Can You Actually "Think" Yourself Younger? A Longevity Expert Says Yes

mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
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According to longevity expert, founder of the Longevity Vision Fund and author of The Science and Technology of Growing Young Sergey Young, age is nothing but a number. In fact, he has a personal mission to live to 200 with the health and strength of a strapping, young 20-something. To increase both his life span and health span, he suggests a few lifestyle changes (find 'em all here), but one particular tip gave us pause. 

Specifically, Young believes in the power of mindset: "I'm a huge fan of a psychological approach to aging," he says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "If you think you're younger, your body actually works differently."

Can you "think" yourself younger?

The science is on his side: According to a study measuring 68 healthy adults between 59 and 84 years old, those who "felt younger" actually had the structural characteristics of a younger brain—they were more likely to score higher on a memory test, and they had more gray matter in their brain, which is associated with better cognitive function. 

Or let's take a look at the famous "counterclockwise experiment" from psychologist Ellen Langer, Ph.D. (who describes the study in detail in her book): In 1979, she created a "time warp" retreat where elderly men in their 70s would live as they did in 1959—everything about the space resembled the '50s, including the art on the walls, the "current" events they discussed, and the programs they saw on the (black-and-white) TV.

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The point was to psychologically convince the men that they were, in fact, two decades younger, and at the end of the experiment, they showed significant improvements in hearing, vision, memory, and dexterity. 

In other words, if you truly convince yourself that you're younger, your body may actually start to play along. (Note: This is not to say you should push your body past its limits in the hopes of reverting to your youthful self; it's more of a psychological mindset that can, over time, create a natural shift.)

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A helpful exercise.

Of course, we can't all export ourselves into a time-warp experiment, à la Langer. However, Young notes that something as simple as a morning mantra can help you cultivate a "younger" mindset. "I'm going to live for 200 years in a 25-year-old body and mind," he says. "This is what I repeat every morning." 

You don't have to implement Young's exact mantra but perhaps find your own message to help "think" yourself younger. "It might not work for everyone, but if you do this experiment for two weeks, you might discover a lot of changes behaviorally, in level of energy, even in the way your body works," says Young. 

The takeaway. 

According to Sergey (and other experts) you can actually "think" yourself younger. Over time, your psychological age and physiological age might just add up.

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