Coming of Age

Getting older isn't about fighting time, but enjoying it. Here are 40 of the most surprising and inspiring tips on how to live a longer, healthier life.
Coming of Age
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1. Think young: Perspectives on Psychological Science recently published a study by Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a mindbody psychology professor at Harvard, about the correlation between how women look and feel after having their hair cut and colored. Salon subjects’ before and after shots were assessed by volunteers only, and those women who believed having their hair dyed made them look younger actually did look younger after the salon visit. Those who didn’t think they looked youthful with a new ’do didn’t appear so. The take-away? “Feeling young makes you look younger,” says Langer. “So act your inner age."

2. Meditate: Ancient Taoists used meditation techniques to help maintain emotional balance, and thus good health, into old age. Cut to 2010, and Blue Cross-Blue Shield found factors that typically increase with aging—such as blood pressure, susceptibility to stress, insomnia and heart failure—actually decreased among meditators. Another recent study found that meditators have a 30 percent higher level of telomerase—the enzyme responsible for repairing telomeres, structures on the ends of chromosomes that protect them from deterioration—than those who don’t meditate. (Each time a cell reproduces, telomeres become shorter and less effective at protecting the chromosome, and this is a cause of aging.) So, hit your meditation pillow—even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

3. Loosen your neck: Nobody wants to become an old lady with a dowager hump, but this posture isn’t just a vanity risk. “Neck tightness that leads to carrying one’s head more forward than normal is associated with increased mortality,” says Louise Hockley, D.C., a chiropractor in Wellington, New Zealand. “This is a big problem for people who sit in front of a computer all day without breaks.” To avoid a crooked fate, sit up straight at your desk and then slowly tilt your head backward until your forehead is parallel to the ceiling. Do this three times for every hour you’re behind your computer.

4. Take your herbs: Adaptogenic herbs help the body’s ability to adapt to daily stresses, and are often included in Chinese and Western anti-aging medicines. “They help restore and maintain well-being,” says Rosemary Gladstar, founder of the California School of Herbal Studies and author of Herbal Remedies for Radiant Well Being (Story Book Publications). Start with herbs like rhodiola (which reduces stress and boosts energy), reishi (which protects the liver and heart and reduces cholesterol), and holy basil (which reduces anxiety and mental fog), and talk to a holistic doc about the right doses for you.

5. Be consistent in the kitchen: Don’t pay attention to your diet one minute, and then ditch your good-eating habits the next. “This can create a sugar imbalance, which causes confusion, headaches and fatigue—characteristic features of aging brain syndrome,” says Naheed Ali, M.D., author of Diabetes and You: A Comprehensive Holistic Approach (Rowman & Littlefield).

6. Stop multitasking: Cramming a lot of to-dos into a limited amount of time gives us the false impression that we’re über-efficient. But studies show chronic multitaskers have elevated cortisol levels, more incidences of depression and weaker immune systems—all of which can diminish cognitive prowess as we age. To reduce multitasking but still bang through your to-dos, jot down your tasks—but focus on three that have the biggest impact on your day or involve strategic thinking.

7. Choose antioxidant oils over creams: Heavy night creams that contain paraffin or mineral oil can congest your skin and cause puffiness in the morning. “Instead, opt for an antioxidant oil, which protects skin from free radicals and repairs damage done by stress, pollution, aging and illness,” says Margo Marrone, homeopath and founder of London-based The Organic Pharmacy. Not only will your skin look supple, but studies show skin care with vitamins A, C, E and B3 reverse signs of aging, particularly those caused by the sun.

8. Eat your antioxidants: These free radical foragers help delay aging and reduce vulnerability to cancer, heart disease and diabetes, so don’t just put them on your face. Keri Glassman, R.D., author of The O2 Diet (Rodale), calls these edible antioxidants “beauty foods”: dark chocolate (it contains cocoa flavanols that increase blood flow to the skin), salmon (its omega-3s prevent collagen breakdown and reduce skin-damaging inflammation) and green tea (it’s loaded with polyphenols that boost cell turnover to improve skin tone).

9. Give for giving’s sake: “There’s nothing more health-giving than feeling useful and knowing you’ve helped someone else,” says Christiane Northrup, M.D., and author of the newly revised Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Bantam). “But far too many people give in order to get, and don’t know it. Giving out of a sense of obligation or because you feel as though it will earn you love or respect can be a health risk.” So, go ahead and do something nice for someone—without expectations of anything in return. And don’t forget to notice how great it feels.

10. Pump some iron: The typical American gains a pound of fat and loses a half pound of muscle yearly from the age of 30 to 60, says Desmond Ebanks, M.D., former assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York Medical College. “Loss of muscular strength is a major reason that elderly people lose mobility and independence,” he says. Ebanks suggests an interval-style resistance program for the most muscle-building benefits; brief but intense bouts of strength training, lasting 12 to 20 minutes, have also been shown to preserve telomeres.