There's an old catchphrase that says, "Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the heck happened." As I approach my 40th birthday, I couldn't agree more. I don't consider myself old, but my 20-year-old self probably would. In many ways, I still feel like a carefree college kid—unless I'm around actual twentysomethings, when I feel practically ancient. I guess what I'm trying to say is that age really is just a number, and it's all relative. There's no rule that says you have to look, act or feel your age.
The next time you start feeling a little timeworn and wondering where the years have gone, try some of these tricks for turning back the clock. We can't promise bellbottoms or Jazzercise will make a miraculous comeback, but we can bet you'll recapture some of that carefree spirit and "oomph" that age tends to erode.
1. Take a nap. According to clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle, catching enough shuteye does wonders for energy, creativity, mood, outlook, memory, productivity and more. "Too many people don't make time for a good night's sleep or assume that once they're past a certain age, it's a thing of the past," she says. "I think a lot of people could easily feel 10 years younger if they adapted a healthy sleep lifestyle."
2. Stand tall. Patti Wood, body language expert, says that proper body posture creates greater lung capacity for deeper breathing, which draws in more oxygen and provides an energy boost.
3. Act like a kid. Allow yourself to remember—and recreate—the pure and simple joy of childish fun. "Make more time for fun in your life," says wellness expert Cassie Sobelton. Maybe it's going on a bike ride, swinging or sliding at the park, jumping on a trampoline or building a sand castle—whatever fun means for you."
4. Take a walk. There's something about ditching the car and hitting the pavement that evokes the adventurous spirit of a bygone era. When you're walking, you notice details that you'd never see behind the wheel. Plus, research shows that simply getting outside improves health, mood and immunity.
5. Move every day. Find at least a few minutes every day for exercise. "Our energy- and mood-regulating hormones are very much dictated by movement," says Sobelton. Plus, exercise helps to promote better flexibility, balance, sleep, sex drive and complexion, all of which will keep you looking and feeling younger.
6. Adjust your positive/negative ratio. How many times has a depressing news story or woe-is-me Facebook post left you feeling dejected? Sobelton recommends limiting negative media and replacing it with positive, uplifting programs in all channels, including social. "Do the same with the people you surround yourself with—only make time for those who lift you up. There is no room for negativity when you are full of positivity."
7. Drink water every day. "Water helps nourish you from the inside out, keeping you moisturized and helping to maintain firm skin," says fitness expert Lisa Reed. "I can always tell in my face when I don't get enough water. My wrinkles show more and my skin is dry."
8. Don't skip the vitamins. Even with the best of intentions, there will be days when your diet falls short of essential nutrients. Although vitamins shouldn't be used as food replacements, they can help fill in the nutrient gaps. And some vitamins—particularly C and E—can help skin look younger and healthier by counteracting sun damage, reducing wrinkles and improving overall complexion.
9. Take a trip somewhere awesome. Remember your younger years when you didn't have a care in the world? Sobelton recommends travel as a means of finding that feeling again. "It might take a change of scenery to forget all your responsibilities (responsibly), so book that trip now and hold that feeling as long as possible," she says. "Then take that feeling home with you and find it once a day, somehow, someway."
10. Get your fiber fix. Getting the recommended daily fiber intake helps to keep blood sugar and cholesterol at healthy levels, while eliminating toxins from the gut and keeping your appetite in check, says Reed. Beans are an easy and convenient way to boost dietary fiber. "From black-eyed peas to kidney, black and pinto, these high-protein powerhouses contain a good amount of phytates–nutritional compounds that strengthen the immune system and kill cancer cells," Reed says. "They also have the power to give your brain cells a youthful boost, reversing the aging process at the cellular level."
11. Skip refined sugars. "One of the quickest and most proven ways to get more energy and eliminate age-related aches and pains is to eliminate sugar from your diet," says Reed. "It causes inflammation in the body (think achy joints) and saps energy." She recommends choosing fresh fruit over sugar-laden candy, cakes, doughnuts, cookies and pies.
12. Welcome weights into your life. Many fitness experts herald strength training as a veritable fountain of youth. And it's never too late to start—studies have shown that people older than 60 who start a weight-training regimen experience better motor function and reduced risk of osteoporosis and joint disorders.
13. Take up an instrument. Wish you hadn't skipped out on those piano lessons as a kid? It's never too late to tap into your inner musician. In a study at the University of South Florida, adults who started piano lessons between the ages of 60 and 85 experienced improvements in memory and cognitive ability than those who didn't tickle the ivories.
14. Eat more raw foods. Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor, recommends a diet rich in raw foods, so the pancreas doesn't have to work so hard to crank out enzymes. "Raw food contains food enzymes, which help it to self-digest," she explains.
15. Make time for massage. A regular massage can help tremendously with skin rejuvenation, according to Viktoria Naumenko from USPAAH. "As blood flow is increased throughout the body, cells begin to receive a super dose of nutrients, which speeds up the process of tissue regeneration."
16. Spend some money on clothes that fit your body perfectly. "Shop for where your body is right now, not where you want it to be in four months or where it was two years ago," says Nina Elliot, personal trainer and co-owner of TRUE Health and Wholeness. "Ill-fitting clothing is uncomfortable, and just a few updated pieces will help you feel confident in all stages of your [life]."
17. Try something new every day. Different experiences help to stimulate the brain, build confidence and encourage personal growth at any age. This could mean trying a group fitness class, introducing a food you've never tried or something as simple as saying "hello" when passing another runner or walker.
18. Dance like nobody's watching. Science supports putting on your favorite tunes, kicking off your shoes and summoning your groovy moves from your college days. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing was associated with a lower rate of dementia in 469 seniors who were evaluated over a 21-year period.
19. Spend time with kids. The best way to recapture the carefree spirit of your youth is hanging out with little ones. Join your kiddos on the backyard trampoline, take your grandkids to the park or read to patients at a children's hospital. Not only will their innocence and silliness help you forget your worries and appreciate the simpler things in life, studies have shown that babysitting children can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's in seniors.
20. Swap coffee for cacao. "Many raw foodists use raw cacao powder—the original Amazonian plant used to make chocolate—in their smoothies and baking because of its natural stimulating properties," says holistic nutritionist Mackenzie Marzluff. "It's considered a superfood and extremely high in magnesium, which will improve circulation, energize your entire body and lift your spirits for hours." Instead of coffee, Marzluff enjoys a soothing hot chocolate made with cacao power for a long-lasting energy boost.
21. Soak up the sun. According to Marzluff, 15 minutes of direct sunlight per day (with sunscreen, of course) is the best source of vitamin D, which is an easy, natural way to look and feel refreshed. "Vitamin D is also known to prevent cancer, curb cravings and increase energy," Marzluff says.
22. Eat more greens. A diet rich in greens oxygenates the body, which in turn boosts energy levels. Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor, particularly sings the praises of wheat grass juice. Marzluff recommends adding organic spinach to smoothies as a convenient way to reap the benefits of raw greens, including sharper mental clarity, improved complexion and decreased sugar cravings.
23. Reconnect with long-lost friends. Has it been a few years (or decades) since you connected with old buddies from college, high school or childhood? Schedule a reunion with people who knew you when you were younger. Nothing turns back the clock like laughing and reminiscing about fun, carefree times.
24. Be happy. Reed points out that maintaining a positive outlook is one of the best ways to remain young. "If you wear your stress on your face, it may make you appear older than your chronological age," she says. "The result shows up as wrinkles, deep crevices and worry lines. Focus on finding happiness now, not when you lose 10 pounds. Tell yourself how awesome you are in mind, body and spirit, and that positive energy will make you look and feel younger."
25. Get a dog. (Or a cat, bird, ferret or any animal that you love.) Having a furry or feathered friend around can conquer feelings of loneliness and depression and decrease your blood pressure and heart rate. In particular, having a dog can boost your exercise level by as much as 12 percent, according to a study by the University of Saint Andrews. And who doesn’t feel younger when playing ball or chase with your new best friend?
What are your favorite tips for looking and feeling younger? Share them in the comments!
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