People who become kinder as they get older usually adopt these 9 daily habits

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They say that life can make you bitter, or it can make you better.

We’ve all met older people who seem like they stopped enjoying life a long time ago, if they ever even did. And it’s true that aging brings unique challenges that can have a significant impact on the way we view the world.

Losing people we love and suffering from poor health and diminished capacity is enough to make anyone struggle to maintain a positive attitude. This can lead to bitterness, anger, and a lack of empathy.

No wonder there’s a stereotype of old people being grumpy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A long life presents lots of opportunities to become a better, kinder person. And often, self-improvement is about the habits you cultivate every day.

People who become kinder as they grow older adopt several daily habits that help them cultivate an empathetic outlook.

Here are some of the main ones.

1) Gratitude

 This is an important quality to have for anyone of any age. And a regular gratitude practice can keep older people from becoming bitter and angry.

After all, it’s impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time.

Practicing gratitude just means focusing on all the good things you have in your life and allowing yourself to feel grateful for them.

Some people like to keep a journal that they use every day to record the things they are grateful for. Others just take a moment to focus on the good things in their life and appreciate them.

It could be big things, like the love of your family or your good health. Or it could be something as small as a good meal or fine weather.

Ultimately, what you are grateful for isn’t the important thing. What is important is focusing on the good things you have to keep yourself from being negative.

It can also make you happier.

According to this article from Harvard Medical School, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

2) Performing small acts of kindness

Ultimately, being kind to others is less about how we feel and more about what we do. And one of the interesting things about kindness is that the more you practice it, the more you want to be kind to others.

That’s why people who get kinder as they age practice regular small acts of kindness.

Again, this doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be as small as checking in on a friend or waving to the mailman. It could also mean volunteering your time with a charity or making regular donations.

Again, it’s not about what you do as much as it is about creating a habit of thinking about others. Because once you do that, you’ll find yourself getting kinder with each passing day.

3) Cultivating patience

Old people have a reputation for being cranky, but that’s not necessarily fair. It may not be that they are necessarily more angry than younger people, but that they care less about expressing that anger.

Psychology professor David Isaacowitz points out that when you’re young, being nice and friendly can help you make people like you so you can get something you need from them later on. For older people, that just doesn’t matter as much.

But that’s no excuse to be impatient with people.

There are all kinds of experiences in life that can trigger our impatience, and those don’t go away as we get older. But learning to deal with them with humor and grace is a skill you can pick up at any age.

Instead of getting mad at that person in line in front of you or the guy who cut you off in traffic, put yourself in their shoes.

We are all fighting battles that are not visible from the outside, so try to always see other people as individuals in their own right instead of obstacles in your way, and you’ll become more patient.

4) Listening actively

 Active listening simply means paying full attention when people are talking to you.

Here’s how to listen actively:

  •       Listen without making judgments;
  •       Don’t interrupt;
  •       Show you’re paying attention by making eye contact and leaning in;
  •       Ask relevant questions;
  •       Give a short summary of what you’ve heard.

As we get older, it’s tempting to think we’ve heard it all before. But listening actively not only helps us understand other people better, but it also helps to make them feel heard. And that’s a kind thing to do.

5) Expressing empathy 

Ultimately, kindness comes down to empathy. That’s the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and understand how they feel in any situation.

Empathy is something most of us have to one extent or another, but it’s also a skill that you can develop through practice.

Trying to understand how other people feel and why they act the way they do will make you get better at it over time. And this can only make you a kinder person.

But along with feeling that empathy, you need to express it.

What that means changes from one situation to the next. It can mean offering someone a kind word when they are struggling, or helping someone with a difficult task.

But the more you practice this empathy, the better you’ll get at it.

6) Self-reflection

Self-reflection is an often underrated aspect of empathy and kindness.

The thing is, while we’re all different, we’re not that different from each other. So the better you understand yourself, the easier it becomes to understand other people, too.

Reflecting on your own thoughts and actions helps you understand yourself, and therefore other people, better.

You can keep a journal to help you understand your own inner thoughts. Alternatively, you can meditate or practice mindfulness.

But however you work to understand yourself better, it will make you a kinder person.

7) Forgiveness

The older we get, the more of a past we have. And no one gets to any significant age without having things in their past to be angry, sad, or resentful about.

But dwelling on the painful parts of your past is almost a guaranteed recipe for bitterness.

“Forgiveness is not saying what happened was ok. Forgiveness is not saying you accept the person who wronged you,” writes psychologist Rubin Khoddam.

“Instead, forgiveness is choosing to accept what happened as it happened rather than what could or should have happened.”

In other words, forgiving the past robs it of its power to harm the present. What you’ve been through doesn’t change, but you can take away its ability to make you angry or sad now.

And when you do that, you’ll find it easier to be kind to other people. When you’re no longer occupied by unpleasant thoughts, you can focus fully on others.

8) Lifelong learning

Learning new things is one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp and active as you get older. But depending on what you learn, it can also increase your empathy.

Especially once people retire, they have more time than they may have ever had before in their lives. That makes this the ideal time to learn new things. Learning about other cultures or learning a new language can help you understand other people better.

And that’s one of the best ways to become a kinder person.

9) Prioritizing relationships

One of the great tragedies of life is that it’s finite. We are all destined to lose people we care about, and the older you get, the more likely that becomes.

That’s why it’s so important to prioritize the relationships that you do have.

Whether it’s friends or family, staying in touch with the people that are important to you has a significant impact on your health.

But it can also make you kinder. Staying involved with other people helps you understand their needs, problems, and desires. And that helps you cultivate your empathy.

Besides, if you want to be kind, you need people to be kind to. That’s why it’s important to maintain your relationships as you age.

Getting kinder

Although it doesn’t always seem like it, getting older can be a real gift.

The hormonal changes that come with old age can make us calmer, and the more life we have lived, the more wisdom we gain about ourselves and other people.

That, along with these regular habits, can help to make anyone a kinder person, no matter how old they are.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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