In a recent Instagram post Susannah Constantine wrote: “I genuinely don’t worry about looking older. But I do want to LOOK and feel HEALTHY & strong.” In her story that accompanied the post she went on to say: “… pretty much every morning I wake and I think about my mortality …” and that she has come to the realisation that we should be conscious of not so much how long we’re going to live, but more “… how long we can stay healthy and mobile with a positive state of mind.”
‘Health span’ rather than ‘life span’, she says. It certainly gave me pause for thought, and while I don’t actually think about my own mortality every day, she makes a very good observation for midlife and beyond living when I am ever conscious that the years behind me are now greater than the ones ahead of me. So ‘health span’ over ‘life span’ most definitely and I couldn’t agree more – except it is, as we all know, really not that simple.
Healthy living is about the choices we make and finding the right balance that works for us, but when we live in a world where the pressure to be all things to all people seems paramount, it’s not easy to bring choice into the equation to begin with. While midlife and beyond offers so much more opportunity and possibilities than it ever did in in previous generations, the downside to this is that it leaves little room for ‘me time’ – something that as women we’re not good at carving out for ourselves at the best of times.
Since the average life expectancy continues to increase, the fact that we are living longer means that many of us continue to work for longer, and whether that’s following the same career path or finding an entrepreneurial midlife venture is immaterial here really, because the fact remains that at a time when our bodies are beginning to slow down a little, we are not. Something that takes us right back to Susannah’s point – and then expanding to ask what can we do to stay healthy and mobile with a positive state of mind?
Our days can be so frenetic, crammed full of our own and other’s expectations – but as hard as it is, sometimes we just need to stop and breathe. Find some time and space that is ours alone, and listen to our bodies, tuning in to what feels right and what it is that feels wrong. Creating these moments of calm and stillness in our day will have a huge impact on how we are able to move forwards again, allowing us to take back control of our mental wellbeing.
Exercise goes without saying, and again it’s about finding what works for you. I’m a big fan of the gym, but ever since I was young, I have loved to dance. My taste in music might have changed over the years, but my love for dance has never waned, so I’m not surprised that researchers have identified a strong link between dancing and the restorative effects for a positive attitude and wellbeing. When you put this alongside the benefits of good exercise, it’s a class I will turn to again and again.
Of course, we know that diet plays a huge part in our health and wellbeing, and our bodies have a way of telling us exactly what we need as we move through the different phases of life – particularly as we go into midlife – we just need to listen to what it tells us. I’m not an advocate for diets – many of which can actually be detrimental to our health – but I do believe in the long term benefits of lighter, fresher foods that cleanse and nourish and that are so very good for our skin health.
So – while it might not be that simple to put ‘health span’ over ‘life span’ within the confines of our hectic lives, it is all there for the taking – and pure common sense really – as we move into our midlife years. We need to make room for these choices. There’s a very apt quote from the 19th century French master of maxims, Jules Renard: “It’s not a question of how old you are, but a question of how you are old.” Just about sums it up for me.