Saying “Yes” Is Key to Healthy Aging

Having an open mind and positive expectations help the over 50 crowd stay youthful. While most of us know this, why is it still so difficult to try new things? And why is it so important to make the effort regardless of our natural inclinations?

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie, “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey. The crux of the plot is that Jim Carrey’s character has made a habit of saying “No” and creating all sorts of obstacles in his life. When he attends a self-help meeting with a friend, he is challenged to say “Yes” to everything. In the process of fulfilling his commitment, he opens himself up to a variety of situations he would normally avoid at any cost—giving a homeless man a ride, partying around the clock with his buddies AND picking up the tab, approving loans for everyone who walks into his office, and agreeing to plan the bridal shower for his friend’s fiancé. Of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, all of these uncomfortable situations transform his life, showering him in success…almost. (no spoiler here; you’ll have to watch the movie!)

In his blog, “The Power of Yes: A Simple Way to Get More Out of Life,” financial expert J.D. Roth talks about how forcing himself to say “Yes” changed his life, primarily for the better. “I’ve had some failures too,” he admits. “Surprisingly, I’ve learned more from the bad experiences than I have from the good..”

And Saturday Night Live comedienne, Amy Poehler, talked about her improvisational comedy training when she was on the Actor’s Studio in 2009. She explained how whenever a fellow comedian passes information in improv, the recipient is taught to accept and build on it. She credited this accepting mindset with not only helping her succeed in comedy but, more importantly, helping her take on new challenges in life in general.

Brain fitness experts also attest to the fact that trying new things is crucial to developing new brain pathways, leading to brain fitness and continuing mental acuity as we age. Yet, most people tend to become set in their ways as they get older. They know what they like, so why try something that makes them uncomfortable? They’ve earned their right to have a preference, right?

I couldn’t agree more; they have every right to stick to what they know. Unfortunately, doing so or buying into the fiction that they are too old to learn something new are earned perspectives that will comfort them right into an early grave. Additionally, what chance do any of us have of experiencing the blush of a new positive experience if we never break out of our molds?

Now I’m not suggesting that any of you take this concept of saying “Yes” as far as Jim Carrey did in the movie. A modicum of common sense should still be utilized, i.e., I still recommend saying “No” when someone asks you for your clothes in the middle of a snow storm (unless you’re trying out for the Polar Bear Club of course). However, the real point here is to keep open to new experiences that force us out of our comfort zones, particularly as we get a little older. Sometimes it’s too easy to say “No” or “Maybe,” when “Yes” could make for a more interesting year. Try it the next time someone suggests something you’re not too sure about.

And of course, we’d love to hear about a time when you said “Yes” and did something you typically wouldn’t have, and it changed you for the better. Perhaps commenting here is one of those things. Go ahead. Just say “Yes.” I promise it won’t be as uncomfortable as an Arctic skinny dip!

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One Response to “Saying “Yes” Is Key to Healthy Aging”
  1. Marilynn Cronin says:

    This is great advice. Living in a 55+ community is a lesson in this – you see those who won’t try anything new and those who do way too much. Those who keep on moving and doing are the ones who seem to be the healthiest both mentally and physically.

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