By Bryan Colden
Jan. 5, 2011 — Do you remember, as a child, your parents or other adults remarking how fast time had gone by? There would be comments such as, “Where has the time gone?” Hearing this, you probably thought they were crazy. When you were young, time crawled. The school year was interminable. Time was measured in minutes and hours.
The years passed as you made your way through school. Time seemed to flow at a consistent speed. In your teens and twenties, time seemed infinite. There was no rush because you had all the time in the world. As you moved through your thirties and into your forties, the concept of a finite life span became more of a reality.
As you grew older, you began measuring time in days and weeks. Each year started to go by faster than the previous one. At some point, you started tracking time in months and seasons. Before you knew it, you were older than most other people. It used to be everyone was older than you. Now you are being addressed as Mr., Ms., or Mrs., but it seemed like yesterday when you were referring to everyone that way.
What exactly is age? Why do some young people drag themselves around as if they were on their last legs, while certain older people bound around with the spunk of a child? It is because each person influences their own functional age.
Your biological age is determined by how long you’ve been travelling around the sun. Your functional age is a measure of how old you feel. There’s no correlation between functional and biological age; each is independent of the other.
Functional age is comprised of several factors. Your outlook on life is the single most significant one. How you view the world shapes your impression of it. Is each day a battle, problem ridden, and filled with nothing but hassles?
If so, you will look and act in a manner far in excess of your biological age. But if life is a joy, and each day a gift filled with opportunity, you will radiate youth regardless of your biological age.
A sense of humor is vital for smoothing life's bumps, potholes, and obstacles. Laughing when things look grim lets you weather storms without looking haggard. Laughter induces your body to produce beneficial chemicals and hormones.
With laughter, situations appear brighter and surmountable. Smiling and laughing generates a magnetic energy that counteracts the effects of biological aging.
Pattern yourself after children. They instinctively look at their world with a sense of wonder. Why should you lose this as you get older? Can anyone actually claim the mysteries of youth are ever understood?
If anything, your sensation of astonishment should grow with age as you realize how incredible the universe is. For an example, you need look no farther than the incredible marvel of your own body. Conversely, acceptance of things as commonplace and boring has a dampening effect on your spirit.
Curiosity keeps your mind tuned and operating at peak performance. Curiosity motivates you to ask questions and seek answers. Curiosity is the basis for learning, which shouldn't end when you leave school. A mind that is always learning is a mind that stays young.
Taking care of and exercising your body as much as possible substantially contributes to reducing your functional age. When your body feels good, you feel good. The onset of many physical ailments typically associated with aging, can be delayed or eliminated through the proper care of your body. It's hard to feel young when your body feels old.
Being "young at heart" incorporates all of the above elements. Although your biological age increases yearly, there's no reason your functional age has to follow.
Bryan is the author of "Dare to Live Without Limits" and a self-development expert, syndicated columnist, and professor. E-mail Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.