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Aging Well: The power of hope

Having a hopeful disposition brings various health benefits, including a greater likelihood of living a healthy lifestyle, according to recent research by Mather Institute.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Do you generally have an optimistic view of the future? If so, you may be reaping some hidden benefits. And if not, you still have reason to… well, hope.

“Hope is a powerful state of mind. For example, it’s been linked to better social well-being outcomes, such as life satisfaction, sense of purpose, and quality of life,” says Cate O’Brien, PhD, AVP of Mather Institute. The Institute is the research area of Mather, the organization that’s bringing The Mather, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, to Tysons in early 2024. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living, and successful aging service innovations.

“Our researchers partnered with Washington University in St. Louis on a study of hope and healthy behaviors,” says Dr. O’Brien. “We found that people with a hopeful disposition are more likely to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors and feel positive about the future.” Therefore, by promoting a hopeful outlook, you can actually impact multiple areas of your health.

The good news is that even if you’re not a natural optimist, it’s possible to improve that mindset. Mather Institute researchers combed through previous studies on the subject, and came up with 10 tips that have been proven to help people foster a sense of hope and stay motivated.

  1. Set goals for yourself. Goals could be short-term (e.g., aiming to walk for 20 minutes every day) or long-term (e.g., learning a foreign language).
  2. Start slow. Make sure that the goals you set are attainable (e.g., eating a healthy diet or getting enough sleep).
  3. Break up goals into smaller goals to make them more manageable. For example, if your goal is to walk for 45 minutes every day, start with a 30-minute walk, three times a week and build your endurance.
  4. Keep realistic expectations about your goals and be creative. If bad weather interferes with your weekly lunch with a friend, enjoy a “virtual” lunch together over a video call.
  5. Develop a purpose in life. You can volunteer at your local food pantry, participate in a fundraiser, tutor school-aged children, or collect or distribute items of clothing.
  6. Nurture your hobbies. Pursue your passion, be it gardening, baking, writing, traveling, or scrapbooking.
  7. Challenge yourself. Complete a crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
  8. Try new things. Learn new skills such as playing a musical instrument or try out a new restaurant every month.
  9. Engage in social activities. Try to socialize regularly with friends and family. You can also join a book club or gardening club, video chat with grandchildren, or find a walking partner.
  10. Practice reflection. Meditating every day or maintaining a daily gratitude journal are some great ways to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, appreciate life, and think positively about the future.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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