Want to stay away from the ailments of old age? Then try thinking young. According to a research, those who think and dress in a youthful way are healthier than those who act their age. It seems mind over matter can improve everything from blood pressure to arthritis and eyesight.
Even the development of heart disease and cancer may, at least to a degree, be staved off by refusing to grow old gracefully. The intriguing claims come from researchers at Harvard University, who reviewed a series of studies into how the mind influences the body.
In one experiment, elderly men were ‘transported’ back to 1959 for a week. They lived in accommodation fitted out in the decor of the Fifties, were played TV shows and music of the time and told to talk and act as if they were living then.
By the end of the week, the men were perceived to look around three years younger. Their hearing and eyesight improved, arthritic joints were more flexible, muscles were stronger and minds sharper.
Researcher Ellen Langer suggests that much of the decline of old age may be driven by negative perceptions about our later years – and breaking these down can improve health.
A second study revealed that cutting and colouring women’s hair not only made them feel younger, but reduced their blood pressure.
And when strangers were shown pictures of the woman with their hair hidden, they were rated as looking younger after their trip to the salon – despite their new styles not being visible.
Research also shows that wearing a uniform to work can slow down ageing – perhaps because it prevents more elderly staff from dressing according to their age.
Langer suggests that simply thinking young can do the power of good.
“Don’t buy the mind-set in the first place, then you won’t be vulnerable to it,” the Daily Mail quoted Langer as saying.
“I think we have far more control over our health and wellbeing than most of us realize,” Langer added.
The study has been published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.