Over the summer, I had the pleasure of coaching a group of 10 and 11-year-old kids in a program called 716 Squash – a national program that brings athletics, academics, mentoring, travel, college prep, and support, to kids from underserved communities.
I wrote about them in my last post. I’m writing about them again to share some of the unexpected lessons they taught me and that you will learn as you read on…
I volunteered to be their health coach. I became “Mama Pauly” and their “healthy lady”.
I’m a health and functional medicine coach. I focus my work on longevity and aging, and helping others live long and well and free of chronic disease. And that isn’t so easy today. Upwards of 60% of our population has been diagnosed with some chronic disease – and they aren’t all old.
Here’s some advice from my awesome 716 Squash kids who don’t think too much about growing old. And, actually, that’s a perfect start…
If you’ve ever worried about getting old, feeble, or disintegrating with age, spend some time with a bunch of 10-year-olds. They’ll teach you some of the things you need to do to stay young!
These kids are real. No airs. No pretending. No showing off (okay, maybe just a little). They are what they are and they bring it all on without worrying about what you might think of them.
It got me to thinking how stressed we become when we strive to be what we’re not. When we’re constantly trying to measure up to some impossible ideal that keeps changing daily, we’re screwed. We’re stressed and unhappy and dissatisfied – all the makings for an unhappy body and a discontented heart.
And, as you may know, stress depletes our immune function and accelerates biological aging.
Kids laugh, squeal, giggle, and vibrate with joy at the simplest things. You should have been there when we were learning about “mindfulness”. Need I say more? They finally settled down but not before they were a mass of giggles as I had them sitting and lying on the floor imagining the sounds of the ocean and following their breath.
Did you know that laughter strengthens the immune system, releases endorphins (our happy hormones) and slows aging? We all need lots of it!
It goes without saying: Try to get a 10-year-old to hold still and you’re gonna lose! Period. These kids are in constant motion: standing, sitting, wiggling, squirming, rolling around, shifting positions, getting up out of their chairs, coming up front to investigate more closely what I was doing.
Kids are non-stop movers quite unlike us adults who sit passively and endlessly in our seats (I believe the average in this county is 13 hours of sit time a day. If this continues we may evolve into right-angled creatures!)
Movement is an essential anti-aging ingredient. And I don’t mean spending an hour at the gym. I mean moving throughout your day. Getting off your bottom regularly, standing, walking around, walking while you talk on the phone, taking a quick evening stroll with your dog. Anything to get you on your feet.
Not only will movement help keep your muscles from disintegrating as you age, it will help preserve your brain function.
This may be a stretch but these kids think young. Of course they do, you might say. They’re kids after all. But did you ever pay attention to your thinking?
When was the last time you blamed forgetting a name or misplacing an object on your old, worn out brain – rather than just possibly being forgetful or having too much going on up there at once?
Kids forget things all the time and don’t blame their old brains.
The words we use to describe ourselves resonate throughout the body and the body responds by giving you exactly what you’re thinking. There’s science behind this that indicates that if we hold a healthy view of aging – a youthful view, we can live healthier and longer lives. I’m all for that!
Gratitude & Forgiveness
Teaching 4th and 5th-grade kids was a whole new experience for me. I am not a teacher by training and when I do teach it’s mostly to adults. Going in I was a little concerned about how this would all come together and if I could pull it off.
First day, I forgot the knife we needed to Julianne our salad makings. Oops! Lucky there was a “Big K” around the corner with a perfect $5.99 chopping knife. When I admitted my goof to the kids they were totally cool. No big deal. “It’s okay, Mama Pauly.” That being said with a genuine look of understanding on their faces.
When the juicer leaked or the spring rolls didn’t quite stick together as planned, they were nonplussed. They were in a total state of appreciation and gratitude, and loving the messiness of it all!
Forgiveness is a gift we give to others and a burden we release from ourselves. Kids just know this.
As for gratitude, we all need lots of it. Not only does it make us feel better, it keeps us from growing old and grumpy!
Love & Connection
Kids connect with you quickly and love unconditionally. You feel it from the moment you’re in their presence. If you’re giving it out, kids return it to you in multiples!
And, guess what? Love and connection keep us alive and well. We all crave it. Possibly more than anything else in life.
In the longest longitudinal study of human development, Harvard researchers found that loving relationships are the secret ingredient to long and happy lives.
If you’re ever feeling old, worn out, past your prime, or just generally dissatisfied with life, look for a place to volunteer the gifts that only you possess. And if kids are part of it, you’re in luck! There are kids that need loving people just like you: big brothers, big sisters, foster kids. They’re all out there craving love, support, and our attention.
Give more | Love more | Live young! ♥