When researchers investigated why some folks age better and stay healthier longer than others, they were surprised to find that one powerful factor in their favor can be simple: attitude.
The evidence from these studies shows that it’s vital to work on developing an anti-aging attitude if you want to live the best, longest life possible. Fortunately, adopting the right attitude is easy when you have the right tools.
So, what is this fountain-of-youth frame-of-mind that researchers have uncovered?
It’s simply maintaining a healthy independence and sense of control over your life.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have shown that older adults feel younger than their age when they feel that they have more control over their day-to-day actions – and this holds true even in the face of serious health issues.1
“We recently found that there are things older adults can do to improve their feelings of control in their everyday lives,” says researcher ShevaunNeupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State. “Now our study highlights how those feelings of control influence perceptions of age. The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel.”
The Mediterranean Longevity Diet’s “Missing Link”
By now you’ve no doubt heard about some of the world’s longest-living people who reside near the Mediterranean Sea. The research has largely focused on their diet and active lifestyle.
Now, a study of long-lived Italians who live in remote villages between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea also reveals important information about their attitude. The science shows that they maintain a sense of control over their daily lives that helps them feel hardier and more vital well into old age.2
This research on people aged 90 to 101 found, according to researcher Dilip V. Jeste, that “the unique features associated with better mental health of this rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land.”
The subjects of this study consistently maintain their belief that they can cling to their way of life no matter what – and it keeps them going as they age.
“Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, ‘This is my life and I’m not going to give it up,'” says researcher Anna Scelzo.
Train Your Mind for More Control
Whether you live a rural life like those Italians or you’re caught up in the business of city living, you can train your mind to positively influence your longevity.
Studies on mindfulness training and meditation show that being more mindful can help you feel more in control of your life.
An investigation at City, University of London, for instance, shows that mindfulness can give you more mental power to resist food cravings and fight back against the impulse to smoke or indulge in recreational drugs that could damage your health.3
Mindfulness meditation does this, according to the researchers, by using mental exercises that give you a greater awareness of bodily sensations and help you develop an attitude of control over yourself with an acceptance of uncomfortable feelings. That helps you see yourself as separate from undesirable thoughts and emotions and gives you more control over them – and your life.
A study in Denmark shows that mindfulness can also help you defy fear and keep the things that leave you feeling fearful and anxious from controlling your actions and responses.4
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Sleep is an important tool to maintain control over your life.
According to the North Carolina State researcher ShevaunNeupert, “Sleep, mood and stress are all important factors in determining a sense of control and in whether older adults feel they can do the things they want to do.”5
A study in Norway demonstrates that when you don’t get enough sleep, you deplete the positive emotions you need to maintain the sense of control that’s so vital for staying healthier – mentally and physically – as you age.6
As researcher IngvildSaksvik-Lehouillier of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology puts it, “Participants in our study experienced a flattening of emotions when they slept less than normal. They felt less joy, enthusiasm, attention and fulfillment.”
Along with sleep, getting extra physical activity also helps you feel more in control of things. And exercise gives you double the benefits. It both relieves stress and helps you sleep better at night.