During the first lockdown here in the UK, a couple of friends of mine mentioned that the conditions had made them “feel their age” and that they were ageing more than at any other time in their lives – a combination of trying to keep up with lively young children at home all day, feeling slightly like they were not wholly in control of their lives, plus additional pressures and considerations that come with being an adult during a pandemic.
I wanted to write about that topic today; or rather, about being able to feel younger.
You must have heard the oft-repeated adage that age is just a number. But for many in their late 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s feeling young can be difficult. Science has shown that one factor influencing longevity of life is how young you feel. How old you feel – also known as Subjective Health – has a very significant impact on your health and longevity. And while many may dismiss the idea of “feeling young” as we grow older, I am here to tell you that it is in fact possible, both mentally and physically. And yes, we have scientifically proven data to support that!
Why is it Important to Feel Young?
Feeling young can be more beneficial than you might have initially and actually expected. Harvard Health Publishing stated that “Feeling young at heart may help you live longer,” and this was further supported by a three-year research study conducted by the German Centre of Gerontology. These researchers studied 5,039 individuals in a German Ageing Study who were questioned constantly about the relative stress they experienced, their functional health as well as “How old they felt?”. It was found that participants who experienced more stress in their lives also experienced a dramatic decline in their well being, something I thin we are all more acutely aware of nowadays.
However, it was also shown that people who mentally felt “young at heart” enjoyed a healthy lifestyle with a gradual decline in functional health and that feeling young served as a type of protective barrier for functional and subjective health.
Jeanyung Chey, a professor serving in the Psychology department of Seoul National University, states that “We found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger person“. He further added that “Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms or cognitive functions are accounted for“.
Having considered the scientific benefits of subjective well-being, I definitely would not dismiss the notion of “feeling young at heart”.
How to Feel Younger?
So, the question arises: What is the secret to feeling younger and healthier? How do you go about it? Below are 13 scientific ways to feel younger:
- Try not to stress over little things.
The first and the easiest way to feel younger is to smile more often. According to research by Michigan University, “Smiling, regardless of your actual emotional state, can make you feel happier (which is one aspect of a youthful feeling). Another research states that even a minor inconvenience such as a disagreement with a sibling or an unexpected traffic jam can irritate you, causing stress and, in turn, can make you feel older.
Read this article for more on this subject: The physical and psychological benefits of smiling.
The director of the American Institute for Cognitive therapy, Robert Leahy, PhD, says that one way to avoid becoming irritated and stressed out is to change our routine, such that it varies every day. Undergoing new experiences every day prepares your brain for varying levels of stress, thereby helping you maintain a positive outlook every day. I actually promote the benefits and power of routine, so if you do adhere to routines to be productive, for example, then find time in your day to do new things and take new approaches wherever you are able.
And this does not necessarily require a lot of effort. The simplest of things have the capacity to bring change. A simple day out with your loved ones, listening to some music, and a long drive can make all the difference!
- Exercise is Key.
We all know that exercise has multiple benefits associated with it. A regular workout can tone your body, strengthen your muscles and serve as an energy booster. However, you might never have thought that all these physical benefits can improve your mental health and your subjective well being.
Research conducted by the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in which several adults were asked to increase their daily walk step count found that adult individuals who successfully increased their daily step count found themselves feeling younger in comparison to those who were less active in their daily lives. Another scientist Bellingtier said that even the slightest increase in your daily workout could make an impressionable effect.
You can start by increasing your daily count step by a thousand, starting with beginner’s yoga for example, and keeping achievable goals for yourself every day. Any increase in any kind of physical activity will be beneficial. It is believed that all this can make you feel more in control of your life: a quality which, according to researchers in the Aging and Mental Health Reports, not only gives you a feeling of accomplishment but also make you feel younger.
Read this article for more on this topic: Ways Physical Exercise Boosts Mental Health.
- Travel. Travel. Travel
Who doesn’t love to travel? Gayle Forman rightfully said, “Traveling is not something you are good at. It is something you do. Like breathing.”
Travel exposes you to new cultures, new perspectives and new dimensions. Moreover, interacting with new people provides you with the unique opportunity to socialise. One research suggests that people in their 40’s and 50’s feel younger when they travel. Have you ever experienced a sense of wonder when trying something new? Travelling helps you experience the same types of feeling.
According to some researchers, travelling and the willingness to try out new things encourage a sense of curiosity and wonder, making you feel more youthful. Seeing new places is equivalent to trying out novel activities, which activates the brain’s dopamine system, leaving you enthusiastic about life. And as we mentioned earlier, happiness is the first step towards a youthful living. Travel does not need to be overseas either; it can be to other parts of your county or country.
- Trust Your All-time Best Friends: Books
We will be quoting a book here. Ann Dillard, the author of the book “The Living”, says, “She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” As you might have guessed, reading a good book does more than just making you an interesting individual; it helps you delve into a different world. Far away from the usual stress of everyday life.
Here in the UK, the National Institute of Aging recommends reading and shares numerous studies that have found that individuals who regularly engage in intellectual activities such as reading a good book suffer from a lower rate of cognitive decline (approximately 32 per cent) in the later years of their lives. So do not hesitate to pick up a book and improve your subjective well being.
Read this article for more on this topic: The importance of reading and why you need to read more.
- Drink Enough Water.
Hydrate! Water undoubtedly is one of the most vital factors in our survival and yet is very often ignored. You may not know this, but a good intake of water can go a long way. It not only clears your skin and quenches your thirst. It can improve your cognitive capacities and make you look healthy and fresh. And you may be aware of the fact that if you are fresh on the outside, you are more likely to be on the inside as well.
Health experts commonly recommend 2 litres of water every day, which is equal to eight 8 ounce glasses.
Everyone needs some “me time”, and so do you! Mediation, is an effective way to rid you of your stress. There are so many apps and audios you can invest in to help you with this as it is so well-proven. Scientifically, meditation impacts your energy levels and brain size. According to a study, regular meditators had larger brain sizes and more grey matter in comparison to those who didn’t meditate. Constant meditation tends to lower stress in your body. This links back to the very first point in our article: less stress and subjective well being go hand in hand.
I partake in self-hypnosis as a variation of meditation. If you want to learn self-hypnosis, you can download a free roadmap to get you started here: Self-Hypnosis Roadmap.
- Be an Animal Lover!
Imagine yourself going out for a walk on a pleasant summer evening. The wind picks up the pace, and the leaves around you rustle. You smile to yourself and look down to see your little Labrador walking in front of you, gleefully wagging its tail. Doesn’t this scenario seem just perfect?
Doesn’t it make you want to own a dog or a cute little pet yourself? Not only will it keep you company when you’re down. If you want a youthful life, both physically and mentally, you better think of owning a pet. Researchers serving at Miami University in Ohio found in a study that individuals with pets were more social and were more physically fit than those with no pets. All of this suggested that pets could, in fact, help maintain that youthful spirit we’re talking of. They are typically fond of cuddles too, so you’ll get plenty of good endorphins and oxytocin in your system as a result!
- Social Media Detox.
You may argue that social media such as Instagram has helped you contact your loved ones, maintain contact with your friends’ miles apart and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to let go of it. But have you ever noticed how excessive use of devices could leave you with a headache and low spirits?
Some time off social media in particular may be more useful than you might have thought. BMC Psychiatry recently published research according to which heavy use of electronic devices results in consequences such as depression and disturbed sleep patterns. These two combined can make anyone feel older than their chronological age.
Read this article for more on this topic: Why you need a digital detox and how to have one.
- Volunteer for Your Community.
We are all aware of the idea of community service. But let’s be honest, how many of us actually practised community service as an adult when we have families of our own? Serving your community and volunteering can serve you in many ways too. It gives you a sense of purpose and fulfilment, making you feel happier and young. And a busy schedule will not be a good excuse here.
As proved by researchers at the National University of Singapore and Duke University, just one month’s community service and/or volunteering helped participants develop a deeper connection to members of their community. This sense of purpose and dedication can surely help you feel younger regardless of your age.
- Say No to Fizzy Drinks.
Yes, you may need to avoid your favourite fizzy drinks. At the same time, it may seem like a difficult job to do in today’s age of mass consumption, where many seem incapable of going without caffeine and sugar fixes. Fizzy drink consumption can result in various health problems, which may include obesity and diabetes. A younger body means a younger brain.
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine conducted a study, and the results yielded showed that people with high consumption of soda suffered a 61 per cent of having a stroke compared to those who successfully seemed to avoid it. Keep in mind that fizzy drinks can be detrimental to your physical health and consequently your brain’s well-being as well, making you feel older.
- Say Yes, to Chewing Gum!
I know this seems like an odd point to make. Chewing a single piece of gum whilst you are learning can stimulate your brain and make you feel young and healthy regardless of your age.
In a research article published in the ‘British Journal of Psychology’, people who chew gum (mainly sugar-free gum) proved better recall abilities during a memory test. This means you won’t have to suffer from memory issues as you grow in age. A healthier one would lead you to believe that you are younger than your actual age.
- Red should be Your Favourite Colour.
Now we know that your clothes are not an accurate reflection of you, but they do have a visible impact on how you feel. Many people are aware that red is the colour, which makes you pop up and makes you noticed. It also makes you look vibrant and youthful.
The University of Rochester conducted research which showed that simply looking at something can increase your energy level. Red can therefore serve your purpose of looking more graceful and definitely more youthful.
- Improve Your Music Playlist.
Listening to good music can always brighten your mood, lift your spirits and can further make you feel younger as well. Researchers at Knox College Department of Psychology found that people who were told to try to feel happy when listening to music actually found themselves to be in a better place mentally, and this sudden mood uplift can make one feel as if they can rewind the time, making them feel younger. Music is a getaway for many, and maybe it can help you escape old age as well.
Feeling young at heart is not a new concept at all, and there are several behavioural and psychological changes anyone can make to their life to improve subjective well-being. Enjoy learning to feel younger!
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