Be honest: how often do you find yourself shaking your head resignedly and using phrases such as 'In my day', 'It's my age' or 'I'm too old for that'? 'Stop it!' says personal development specialist Jane C Woods (www.changingpeople.co.uk). 'Banish these words from your vocabulary immediately. Don't even think them. They can have an insidious effect and make you feel older than you actually are. Remember, it's still "your day". You haven't suddenly ceased to exist because you passed a certain age. Live life to the full!'
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Why measure your own life against previous generations? OK, your mum may have seemed middle-aged when she was 40 while your granny seemed positively ancient at 65 - but times are changing. Women now enjoy more career and leisure opportunities, better healthcare and longer life expectancy than ever before. It's entirely possible your granny never even owned a passport - but nowadays, nearly half the UK's over-55s are planning to travel the world after they retire, according to Aviva's recent Real Retirement Report.
Wishing you were 21 again is utterly pointless. You're never going to turn back the years, no matter how much you worry - so why worry at all? What's more, all that anxiety can actually make you look and feel older. 'Your body tends to respond to your mindset,' says psychologist Dr Massimo Stocchi (www.harleystreetpsychology.com). 'The best anti-ageing attitude you can adopt is to be kind to yourself and accept who you truly are.' Need more convincing? People with positive attitudes to ageing tend to live longer than those who are more pessimistic, according to a Dutch study of 999 people.
Looking at pictures of celebrities can be hugely demoralising - particularly if you discover you're roughly the same age as, say, Yasmin Le Bon, but fear you look like you're old enough to be her mother. In this case, it's time for some serious self-talk. 'Making these comparisons can create feelings of insecurity and diminish from your true beauty,' says clinical hypnotherapist Dominic Knight (www.dominicknight.co.uk). 'Remember, there's always someone who's apparently more beautiful, successful or intelligent than you. The trick is to break the habit of thinking like that. When you recognise a quality you admire in someone else, look at your own life and recognise all the things that are good about you.'
Whether you're working out at the gym or jogging round the park, all your age-based insecurities can come hurtling to the fore if you're surrounded by women who appear to be fitter and slimmer than you. 'Just remember that everyone is exercising because they want to change or maintain the hard work they've already put in,' points out personal trainer Dan Kingham (www.dpkfitness.co.uk). 'Nobody ever joined a gym because they were already perfect. Keep your own goals clear and don't focus on other people. And yes, that 21-year-old may look very impressive at the front of your Zumba class - but chances are she's useless at other exercises you've learned to master over the years.'
Yes, we'd all like to have more years ahead of us - but you can't make yourself younger simply by behaving in the same way you did when you had fewer cares and youth on your side. 'You're not 21 any more - and frankly, why would you want to be?' says Jane C Woods. 'You've lived and loved. You're mature and womanly and wise. Instead of trying to recreate your youth, focus on all the positives of that wisdom and experience. Acknowledge all the things you can do, not all the things you can't. Don't try and go back in time: concentrate on moving forwards.'
Now, we're not saying you shouldn't follow fashion or shop in Topshop. And if you can still squeeze into that favourite little black dress you've had for the past 10 years, good for you! 'But instead of focusing on looking young, focus on looking good,' advises life coach Carole Ann Rice (www.realcoachingco.com). 'By this age, you know what colours and styles suit you and you probably have a little more money to spare - so you can invest in good quality clothes that flatter your shape. Besides, knowing what suits you now is far more useful than making pointless comparisons with the way you used to look.'
While some of us try too hard to reclaim our youth, others go to the other extreme. For instance, we reject certain kinds of music, fashion, films and TV shows because we assume they're not meant for us or we're too old to enjoy them. Nonsense! If something appeals to you - whatever you're age - there's no reason not to embrace it. If you genuinely enjoy listening to the latest club sounds or want to watch 'The Only Way Is Essex', why the hell shouldn't you? 'Staying connected to what's happening in popular culture - and keeping up with music and fashion - can provide you with interests that make you feel happy and fulfilled, rather than "past it" and out of date,' says Carole Ann Rice.
Another self-limiting habit many of us tend to adopt is to decide we're "too old" to try things we've always wanted to do - whether that's learn a language, play a musical instrument or try a bungee jump. But what's really stopping you? Chances are it's fear of failure or a false sense of time running out. The truth is you're probably no more likely to fail now than you were 20 years ago. 'Whatever your age, it's important to try new things and take risks because the pain of regret far outweighs any other pain,' says Dominic Knight.
During your schooldays, most of your friends were around your own age simply because they're the people you were surrounded by each day. But in adulthood, we meet people of all ages all the time - and these new acquaintances all offer the potential to enrich our lives in some way. So don't assume you have nothing in common with the college leaver who's just started at the same workplace - or the pensioner who's recently moved in across the street. Remember, age really is just a number. And there's no reason why anyone should be defined by a number.