Creaky joints, gray hair, sagging body parts….our bodies definitely change as we grow older whether we like it or not.
If you’re under 70 or so, reading that paragraph might have just set you up to feel more prejudiced against people who don’t support your cultural values. Or it may have created an impulse in you to tout your accomplishments and brilliance.
If you’re closer to 80 or 90, however, you probably just agreed with the statements, nodding your head with acceptance.
Research shows unconscious fear of death causes defensive behaviors
It seems that among younger folks (let’s say, all of us under 70), there’s so much fear of death that researchers have developed a theory for how people deal with thoughts of death. In a May, 2012 article in The Atlantic magazine, Hans Villarica quotes psychology researcher Jeff Greenberg, one of the originators of the Terror Management Theory (what a horrid name!) as he describes what happens to people when death is ‘close to mind’:
…”people become more adamant in their beliefs and get extra-motivated to distance themselves from their physicality and to assert their symbolic value — their intellect, achievements, and so forth. They increase prejudice and aggression against others who are different. They reject the physical aspects of sex, avoid bodily activities, and use euphemisms for them. They show off their skills, smarts, fitness, and generosity. And indeed research has shown all of these things.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/05/how-the-unrelenting-threat-of-death-shapes-our-behavior/256728/)
Very old people let go of fear of death and, instead, savor life.
As people grow older – and fundamentally and inarguably closer to inevitable death – they become more accepting of death and less needy of defensive mechanisms. In a 2013 Huffington Post article, Karl Pillemer noted the results of his research that showed “the awareness of death and the short time horizon remaining produced a desire to savor life in the moment and to take every advantage of the time that is left.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-a-pillemer-phd/fear-of-death_b_4075769.html)
Try mindful living now – to savor more, fear less.
I mention these research results to offer you something to consider this month dedicated to Healthy Aging. If you’re in your 50’s, 60’s or early 70’s and death holds any sort of terror for you – any fear level at all – you might find that living more mindfully now, and over the next few decades, will bring you to that place of acceptance and peace much sooner. Perhaps you’ll begin to “savor life in the moment” NOW rather than waiting until you’re 85 or 90.
Why not learn how to live more peacefully, more mindfully, with greater acceptance and joy NOW? How much more enjoyable the next decades would be!
Two books from Dudley Court Press can help you live your life more mindfully.
Andrena Woodhams, author of The Inner Travel Guide (available October 1st) shows you how to come home to your body to be a peace in your mind.
My own book, Pay Attention, Say Thank You offers seven easy practices that change how you’ll experience life, and will bring you much more joy every single day.
Both books are available on Amazon.com and from your favorite bookseller. See the Dudley Court Press Bookstore for more on these helpful books.