There’s a difference between aging and getting old. We all age, that’s inevitable from the moment we pop out of the womb, but getting old – ah, that’s a choice.

Aging may not feel like much of a choice as you find new wrinkles, a saggier butt or fail to remember someone’s name or where you put your mobile phone.

Certainly, if these experiences make you feel old, then yes, you are getting older as opposed to simply aging. And no, the difference is not purely semantic.

“Aging” Versus “Getting Old”

Recent research shows that people who feel older than their real age have different brain structures than those who feel younger than their real age. An individual who is 78 and feels the full weight of their 78 years will have a different brain structure than an individual who is 78, but feels 68 (or less).

With that, those who feel younger than their actual years tend to have better memory and are less likely to show signs of depression. In a nutshell, the research shows that feeling younger than your stated years generally means you have a healthier brain.

I feel 40, although I’m well aware of my 71 real years. Most of my friends think similarly, and we’re always surprised when others – who feel their real age – comment on how full of energy we are. Our energy level, in part, is a function of how we feel about ourselves.

There is no way that Ida Keeling, the first woman in history to complete the 100-meter dash at age 100, felt her full 100 years when she stepped foot on the track. Ida seemingly doesn’t think about her years at all, unless it’s in a positive sense.

At 103, she received an honorary ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) award by Whoopi Goldberg on the TV show, The View. She celebrated as she traditionally does – with pushups.

Ida started running at 67, encouraged by one of her daughters who was worried that her mother was slipping into depression after her husband died and her two sons had been murdered only a couple years apart.

At 67, Ida could have thought, “I’m too old to start something like this,” yet she did not. Ida took her daughter’s advice. As she advanced through her 70s, 80s, and 90s, she took no notice of the passing years and just kept running.

She is still running – and recently broke the record for the 60-meter dash – with no concern for her real age.

How to Feel Younger Than Your Real Age

How do you do it? How do you not feel your real age? For starters, most of us ‘feel old’ at any age when we’re tired, sick, or unhappy. I vividly remember pulling all-nighters in graduate school and feeling 100 years old the next day from lack of sleep.

There’s nothing like spending a week in bed with a horrible flu to make you feel 20 years older than whatever your real age – be that 40 or 60. When we’re unhappy we tend to feel old.

The solution then becomes obvious. Do your best to be well rested and maintain good health. Tend to your emotional well-being. Make it a priority to get back to whatever spells happiness for you as quickly as you can.

When you are tired, emotionally distressed, or sick, call your situation by its correct name: “I’m tired. I’m upset. I’ve got the flu.” Let it be what it is. Don’t attach age to your current condition. That’s the secret.

It’s not that we don’t all go through miserable experiences. What damns us is when we persist in attributing our misery to our age instead of the experience itself.

Another tip: whenever you’re in a good place, say to yourself, “I feel great” – as long as it’s genuine (your subconscious knows). By doing so, you’re reinforcing the belief that age has very little to do with how you feel.

Use the tremendous power of your subconscious to support your overall well-being and joy and enhance the astonishing workings of your brain.

How old do you feel? Is the number higher or lower than your real age? Do you surround yourself with people who consider themselves older or younger than their current age? What kind of activities do you do that don’t fit the stereotype of someone your age? Let’s start the conversation.

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