We've all been conditioned to look upon time as our enemy. This belief is wrong, but it's so deeply ingrained that if affects even the most gifted people.
Years ago, I was riding in a car with a woman who had been labeled by the media as one of the most beautiful women in the world. She had everything, since talent and wealth were also hers, but her health tended to be fragile.
"How can I help you?" I asked her.
She looked embarrassed and didn't want to answer. For the next few miles, she gazed wistfully out the window as the passing countryside. Then she blurted out, "How I wish I could be young again."
I didn't hear vanity in her words but a helpless wish, the kind any of us might have when we don't think it can be granted. She looked amazed when I replied, "There is a way that you can influence your aging and even begin to look and feel young once again."
Such a statement might sound ridiculous unless you understand that aging does not have to be purely a function of time. The clock seems to be ticking off the hours, days and years. Given enough time, the ocean will wear away the shore. But human beings are privileged. Unlike a rock, which cannot defend itself against wind and water, or a machine, whose parts wear out over time, humans have a relationship with time.
And like all relationships, yours can be good or bad.
What's Your Relationship with Time Like? Right now, you have an up-and-down relationship with time. Certain things cause time to be stressful and nerve-wracking. Other experiences make time carefree and joyous. When asked to explain relativity for the ordinary person, Einstein pointed out that time drags when you're at the dentist but flies by when you sit with someone you love. We think we're just using words when we say, "I'm on a deadline," "I'm running out of time," "There aren't enough hours in the day." But every cell in your body is participating in those experiences. If your deadline is crushing, if you're running out of time to save your mortgage, or if you go to bed with a dozen unfinished items on your agenda, those extreme pressures have made time your enemy.
It isn't time's fault. All the damaging effects of running out of time—high blood pressure, imbalanced hormones, digestive problems, insomnia, increased susceptibility to disease, increased likelihood of anxiety and depression disorders—reverse themselves when your relationship with time turns from bad to good. When you make time your friend, hundreds of billions of cells will silently thank you, because a healthy body must run on time. Unseen by you, hundreds of biological cycles are being coordinated inside your body. The most basic life rhythms, like breathing and your heartbeat, are actually clocks that bring dozens of other rhythms into sync with them. In a fascinating way, your body has learned how to master time even as you struggle with it.
Aging can be seen, not as time taking its revenge, but time out of joint. When your bodily clocks are perfectly coordinated, the processes that keep every cell vibrant and functioning with perfect efficiency—in other words, the processes we see in a young cell—can be maintained for decades. Even when a cell grows old and dies, that doesn't cause life's rhythms to grow old. It's invisible slippage at the level of time that is the real culprit in again.
Keep regular hours. Eat and sleep on a regular schedule.
Avoid drastic changes in diet and activity.
Set up an orderly work environment. Reduce distractions.
Rest quietly once to twice during the day to let our body retune itself.
Take yourself out of stressful situations sooner rather than later.
Take your time; don't rush.
Make decisions when they arise. Don't procrastinate or get distracted.
Pay attention to what is directly in front of you. Focus on one thing at a time.
Don't multitask. Dividing your attention leads to confusion and weakened focus.
Protect yourself. Avoid the temptation to plunge into high-risk situations.
Stay within your comfort zone.
Put your house and finances in order.
Address underlying anxiety.
Release underlying anger. Learn to do this without losing control or hurting others.
Renounce violence in thought and word.
Become more resilient emotionally.
Eliminate chaotic influences at work and in your primary relationship.
Live as if you have all the time in the world.
How to be timeless How to Be Timeless Your ultimate goal, living as if you have all the time in the world, is functional immortality. It happens to be how every cell in your body is already living. Immortality comes naturally; giving in to time requires effort. As mundane as these points may seem, especially those early on in the list, they can be used to shift your awareness. It's not the mechanical doing that makes a difference but settling into life's rhythm naturally and with ease.
I'm reminded of a therapist I know who gets patients whose lives seem out of control. He surprises them by saying, "Go home and clean your house. Make your bed every morning. Watch the sunrise for five minutes. Don't skip breakfast for a week. Watch the sunset for five minutes when you get home from work. Then come back and we'll discuss what's bothering you." He wants to see if they are capable of solving the simple disorderliness in someone's awareness before addressing deeper psychological issues. Even a basic change can subtly retune the body.
Deepak Choprais the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM, Channels 102 and 155.
What are your secrets to aging well? Share your comments below!
Printed from Oprah.com on Tuesday, December 10, 2013