Recently we talked about aging gracefully. Now we want to take this a step further, by exploring something we think of as “graceful aging.” Whether or not you enjoy or dread aging is a matter of perspective, which means graceful aging is about how you, personally, frame the concept of aging. Do you recognize and accept the gifts of aging, or are you focused on the losses?

You’re only as old as you feel—it’s cliche, right? But turns out, it’s true. A study by University College London found that adults who said they “feel” younger than they are actually live longer than adults who claimed to feel “their age.” Another study by Yale University showed that senior citizens who feel negatively about aging are sicker and less independent. Specifically, the study found that those who associate aging with words like “forgetfulness,” “useless,” “helpless,” and “devalued,” are less likely to seek preventative care and more likely to suffer losses of memory and function. When seniors associate aging with words like “wisdom” and “self-realization,” they are higher-functioning and more likely to recover from injury.

Yale also found that seniors (like all of us!) are susceptible to external messaging. When exposed to negative words, such as “decrepit,” flashed quickly across a screen (too quickly to consciously read!), seniors underperformed on motor skills tests. When exposed to positive words, they performed at higher levels. What this means is, not only do stereotypes matter, but older adults surrounded by those who feel positively about aging are more likely to age well.

Regardless of how we feel about it, we’re all aging constantly. The trick is to be realistic about taking care of ourselves (pulling an all-nighter wasn’t healthy at 22, either!), while reminding ourselves that getting older doesn’t mean we need to stop moving, exploring new and old hobbies, traveling, spending time with friends, and doing all the things that bring us joy.

We talk about anti-aging on this blog, but no matter how involved your anti-aging regiment, you will never fully hide the physical signs of aging—and that’s okay! You deserve to feel beautiful throughout your entire life. If you want to color your hair, fill in your lines, and plump your features—if that makes happy—go for it! (And let us help!) But if you resent the time and expense, don’t let fake magazine images trick you into believing that an uncreased face is what makes you desirable.

Beauty should be about your personal style and foremost, it should stem from an appreciation of general health. In the end, that’s what all this integrative aesthetics stuff is about—building a healthier, happier you, from the inside out. Are your skin and face worth an investment of time and money? Absolutely! But only if working on your skin and face are things that you enjoy. You should invest for the same reasons that you invest in a timeless coat or gorgeous dress—because it fits your personal style. Because this is the skin you want to live inside.

Here’s the thing that women often miss—aging isn’t shameful. It’s natural, and it comes with some beautiful benefits. Aging is about caring less about others’ opinions than you used to and making the choices that you find valuable. It’s about expertise, perspective, and finding time for the things you always wanted to try but couldn’t while you were building a career or caring for a young family. Maybe now’s the time you train for a marathon, learn to play the piano, freely pamper your skin and body.

Yes, beauty is about lovely skin, and yes, that is something that maybe came easier in your 20s. (Or maybe it didn’t, since many people experience acne through their 20s.) But true beauty is about feeling great. And in our 20s, even the most precocious among us lacked the radiant confidence that we often enjoy in our 40s. And that confidence is why those of us in our 40s should look forward to our 50s.

If you got our January newsletter you know that in 2018, we’re going to be thinking about how beauty is a journey, not a destination. Here are a few thoughts on aging from some women we admire:

“There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles, your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life.”

— Diane von Furstenberg, fashion icon

“Here’s what I know: I’m a better person at 50 than I was at 48 … and better at 52 than I was at 50. I’m calmer, easier to live with…Take care of friendships, hold people you love close to you, take advantage of birthdays to celebrate fiercely. It’s the worrying — not the years themselves — that will make you less of a woman.”

— Patti LaBelle, singer & entrepreneur

“You have to sit down and take a good look at yourself, particularly as you grow older and your face changes. People are afraid of changing; that they’re losing something. They don’t understand that they are also gaining something … As I lost the fullness in my face, I got in these great cheekbones.”

—Sharon Stone, actress & producer

Cheers to aging gracefully and graceful aging. Cheer to enjoying the journey!