Anti-ageing treatments can be expensive, risky and unproven. But here’s the good news – the true secret to looking and feeling youthful may reside in your mindset.

It’s time to dump the expensive serums, say farewell to Botox and cancel that celebrity-endorsed facial. Research reveals there’s an anti-ageing remedy more powerful than any cream and it’s completely free – it’s all about harnessing the youth-promoting power of your own mind.

Indeed, the quest for cutting-edge treatments to hold back the years may be fruitless and actually trigger stress and ageing.

Description: Exercise such as yoga can combat ageing

Exercise such as yoga can combat ageing

“Spending a lot of time worrying about ageing is actually incredibly stressful and negative because the emphasis is on complaining about our bad points rather than what is good,” says Dr David Hamilton, an expert on mind and body medicine (drdavidhamilton.com). “The stress of searching for an anti-ageing “cure” may actually make you unhappy and stressed which ironically can make you seem older.

“It’s time we looked to our own resources and harnessed the power of our own positive mind, rather than simply handing over ourselves, and our money, to the anti-ageing industry,” he says, explaining that when you free yourself from worrying about ageing, you start to turn back the years without even realizing.

Research suggest all of us can use our brain as a free as a free and powerful anti-ageing tool. But since it can’t be packaged and sold, and it definitely can’t be patented by the pharmaceutical industry, you are unlikely to hear much about just how truly anti-ageing think-yourself-young techniques can be.

Description: Research suggest all of us can use our brain as a free as a free and powerful anti-ageing tool

Professor of psychology at Harvard, Ellen Langer has been investigating our mindset and ageing for more than a decade. In her recent book Counterclockwise (Hodder & Stoughton, $20) she suggests we succumb to stereotypes and environmental cues that make us age more quickly – but we can resist them.

In one controlled experiment, a group of elderly men lived in a retreat designed to look as if time had shifted back 20 years. They dressed and talked as if they were 20 years younger. Clinicak tests afterwards revealed a reversal of ageing symptoms: their vision, grip strength, hearing and cognitive ability all improved compared to a control group. They also looked younger in an independent assessment of their appearance.

Langer says when we unhinge our beliefs about ageing and our body we start to look and feel much younger. Shift your thinking slightly and change your social clock (where your body conforms to what you think is appropriate to your age), and you can change the behavious that drain our happiness and vitality.

“When we change to a positive emotional style, rather than wallowing in frustration and negativity, it can knock more years off how we look and feel than any wrinkle cream or cosmetic surgery,” says Dr Hamilton.

He suggests that one powerful anti-ageing technique is to clamp down on complaints – especially moans and groans about getting older. Put a bracelet on your wrist and when you complain out loud about anything swap it to the other side. Try and keep it on one wrist all day. “This will help you cut down dramatically on how much you complain,” he says.

Description: powerful anti-ageing technique

“A more positive outlook will show in your face. People will be happier to be around you and you will look younger. Research also shows that more optimistic people live longer too,” he adds.

Indeed, research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, which appears in the journal Psychology and Aging, found that volunteers were most likely to underestimate the age of a smiling face.

Scientists think this is because they are noticing the smile first rather than any wrinkles. Smiling faces are also generally perceived as more attractive and younger.

So while there has never been more pressure to buy pills and potions, fret about wrinkles and head for the Botox clinic, there has equally never been more evidence that worrying will trigger the very wrinkles you fear and are trying so hard to avoid. Instead, smile, stop moaning about your grey hair and make like your next birthday is 25, whatever your age… the year will drop off.

Vanessa Pooley, 53, sculptor, runner and swimmer

Description: Botox and Plastic Surgery

Vanessa Pooley, 53, a fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculpture (vanessapooley.co.uk), specializes in sculptures that celebrate the female form.

The cosmetic surgery and Botox route is definitely not for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that looking and feeling as young as you can is a stage of mind, not something you can buy from a pot of expensive cream. It’s much more profound. It’s about losing yourself in what you are doing, and feeling intensity-forgetting yourself and the mirror. I find I do that while working creatively on a sculpture, listening to Wagner, as well as when I’m swimming and running. Staying young has to be about finding activities that fill your life with pleasure, intensity and focus rather than worrying about your looks.

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