Forget the lotions and potions. We all know they can’t turn back the clock (though they may soften its effects for a while). There are lots of things you can do to make yourself look younger, but half the battle is feeling younger. Some days I feel like King Tut’s great-auntie and when I look in the mirror everything I see makes me feel, “Yup! Back to the sarcophagus for me”. On better days, I feel like giving myself a wink and pinching my own bum.
Here are 10 things you can do which will make you feel fabulous, look younger and keep you that way.
Stand up straight
Everything works better and looks better if you stand up straight. I have terrible posture, like someone pushing a cart of cobblestones up a ski slope. I’m going to be crescent shaped unless I address this. Now we all work on laptops standing up straight is even more important. If you’re short-sighted like me, you probably squint at your laptop like Fozzie bear and Rowlff the dog on the piano (Click HERE to see what I mean). Buy a good chair. Put your laptop at the right height. Use a Swiss ball if that stops you slouching and do some exercise so that the muscles of your back and core are good and strong, then you will hold yourself better and look younger. Granny was right: shoulders back, belly in, bosom out. Or try Pilates. That works too.
Have a new hair cut.
If you’ve had the exact same hair cut and colour for 5 years or longer, think about trying something different. There’s nothing like a new haircut to make you feel swishy and sleek, like you’ve just stepped out of the salon, as the old advert put it. If you don’t like it, it’ll grow back. Get inspiration from Pinterest, the mighty Google or photos of celebs (but do remember the latter have umpteen Hollywood stylists working on their lovely ‘do’. It may be more difficult to recreate in 15 mins at 7am). I have been known to chase people down the road to find out who cuts their hair. Better still, ask a hairdresser you trust to freshen up your look. Do it when you’re feeling all is well with the world. If you are just dealing with a divorce/bereavement/work “restructure”, your judgment may not be as on point as you might like.
Have your teeth whitened
This is something that’s really worth the investment. Honestly it takes years off you. I’m not agin fillers but use them too much and you can look like an accident in a hamster breeding farm. But a bright white smile makes you look just like you but a teeny bit photoshopped. Yes, it takes upkeep and doesn’t last forever, but teeth whitening is one of the quickest acting, best investments for a youthful appearance. This is a treatment which has come down in price considerably, so shop around. But do go to a registered dentist. This is not something you want to trust to a nail bar.
If you can’t face the idea of a mouthful of bleach, have your teeth cleaned and polished once every 3 months. Eat strawberries (which really do keep your teeth bright). Some people swear by coconut oil (I’m cynical about all the astonishing powers of this wonder food. If it’s so amazing, how have we not known about its miracle properties before?) As well as keeping them shiny and white, keep them healthy. Once you’re over 45 your enamel needs help, so use an enamel restoring toothpaste, like Regenerate.
REGENERATE Enamel Science Toothpaste, £10, available from Victoria Health, BUY HERE
A good mouthwash can help with any incipient gum disease, so those beautifully maintained teeth don’t all fall out. I’ve just discovered Gengigel gel and mouthwash which claim to restore damaged gum tissue.
Gengigel mouthwash £6.50 and gel £5.70 BUY HERE
Get fit, strong and supple
Lift weights. After 40, we all start to lose muscle mass at an alarming rate. Fear not – none of us are likely to turn into those caramel muscle bound types who look like a condom full of walnuts. If picking up a bar bell a couple of times a week made you look like that, why would any of those muscle marys need steroids? You can’t tone up without a bit of resistance and weight training is that. Not only is it the only way to avoid the pernicious effects of gravity on the derriere, it helps keep your bones strong. Plus you feel like a kick ass ninja when you can squat press your own weight. (Well, a girl can dream.)
But that’s only part of the story: you need to keep yourself supple and lithe too. Try stretching, yoga, swimming, gymnastics, barre work – whatever it takes, it will help delay the time before you start making those old person “oomph” noises when you get up from a chair.
Cut down on sugar
They say it’s as ageing as smoking and it contributes little to our health. It makes sense to use it carefully. I speak as someone who could live on shortbread. And chocolate cake. And swiss roll. And vanilla slices. Oh, and I forgot meringue. I’m trying to cut down. I really am. But…feel…weak… Need…cake….
But drink champagne
I have absolutely no medical evidence to support this recommendation but champagne seems to make lots of us feel twinkly eyed, naughty and impulsive which, I feel, is a good thing. If, on the other hand, you are one of the few people who turn morose and bellicose after a few glasses of fizz (and I know you’re out there) feel free to ignore this.
It is the Devil’s doing. Once you’re over 45, if you try to lose weight fast you lose more than a little bit of avoirdupois. You lose what remains of your youthful plumpness in all the wrong places (face, neck, boobs) and yet will shift narry an ounce from your hips and thighs. Keep yourself in shape by all means, but be patient. Measure inches not pounds. If you exercise, eat good food and get plenty of sleep you will look and feel fresher, more energetic, more toned. But give it a couple of months to really kick in.
The nutritionist Michael Pollen has the simple creed, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. He recommends delicious food as natural, fresh and as good as you can afford. (Read his 7 rules of healthy eating HERE). I reckon if you ate as he suggests you wouldn’t go far wrong. Plus, here are a few Mrs Mutton rules (which I try to follow): cook the kind of meals for yourself you’d cook for other people; always eat at a table – don’t eat standing up, or outside, or on the train, or in the car, or at your desk. Eat when you’re hungry but not when you’re ravenous. Try not to snack. Eat slowly. Leave something. Eat the best you can afford. Buy food from people who care.
Do something that scares you
Memo to self. I am a big scaredy cat and never do anything more blood-curdling than crossing the road before the green man has started to flash. I’m terrified of heights, axe murderers, ghost stories, fairground rides, going too fast, driving in the rain, driving at night, getting lost, choking on a minibar peanut alone in a hotel… Bear Grylls I’m not.
This list is getting longer. Every year I add a few more terrors. Now I can add my fear of the speed with which one’s horizons narrow as one grows older. I’m about eighteen months from finding a new route home from the shops as intimidating as backpacking across the Andes.
You don’t have to go bungee jumping or kite surfing like someone in a Saga holidays brochure but this is a very good time in life to scratch those nagging itches – the skill you always hoped to master; the place you always wanted to visit; the book you thought you might write; the tattoo you always fancied; the business you hoped to start. Please, I beg you, make plans and give it a go. And kick me until I do it too.
Young people take risks all the time and what a risk that is – they have their whole life to muck up. We Muttons, on the other hand, with half our life under our belts have only half the risk. Sadly, there will come a time when we simply can’t do these things any more. Carpe diem. And that goes for me too, hiding at the back, behind the tall girl, hoping not to catch anyone’s eye.
Get a dog
I love my dog. My dog loves me. Result: happiness. When the world is a sour, disappointing place, full of people beginning with ‘A” and rhyming with “strolls”, then a dog is a reliably cheering addition to life. It will make you happy. I promise. If you are happy, you will wear a pleasingly relaxed and content expression that will take ten years off you. Plus all that walking and fresh air will help to keep you fit and outdoorsy, with rosy cheeks and bright eyes.
Don’t be a misery guts
We all know those old people who do nothing but complain about their health, situation, digestion, friends. I don’t want to be one of those, do you? I intend to be blithely cheerful (fuelled by cocktails if need be); with lots of good stories (which I hope I won’t repeat too often) and an excellent drinks cabinet.
Mostly, I want to laugh. Lots. As someone who is occasionally beset by glumness, I know what will lift me out of the pit. I’m partial to rousing, singalong, dance round the kitchen pop music, even the bad stuff works. In fact the bad stuff often works best. “Rasputin” by Boney M, to name but one. (I couldn’t resist adding the link for you all to enjoy too.) The ridiculous lyric, “But to Moscow chicks, he was such a lovely dear’, restores me to good humour immediately. I can’t resist comic novels (I keep PG Wodehouse by the bed and could read “Uncle Podger Hangs a Picture” from “Three Men in a Boat” every week and still find it hilarious (you can find an extract here in this blog post.) And of course films – Steve Martin in “The Jerk”, Bill Murray in “Ground Hog Day”, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in “The Awful Truth” and many, many others.
That’s just my Laugh kit. These may not tickle your funny bone, but find and hold onto those that do. Not forgetting, of course, friends. Friends with whom you can have a good laugh are worth their weight in gold, Cherish them.