The study, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, found that, for older adults, the greater your sense of control, the younger you’ll feel—and the younger you’ll perceive yourself.
Researchers asked 116 people ages 60-90, as well as 107 people ages 18-36, to complete a survey eight days in a row. The survey quizzed participants about their health, daily stressors, and sense of control over their lives. It also asked the simple question, “How old you feel today?” Responses were then compared with chronological age.
While sense of control influenced how youthful the 60- to 90-year-old participants felt, this factor had no impact on the younger adults surveyed.
If you’re in that former group, what exactly canyou do take to gain this feeling of control?
One important word: mood. “In our previous work, we found that when older adults are able to maintain positive moods and reduce negative moods, they have stronger perceptions of control,” says Shevaun Neupert, Ph.D., professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the study. “In addition, stronger control is associated with fewer physical health problems.”
It’s a reaffirming cycle: When you feel more in charge—and hence, younger—you’ll generally feel more positive, physically and emotionally, Dr. Neupert tells HealthCentral.
Here are four proven ways to boost your mood:
- Stock up on fiber. Researchers recommend eating fresh vegetables and foods rich in dietary fiber. Raspberries top the list, but mangos, bananas, and strawberries aren’t too shabby. Add beets, broccoli, and artichokes to your list too—plus potatoes, skin and all.
- Do high-intensity interval training. Even a minute of total exertion is helpful, studies show. But if the phrase “total exertion” strikes fear in your heart, just walk or run for five minutes to rev your cardiovascular system.
- Take off your shoes at the door. This may sound odd, but it’s part of a Feng Shui practice of leaving negative stress from work where it belongs: at work. (In other words: What happens at the office stays at the office…)
- Click on a cat video. Seriously, they do more than make you LOL. In a study from the University of Indiana Bloomington, people who watched cat videos felt more positive and less anxious and annoyed. Meow.