. Share that “secret” to encourage someone today!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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