Tips and tools to find joy and build strength, starting now
A recent Instagram video by Sheila Nollert, the powerhouse behind the account @grandma_moves, begins with her drinking tea in a rocking chair, covered with a blanket and reading a book. “Society says senior years look like this,” reads the words flashing across the screen. “Nope!”
Down goes the teacup and up Nollert gets, casting off her blanket to reveal sportswear and running shoes. With the back of her heel, she tips over the rocking chair and strides into the forest to begin a vigorous workout. Meanwhile, the caption implores: “Don’t believe it when you hear your older years look like ... well, over. Your older years are far from over ... for goodness’s sake. Society doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Simply keep moving!”
This short clip embodies the ethos that drives Nollert to share content through @grandma_moves. It’s a powerful message. How often do we put off living for today—doing activities that bring us joy or help us cultivate strength—because we feel there will be a better time to do so in the future, or that our best days are behind us?
But learning to live for the here and now offers a wealth of mental and physical benefits, and it’s easier to do than you may think.
Modern society is replete with ageist messages, from incessant advertisements for antiaging creams to the normalization of telling someone that they “look good for their age.”
Although there’s increasing recognition of the issue of ageism, these messages, says Nollert, work to keep older folks down, making them feel as if they have no business in engaging in activities traditionally associated with a younger crowd. But by accepting these narratives, we limit ourselves and miss out on opportunities for personal growth, strengthening our bodies, and connecting with others.
“Say you want to go for a hike,” says Nollert, “but you think—oh, I’m 70 years old, so I can’t! Well, that hike would have allowed you to work on your sense of balance, mobility, and endurance, as well as immerse yourself in nature. By skipping out, you’re missing all of that.”
Setting and working toward long-term goals is one way to hold yourself accountable and ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities for joy and growth.
If a particular goal feels inaccessible, says Nollert, who is in the process of writing a book about a solo canoe trip she undertook after four years spent putting it off out of fear, try breaking it down into smaller steps.
For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to run a half-marathon but now find running a challenge. Can you start strength training to make running a possibility again? If not, can you walk the half-marathon, or try out a 10 km route?
“Options are opportunities,” says Nollert. “The most important thing is to stay in the game in terms of achieving our goals and dreams.”
The golden years
Canadian seniors report being more satisfied with their lives than any other age group.
Seize the day
Along with long-term goal planning, we can work to enjoy daily moments to their fullest. Nollert lives by a simple motto to help make the most of the mundane: “Every day is a vacation day.” This motto can apply to anyone, whether you’re working full time or already enjoying retirement. What it means is to take the time to do something, no matter how small, that makes each day feel special.
“Make a date with the sunrise,” suggests Nollert. “Even if it’s overcast, take the opportunity to look out to the horizon and be in that moment. [If] it’s the wintertime and it’s hard to get up, light a candle while you’re having breakfast.”
If you’re not an early riser, Nollert has tons of other tips; here are just a few:
· Try taking your coffee in a travel mug to a park before work or stopping to admire a house with a beautiful garden.
· Read just one page of a book before leaving the house.
· Take a different route home or sit at a different place at the dinner table to freshen your perspectives and shake up your routine.
· Spend two minutes in your room in silence after work before heading out to cook dinner for the kids.
Even an activity like walking the dog can bring joy, says Nollert, if we allow it to. “Instead of thinking of it as a chore, try to take it all in—the colours of the trees, the breeze, the sounds of the birds. Feel the earth under your feet. Enjoy.”
For your next holiday, consider indulging in some joy therapy, or the practice of intentionally seeking out joy through activities and connections.
Along with practising mindfulness or getting out into nature, another option is to seek out one of the increasing numbers of wellness retreats geared toward helping guests find joy.
At Rancho La Puerta in Mexico, for example, Barry Shingle, director of guest relations and programming, says that they aim to provide opportunities for guests to let go of external distractions and reconnect with their joyful selves. Ways to achieve this include avoiding the use of cellphones, spending time in the garden, taking a movement class, or going to a music concert.