8 Proven Ways to Look and Feel Younger
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Why are you here? Yes, that's a big question, but one worth asking. "We need to have a sense that we're doing something that matters to others in some way and is meaningful to us," says Dawn Carr, PhD, assistant professor of sociology, Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy at Florida State University. "Feeling younger is about having a sense of relevance in the world. It's your reason to get up in the morning and feel excited," she says. This is different for everyone: taking on work that's challenging (even if you're retired), taking care of family or volunteering.
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There's so much research to suggest that an active lifestyle helps you keep strong—and youthful. One new study found that older cyclists had muscle and immune function decades younger than their actual ages. If riding isn't your thing, walk. People who boosted their weekly step count over five weeks said they felt younger than people who walked less, per a preliminary study presented at the American Psychological Association conference. Researchers have also found that people who walked faster reported feeling younger, so kick up the speed too.
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You may be tempted to spend hundreds on pricy anti-aging creams, but a consistent application of sunscreen is more important. Middle-aged adults who used it daily had skin that was 24 percent younger compared to those who wore it less consistently, according to a randomized trial in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "Sunscreen helps prevent damaging UV rays from degrading collagen and causing wrinkles and sunspots," says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology and clinical assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. No matter the weather—overcast, snowing, raining—apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30.
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Friends keep you young, no joke. "If someone asked me, 'Should I eat salad or have a cup of coffee with a friend?' I'd say, 'Meet the friend,'" says Carr. This is one of the most surprising factors in longevity and feeling younger. "In many ways, we see social relationships as more powerful than traditional health behaviors like diet and exercise," she says. Loneliness is a key predictor of aging. Nurture your meaningful friendships as you age.
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There's something to be said for a good eyebrow pencil: Women whose facial features have contrast against their skin (like more prominent brows) are perceived as looking younger, according to research in Frontiers in Psychology that looked at multiple ethnic groups. Grab a pencil for a quick touch-up that truly makes a difference.
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To counteract the aging effects (such as aches and pains) of sitting slumped at a desk all day, you have to work your core regularly, says Shirley Archer, a mindful living expert and the author of Fitness 9 to 5. "Staying strong through your center improves your balance and posture," she says. Try doing a 30-second side plank on your right and left side, or a set of 10 pushups against the wall. Both activate trunk muscles to strengthen your middle, she says.
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Research shows that happiness is associated with longevity. And when it comes to shifting our moods, it's the little things that count. "Every person should spend time thinking, 'What makes me happy, and how can I bring that more into my life?'" says Archer. Spend time with your pet. Pick up a (decaf) cappuccino at 3 p.m. Carve out time to watch your favorite TV show. Whatever makes you feel good.
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You're only as old as you think you are. In a new study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, older adults who said they felt younger had younger brains than their actual age. It may be that they felt young because they were neurologically healthier, but it may also be that having a younger mindset also helped them stay more active physically and mentally, which safeguards cognitive functioning, the researchers say. Bonus: With this attitude, you're also more likely to live longer too.