Our culture is suffering from an epidemic—I call it chronic adult-it is, or stressing about aging. Despite the constant barrage of news and products to counter getting older, healthy aging comes down to something quite simple: playfulness. Here’s my playbook of strategies on how to accomplish this every day. 

Exercise

Too often, people look at exercise as a chore. What happened? When did the idea of running around playing get relegated to a treadmill or a fitness class? When did we start dreading breaking a sweat? It’s time to treat exercise as play.

Research from the University of Michigan suggests that when we are exercising for the sheer sake of joy and for how wonderful it makes us feel after we’re done, our tendency to stick with it increases exponentially. But when we exercise specifically to lose weight or improve heart health or prevent disease, we don’t typically stick with it. Unfortunately, the latter reasons are why most of us work out.

Instead, give yourself permission to take a cue from your inner child and simply enjoy exercising and moving—your tendency will shift to never wanting to stop! 

Relationships

One of the best pro-aging strategies is spending time with friends and loved ones. We know from research that the quality of relationships we surround ourselves with can affect everything from our genes to inflammation to longevity. Good relationships open the door to play opportunities, too.

For example, my family and I take our dogs for a walk every night after dinner. Do this yourself: Walk or simply spend some time outside with a spouse, other family members, a friend, a pet. The more companions you take with you, the more awesome points you get on the board.

There’s a powerful energy called “moral and emotional contagion” that compels the positive forces around us to attract us and raise us up. We tend to emulate what’s around us, and our body and mind copies what it sees and feels. Choose to “decorate your life” with people who are light, loving and hopeful. Use them as mentors, coaches and inspirations, because they know the secret of life.  

See also Exercise is Better Together

Food

What is more fun and playful than preparing and eating fresh, colorful foods? This is a great time of year to experiment with fresh produce. Try different fruits and vegetables in salads. Blend up smoothies. Make it a goal for each week of summer—and throughout the year—to fit in as many colors of foods as possible. The more color and variety in your diet, the greater the benefit to your genes and your genius.

According to research by Dean Ornish, M.D., founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, the more our diets are plant-based, the greater our ability to fight the fire of inflammation, age more beautifully, and live longer and stronger.

The more we stay connected to things that bring us joy, the better we will be at winning the game of life.  

 

The cofounder of Optimum Wellness, Dr. James Rouse has a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. He is an inspirational speaker, personal coach, author and the cofounder of Skoop, a line of powdered superfoods.