Episode 6 | (00:00):
Hey there, my Midlife friend. Today, I'm going to introduce you to three quick ways to energize your mind, your body and your spirit anytime after 40 because you know, once we hit midlife, having these little daily energizers are really important. They refresh us. They help us feel alive and awake, and they're really, really simple. You're going to do each one of them in just two minutes a day. You ready to get started? All right, let's get this party started!
Hey there, my Easy Aging friend. Before I get started, I wanted to remind you that if you haven’t picked up your gift yet, go to TheEasyAgingShow.com. Pick that up, check it out, and I hope you have some fun with it because it's all about bucket lists. So go do that today after the show.
Last week, I explained why fun-sized actions work so well during midlife. And here's the great thing: Once you understand the “why” behind something — why something works or doesn't work — then you can start getting some new perspective and really start grasping onto this new concept a lot faster.
So if you haven’t listened to episode 5 yet — that's the one right before this episode —go back and listen to that, and that'll help give you more perspective, okay?
Small, fun-sized actions are unequivocally your best bet for long term success, especially if you're like the rest of us and you are in some midlife resistance. That resistance might be to getting started or resistance to making changes or resistance to getting some momentum.
So that's why I'm going to talk to you today about three specific ways to care for yourself as you age, because we all know that caring for yourself is about more than just your body. It's also about your mind and your spirit. They're little, tiny, daily energizers that can keep you moving toward your best life.
But I don't want you to worry. These are going to be so simple. They're easy to adapt, and they only take two minutes each. So let's see, if there are three of them and they’re two minutes a piece, ooh, that's six minutes a day. Hmm... Can you fit six minutes a day into your schedule? Yeah, I think you can. I believe in you. I know you got this.
Okay, the first place we’re going to start energizing you is your brain, and we're going to do that with reading.
I get really excited about reading, and I start chattering away, “Oh my goodness, there are so many benefits. It does this. It does that, blah, blah, blah, blah…”
And someone always manages to say this to me: “Yeah, Michelle, but you know, I'm a slow reader.” And my response always is, “So. Where are you in a hurry to be?”
I mean, remember, you may not have had some great times in high school or in any type of school, even elementary school. That’s probably because you were reading things you weren't interested in, but here's a newsflash, dears:
You're not in school anymore. There’s not going to be a test or a pop quiz at the end of the week. And your mom and dad aren't going to be mad at you if you get a bad grade. Honestly, nobody's probably even going to ask you what you're reading, unless you're in a book club or something.
So the goal of this type of reading is to relax, read at your own pace, enjoy it, absorb it, and just know that you’re giving your gray matter a great workout.
Now, I started reading when I was two years old, and it’s always been one of my first loves. It's always my go-to when I have a choice of what to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I love being swept away by a good book.
And I’ve got to tell you that during the lockdown, the pandemic, I OD’d on social media about, I don't know, maybe five or six weeks in. And I said, “You know what? I'm going to go back to reading.” I want to give a huge shout out to my wonderful, amazing local library. All I had to do was go into the database, click a button...
And this ebook magically appeared on my Kindle. During the lockdown, I was averaging about a book a week, and it was so much fun. Because reading keeps me refreshed, and it makes me feel awake. And that's one of the great things about reading. It is a very interactive activity.
When I say reading, I’m not talking about listening to an audiobook. I'm very specifically saying reading where your eyes are moving across the page or the screen, and you’re absorbing information. Listening to an audiobook is a different experience; I'll explain that a little bit later.
According to Jim Kwik — he’s the author of Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster and Unlock Your Exceptional Life (I'm going to leave you a link to his website in the show notes) — here are a few of the benefits he says that you’ll experience from reading.
First of all, reading is a fantastic mental exercise for your brain. I mean, like any other muscle, your brain gets stronger the more you use it. And like any other muscle, your brain gets weaker and flabbier the less you use it. So reading is a great way to give your brain a little quick workout.
Number two, reading improves your memory. A study by Dr. Robert S. Wilson at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed that reading has “a meaningful effect on memory decline.” And this study suggests that a lifetime of activities like reading and writing, these are crucial to brain health as we age.
Number three, reading increases your focus. Reading requires you to focus on one thing. Now, this is not like listening to the audiobook or clicking through YouTube or scrolling social media. You can do other things while you're doing those activities.
That's why reading is so different from those activities. Once you develop your practice of reading, you can take this focus and move it into other areas of your life.
Number four, reading improves your vocabulary. This is kind of a no-brainer, right? I mean, the more you read, the more you're exposed to a larger range of language in different contexts. Because it requires you to focus, you're going to absorb these words more, and that means that these new words are going to be more accessible to you when you need them. So reading increases your focus, but it also improves your vocabulary and that's going to increase your focus too.
And number five, reading improves your imagination because when you strengthen your imagination, you’re going to be able to step into more possibilities. You're going to be more open and receptive to new things in midlife and beyond...
And it's going to help you. It's going to open the door to setting your intentions and your goals in ways that are meaningful for you.
So those are five ways reading can benefit you. Your fun-sized action, obviously, is read for two minutes. That's it, just two little minutes of your day. That's 120 seconds.
The goal of this exercise is to make sure you read something that interests you. It doesn't matter how serious it is or how silly it is. Just read it if you're interested. And this is for the beginners.
If you're already an avid reader, I would really challenge you to mix things up a little bit, go with something completely out of your norm. If you read biographies, maybe try a romance novel or some young adult fiction. So just read for two minutes a day. When you're ready to increase your time...
You'll know. So if you want to increase it, do it in small intervals. If you're reading for two minutes, you may want to go to five and do that for a while. And then if you're reading for five, you may want to extend it to seven and so on and so on. I've spoken a little bit more about this in episode five.
Next we're going to energize your body with exercise. You know, movement was such an important part of our lives when we were little. I mean, when I was little, my brother and I would play outside with the other kids in the neighborhood, and we'd run and we'd play tag and we'd skateboard and roller skate and ride our bikes without a care in the world. We had no concept of time or place or what was going on. It was all pure joy.
And then at dusk, the corner street light turned on and that was our signal to race home. We were sweaty and grimy and dirty, but we had these huge smiles on our faces. Do you remember that?
Then as we got older, we had more responsibilities. We had jobs and we started families, and we had to start fitting exercise into our busy schedules. And we called it “working out” and it became a chore. Of course, in my opinion, giving something a name like “working out” almost guarantees that it's going to get a bad rap, don't you think?
And then worst of all, we were told that aging meant we were going to “slow down.” And that being sedentary is “normal” as you age. Wrong! As we get older, we should be moving more, not less. Moving is more important to us than ever, and being sedentary as we age is not “normal.”
That is not normal at all. So get that out of your head right now.
Personally, I believe there's really only one rule to exercise and that is: enjoy it. Because if you enjoy it, you're going to keep doing it. It's going to be fun. You're going to make it a habit, and that's the point of all this: to enjoy the best years of your life gracefully, to easily move from one activity to the next without any pain, without any stiffness or, for me — just as importantly — without any grunting. ;)
Your fun-sized action is to move your body for two minutes. Experiment with different types of exercise to see what matches your personality and if it intrigues you, give it a try. When the timer goes off, you're done for the day. Do this every day and increase the time when you're ready.
Now, if you're already a regular exerciser, if you're already moving your body on a regular basis, just try something a little different.
I would challenge you that if you only cycle, try some yoga, try a Zumba class. All of this is really about keeping things interesting and intriguing and fun.
The last part of you that we’re going to energize is your spirit, and we're going to do that with simple meditation. There are so many benefits to meditation. It can boost your immune system. It can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, there's just a whole list of wonderful and amazing things that come from meditation.
Two things I do want you to know: Number one, like our physical muscles and our brains, meditation is a muscle that just gets stronger every time you do it. And number two, you don’t have to sit and chant “om.” I started meditating in 2018 with my little fun-sized action of two minutes.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. And then I just gradually increased my time, little-by-little.
I'm a practicing Christian so I pray pretty regularly. I was trying to figure out if I had ever actually meditated before. The biggest difference I found between praying and meditation is praying is a lot more active. It's you doing a lot more talking, because you're having a conversation with God. Meditating is passive. It's focused on listening and observing your thoughts. It's about being present in the moment by bringing your attention to one thing.
I'm going to give you three or four meditations that I started with in 2018. But I wanted to give you a little heads-up on a couple of things. When I say “get in a comfortable position,” I would probably encourage you to get in a position where you can’t fall asleep because I don't know about you, but the minute I'm lying down, you can guarantee I'm going to go for a little nap, a quick little nap, a little doze, right?
You can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, you can sit cross legged on a yoga mat, or you can slightly recline in your recliner. For all of these, you're going to be just breathing in and out through your nose at a normal pace. And you have the choice of closing your eyes or staring at a spot on the floor or the wall with what is called “soft eyes.” Soft eyes are just a little bit of an unfocused gaze.
When the timer goes off slowly, open your eyes or refocus your gaze, gently wiggle your fingers and your toes, stretch your arms and your legs, shrug your shoulders and move your head to the left and the right.
And then slowly, very slowly sit up or stand up at the end of each meditation. Just make sure you take your time sitting up or standing up because sometimes, you could get a little lightheaded and you don't want to start walking too quickly and then fall down.
That's the reason I'm telling you this. Slowly sit up or stand up, okay?
The first thing we're going to do is do a breathing meditation for two minutes. Breathing is a foundational part of meditation, so that's why we're starting here. Once you get this under your belt, it's going to be second nature to you and you’ll easily incorporate it into all these other meditations I'm going to give you.
So get into a comfortable position, just breathe in and out through your nose at a normal pace, close your eyes or use soft eyes. Once you get into this rhythm, you're going to watch the details of your breath. Is it shallow? Is it deep? Where does it go in your body? Does it change as you watch it? Or does it say the same? Just ask yourself questions. You're just paying attention to your breath...
That's all this exercise is for two minutes, okay? If you want, you can take a few deep, slow breaths — in for a count of five, and out for a count of five. You can play with your breath a little bit, just continue doing this or go back to your normal pace if you like.
And if you get distracted — which you will — don't beat yourself up. Just go back to watching your breath. Start with this for two minutes and then increase your time as you feel the need. And remember, what are we going to do? We're going to get up slowly.
This next meditation is called a listening meditation and it can be done in one place or it can be done when you're on-the-go… you can do it in silence… you can do it in a noisy, crowded location.
This is going to heighten your awareness as you're listening to things going on around you. Same thing as before: comfortable position, in and out through your nose, breathing at your normal pace, and close your eyes or use soft eyes.
Now you're going to bring your awareness to the sounds around you. Listen to the entire range of sounds from the more dominant sounds to the more subtle sounds. But also listen to the silences in between the sounds.
Don’t try to get too specific or don't feel like you have to identify the sounds like, “oh, there's a bird” or “oh, an ambulance.” Don't do that. Just listen to the whole collection of sounds and the silences in between them.
When your two minutes is up, come back to your body, stand up slowly, and you're ready to go about your day. After you've done this for a number of days or even weeks, increase your time as you feel it’s needed.
You know, the great thing about this is you can do this listening meditation pretty much anywhere. Once you get used to it, you can use it for a refreshing break during the day, whether you're grocery shopping or working out at the gym or doing yard work, it doesn't matter. Just start using this to increase your awareness throughout your day, okay?
So our next meditation is a Scripture meditation. This is one of my very favorites. What you do is just select your favorite Scripture from the Bible. If you don't have it completely memorized, just make sure you understand the specific concept or the main idea of it in your mind, okay?
At this point, I would also encourage you to say a prayer before starting. You can ask God to protect your thoughts, give you wisdom and reveal what He wants you to see during this time.
So same thing as before: get into a comfortable position, breathe in and out through your nose at a normal pace, and you can close your eyes or use soft eyes.
Begin reciting the Scripture. You can say this to yourself, or you can do it out loud. After you've recited the Scripture over and over again, after a few times of doing this, start noticing specific words. Does one word or phrase stand out more? If so, just start repeating that word or phrase to see if there's a new meaning or a new revelation in it.
If you feel like you're receiving something from God, just ask the questions: What do you want me to know? What do I need to learn? How am I supposed to use this information? And then just listen to see if you get any answers. Sometimes you will. Sometimes you won't, that's okay.
Either way, go back to repeating the Scripture. You may find the rhythm of it very comforting and calming. I know that I do once I get into the rhythm and the cadence of just saying the Scripture over and over again. It also helps me memorize the Scripture.
So do this for two minutes, and when you're done, wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes, get back in touch with your body, and then you can get on with your day. Start with two minutes, work your way up.
One of the things that I would suggest is, I write the Scripture down and keep it in front of me for the day. I have little cards that I write things down on, and I can revisit the Scripture during the day, so I would highly encourage you to do that too. Just to keep it top-of-mind.
Our last meditation is a walking meditation, and this meditation is perfect for those of you who get frustrated or restless with sitting. You can do this meditation alone, or you can mix it with one of the meditations I talked about earlier. You can also do it inside or outside. Just make sure you have plenty of room to walk at least eight to 10 steps in one direction.
This time, you're going to be standing in a comfortable position, relaxing your shoulders and neck with your arms by your side. You’ll need to keep your eyes open, so you will not be closing your eyes for this one, but you can create a soft gaze. Use soft eyes on the ground, about six feet in front of you. Just make sure you don’t look at your feet. Start walking and match your breath with your steps.
For example, you may inhale on two steps and exhale on two steps. Pay attention to how your feet feel as they hit the ground. Is there any pain? Does your gait feel awkward? If so, why? How do your arms feel as they swing? Are your shoulders loose? Are they tight? Continue asking yourself these types of questions and adjust your body as needed.
Then finish it off with a nice stretch of your body and give some special attention to those areas that feel stiff or tight. Do this for two minutes and increase your time when you're ready.
So that's it. Your three daily energizers, your daily REM — reading, exercise and meditation. REM is also known as your Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep. This stage is when your brain is more active than any other sleep stage. And it's also where most of your dreaming happens.
But I want to tell you, you can also dream while you're awake. You can think about what's going to make you happy now, in this particular stage of your life. You can discover new possibilities that will light a fire under you and get you excited again. And you can enjoy a new level of peace and clarity that will make your life extraordinary, no matter what your age.
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Make sure you go to TheEasyAgingShow.com to pick up your free gift, if you haven't done so already. And until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours, bye-bye.