Turns out there’s some truth to the old saying, “You’re only as old as you feel.” New research reveals FEELING younger leads to real-world aging benefits.
That’s right, your high-school coach was right all along… attitude IS everything. And a new study, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, proves it.
When researchers crunched three years’ worth of data from the German Aging Survey, the link between subjective age and health became crystal clear. The folks who said they felt younger than their chronological years had the health outcomes to match.
But if you feel older-than-the-hills most days, rather than a youngster filled with sunshine and rainbows, don’t despair. Turning that outlook on its head could have you reaping some of those same anti-aging health benefits in no time.
And don’t worry, that DOESN’T mean you have to give up your “grumpy old man” status.
Stress can harm your health
Researchers took a deep dive into the data from 5,039 survey volunteers aged 40 and older. The participants had been asked a variety of questions, including their…
- perceived stress levels
- functional health
- limits on daily activities of living such as bathing, dressing, and walking
And the kicker, a gauge of their subjective age when they were asked, “How old do you feel?”
As you might expect, the folks who reported battling more stress in their lives had a much faster decline in health over the three years. No real surprise there. Stress has a way of hitting the fast-forward button on aging.
And that link between stress and decline was even more apparent in the folks with more advanced ages. But that’s where the “only as old as you feel” factor comes into play.
It appeared to offer a health cushion for those who felt younger than they actually were in real life. And it provided the MOST protection against the ravages of aging for the oldest volunteers in the study.
Aging is just an attitude
The participants who FELT younger maintained their functional health far longer regardless of their actual age.
And youthful thinking even came through for the folks who had the MOST stress in their lives. It put the brakes on that steep decline in health that you’d expect to see.
In other words, when it comes to aging simply feeling younger appears to counteract some of the harm stress causes, the researchers say. This means you may be able to boost your OWN health by cultivating a youthful attitude.
And don’t worry, you don’t need to be Mr. or Mrs. Sunshine for it to work. You can be a natural curmudgeon and still cultivate a positive attitude about aging.
Get started by taking up some activities that make you feel energized and optimistic about your physical or mental health. For example, you could take up a new hobby like square dancing. Or buy yourself a new hand-held gaming system and start playing some popular word games.
And anytime you run across a negative stereotype about aging, or you fall into that trap yourself, make a conscious effort to counteract it.
Remind yourself that you’re healthy, vibrant, and still have a whole lot of exciting, adventurous living to do. Do it often enough, and you no longer will need to make an effort. That positive aging attitude will become a natural reflex.
And should anyone accuse you of being a grumpy old man, tell them the joke’s on them because Oscar the Grouches maintain bigger brains and have less cognitive decline as they age. (It’s true. There’s research to prove it. Check out the story here.)