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12 Habits of People Who Look and Act Younger Than Their Age

Scientific research shows that the way we think about aging can actually affect our health and longevity. Here, recent years' research offers tips to help you keep a youthful heart.

Maybe you’ve seen the inspirational meme that goes something like, Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but about the number of moments that take your breath away. Turns out, that may not be just flowery talk—in fact, a July 2022 article in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology cited 2021 research that suggested when we perceive aging as “gain-related” (in other words, believing that life gets better with age), that perception alone “was predictive of longer survival” when it was compared to average all-cause mortality rates among people who saw aging as “loss-related,” or negative.
So it’s not just healthy habits that might help you live longer—your spirit toward aging factors in, too. Here, we share recent years’ research that reveals some unexpected habits of those people who somehow seem to stay forever young.
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Get organized

People who live well-organized lives tend to live longer than less careful types, perhaps because they look after their health better and avoid risky behavior, concluded the U.S.-based Longevity Project, a landmark eight-decade study.

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Shop til you drop

Shop regularly and you may live longer, found a 2011 study of around 2,000 people over age 65 in Taiwan. The researchers found that men who shopped daily had a 28 percent lower risk of dying early than those who shopped less often; among women, the risk reduction was 23 percent. One main takeaway was that getting out in general can help us stay feeling well.

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Have some curry

Curry may boost your mental abilities, according to research in Singapore. The researchers looked at the diet of more than 1,000 Indian villagers aged 60 to 93 and found that those who ate curry even just twice a year scored better on cognitive performance tests than people who didn’t.

Turmeric, the yellow spice used in most curries, contains the plant chemical curcumin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering properties.

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Sing together

A U.S. study on 68 older adults revealed that those who joined a choir were in better health, used less medication, were less lonely, and suffered fewer falls after a year than a similar group of nonsingers.

This could be due in part to the impact that singing has on breathing, but the emotional benefits of giving voice in a crowd may be just as important. So if you enjoy it, whatever the quality of your voice, try to find the chance to sing communally, whether in a formal choir, at a family singalong, in church or temple, or in a crowd of thousands at a football game.

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Log on

Search the Internet to keep your brain active. In 2008, NBC News reported on a study of participants aged 55 to 76 who carried out a series of web searches. Across the board, they showed increased activity in regions of the brain that control language, reading, memory, and visual ability.

Those who reported that they already used the Internet regularly showed a significant boost in the areas that deal with decision-making and complex reasoning.

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Play with kiddos

A 2007 U.K. study in the Journal of Early Childhood Research revealed multiple benefits to both older and younger generations who played together, including giving you the chance to pass on family values and traditions and to teach practical skills. (Plus? Playing is fun!)

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Don’t retire young

Researchers from the Longevity Project found that many long-lived, successful professionals worked—at least part-time—well after retirement age.

We’re conditioned to think that working hard can inflict unhealthy levels of stress…but this research suggests that success, even in a demanding job, can enhance well-being. So if you’re in good health, you may not want to give up work entirely.

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Love your age

Think positively about your time of life, and you’ll live longer. One U.S. study asked people age 50 and older how they felt about a range of statements designed to assess their outlook on the future. Almost three decades later, followup research found that those who viewed aging in a hopeful way had lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with a more pessimistic outlook.

One possible reason? You’re more likely to have better coping strategies and be more likely to seek support when you have problems if you try to see your cup as half full, rather than half empty.

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Embrace thick skin

Those who can weather what Shakespeare called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” are more likely to live to a ripe old age, suggest studies from Harvard University. Psychological hardiness (mental resilience in the face of stress, anxiety, and depression) may be crucial for survival, especially as we get older.

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Don’t assume you need less sleep

It’s a common myth that we need fewer hours of sleep as we age, but evidence suggests this is not true. Sleep disorder experts have found that having fewer than six hours of sleep a night can adversely affect your mood. To nod off more easily, try to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time each day, and ban late-night googling, online shopping, or TV watching.

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Have faith

Research shows that positive emotions associated with attending religious services—such as hope, faith, forgiveness, joy, compassion, and gratitude—can help to reduce stress and regulate the body chemicals that protect us against it.

In particular, U.S. researchers have found that regular church attendance may actually add two to three years to the average lifespan. This may be due to the power of faith, or linked to the advantages of belonging to a community or having a sense of purpose.

Go for walks with your dog

Dog ownership can provide a physical and emotional boost. Walking together will improve your fitness and protect against feelings of loneliness, according to a British study of dog walkers. They reported that the regular daily exercise improved their sense of well-being, and that while walking their dog they often met and chatted with others, which made them feel happier.

If you’re not able to own a dog, try dog-walking with a friend or consider volunteering at a local shelter.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for TheHealthy.com and “The Healthy” section of Reader’s Digest magazine. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.