Have you ever heard the expression “You are as old as you look”? Considering the sales of face creams and the like, many of us seek to look younger than we are. The truth of the matter, however, is better captured in the expression, “You are as old as you feel.”

Recent research shows that subjective age – how young/old you feel – rather than how you look has a lot more to do with how well you age.

The research found that people who feel approximately 10 to 15 years younger than their biological age tend to be healthier and live longer than those who feel fully their biological age.

I heaved a sigh of relief on that one. Because unless I undergo total wrinkle removal plastic surgery, I will continue to be the proud recipient of what I choose to call “character lines,” which took me many years to develop.

Complexity of Activity

What does that mean in practical terms? Well, it means that individuals who feel younger than their years tend to engage in more vigorous or complex physical activity. And complexity of activity – mental as well as physical – constitutes a large part of what keeps us youthful.

Individuals who feel younger are more willing to engage in new mental and physical pursuits. Learning new things is a critical key to staying youthful. Individuals who feel younger continue to develop meaningful relationships with others. People who stay engaged socially do better mentally and physically over the long term.

How do you feel younger, though? When you (as I do) look in that mirror and see a web of wrinkles, or feel that knee pain, or attend the funeral of a dear friend, how can you possibly feel younger?

Your Perspective Is Everything

It’s all in how you think about yourself and others, which is directly reflected in how you talk to yourself.

If every time you see those wrinkles, you say to yourself, “I’m getting old”; if every time you feel pain in a joint, you say, “I hate getting older”; or attend a funeral only to say, “I’m losing all my friends,” then yes, you are literally conditioning your brain – and with it every cell in your body – to feel “old” and accept all the misery and decline you associate with it.

If, however, when you see your wrinkles, you say to yourself, “Character lines!” or “Wow, I still have that smile!” or just plain, “Hello, gorgeous!” you are conditioning yourself to youthfulness. Notice I didn’t say “youth.” Those days are gone. Good thing, too. You’d look pretty silly still crawling on all fours.

If when you feel joint pain, you say, “Yup, I remember feeling sore in my 40s when I worked out,” you are no longer attaching “old” to the pain. It’s simply pain. We’ve experienced aches and pains at every age – why do you think babies cry?

It is a fact that people pass away at all ages, so there is no need to attribute the loss of friends to old age. Strive to continue to create new friendships, different though they may be.

Complexity of Activity Can Be Achieved with Purpose

Take Lorna Prendergast, for example, who, at 90, not only proudly graduated with a Master’s Degree from the University of Melbourne, she pursued most of her studies online. Talk about complexity.

She chose to learn about a complex subject – the potential of music’s positive influence on Alzheimer’s and related disorders – through a medium (online course work, instruction, discussion groups) which didn’t even exist for most of her life, and certainly wasn’t how anything was taught while she was growing up.

And she’s not done yet. Lorna is eagerly anticipating using her new degree in the world, sharing her knowledge and expertise where it can be best used. I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to at 100.

You are only as old as you feel. That’s not just a cute saying. It is amazingly true. So, pay attention to how you speak to yourself; how you think of yourself and others in your age group, and “youthen” up. If Lorna, and so many others, can do it, so can you, wrinkles, funky knees, and all.

What are some of the ways you keep away negative thoughts about aging? What new, exciting things are you learning/doing today that you didn’t do in your 30s or 40s? What challenges or projects do you hope to take on in 2020? Please share with our community!

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