GROW UP, DON’T GROW OLD!
If you are told to grow up and yet want to look younger, what should you do about aging? Did you know that time travel is your daily reality? Is your understanding of time, as it applies to you, sophisticated enough to allow you to benefit from it in the short as well as the long run?
Allow me to talk you through the important clocks you should pay attention to, how to think about them individually, how to optimize with them together, and provide structure to how you might use them for a better long life.
The 2 Clocks
Forcing Physical Time onto your Biological Clock
Biological Aging in Physical Time
Distinct Constituents of Biological Age
Faking your Chronological Age
Why Time Travel is your Daily Reality
Why you should NOT Reverse but Optimize your Biological Age
How should you Move towards Optimality?
Who messed up the clocks? What should you do?
The 2 Clocks [ Top ]
There are two very distinct clocks that apply to you.
The timepiece on your wall, desk, wrist or phone is what measures the passage of time as defined by physicists. This physical clock helps keep track of chronological age – your age as you would state it on an application form. It is based on your birth certificate’s date and this physical clock.
At an individual level, you have a biological clock that is ticking – your expected lifespan might be many decades. The lifespan of a very tiny creature maybe just a few hours. Within a 24-hour solar day, every living creature, from single-celled organisms to the largest mammals all have circadian clocks ticking that are driven primarily by sunlight and darkness hours. On a longer timescale, nature has seasons with varying weather. On an even longer timescale, you have puberty, child-bearing years, and years with a full head of hair.
Forcing Physical Time onto your Biological Clock[ Top ]
To make modern society administratively easy, our biological clocks are forced onto the chronological clock. There is much to gain from that mapping – if you want to catch that 5am flight ignore your body clock, get out of bed, and get moving! However, this forcing also leads to all kinds of problems at an individual level. Shift work (no thanks to electricity!) that disrupts sleep has been classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the WHO? Sometimes students live like night shift workers – I did, 30 years ago, in Cambridge. Ignoring your biological clock all the time will make you unhappy.
On longer timescales too, problems are created. Children who are forced to start conventional school when they are not quite ready will have their psychological development negatively affected. At the other end of the scale, many adults who are not emotionally matured to be spouses, let alone parents, become just that, married with kids. Poor kids! This happens because some societies’ traditional norms insist on marriage by a certain chronological age e.g. 25.
Biological Aging in Physical Time[ Top ]
Having read the paragraphs above, you will appreciate that it naturally follows that biological aging and chronological aging happen at their own individual paces. Of course, if you are going to have a life that interacts with others in society, it is important to have a commonly accepted measure when coordinating and planning. So, it is easiest to use the physical chronological clock. Modern society runs based on that.
Your biological aging happens on the biological timeline with no regard for the chronological clock. Unfortunately, it suffers because of our inappropriate use of our biology driven by the chronological clock. [What is a better alternative to work-life balance?]
Distinct Constituents of Biological Age[ Top ]
We observe physical health declining as we age. So, reversal of poor physical health is the reversal of your biological age in the physical health dimension. Similarly, when your mental health declines, that is biological aging in the mental health dimension. Your emotional health declining or improving is also a form of biological aging. I like to extend this idea to spiritual health too.
Each of these 4 has its own timeline. Each is, therefore, a separate and distinct component of your biological aging. Each will progress at its own pace. There is also a complex network of links between them that is important to think about.
Faking your Chronological Age[ Top ]
People often manipulate their stated chronological age for a host of reasons. Whether for underage drinking or to get a date with a younger man. Their true chronological age does not change, of course. It is fixed based on the time of birth and moves linearly – one day for every day. At a practical level, you cannot do time travel. But that’s only in everyday physics!
Why Time Travel is your Daily Reality[ Top ]
Moving yourself into the past or future on the biological timeline is, not just ‘possible’ but is, in fact, your daily reality. Being aware of that reality allows you to have slightly better control of that time travel. How?
Why you should NOT Reverse but Optimize your Biological Age[ Top ]
When someone talks about reversing their biological age what is it that they are referring to? Most biologists typically refer to physical health aging, but I think it is useful to think beyond that narrow view.
If you think of your health having 4 parts – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – what should you be reversing time in?
Have you come across a friend who transitioned from a terrible lifestyle to a sensible one and looks distinctly younger than a year ago? That was a very real reversal of physical-health biological age!
People who do not use their mental faculties to the same extent as when they were at school have a drop in some components of their mental health – perhaps their numerical calculation ability reduces. Not using a language follows a similar pattern. The same thing with memory formation and recall. That is a worsening of mental-health biological age.
When you notice a relative who has had immature childlike responses through their adult life, they have aged physically but not emotionally. They need to improve their emotional-health biological age to solve the problems that, perhaps, their parents created. Not reverse it, but improve it.
Ever come across a young person who appears to be spiritually more evolved than their own parents? It is not at all common, given the influences our parents and ‘the system’ has on us, but, yes, it is very possible to be spiritually older than your parents.
So, for each component of health, you have an optimal level that you would like to stay at.
For physical health, we do not want to get older, and nor do we want the poorer immunity of a young child. There is an optimum.
For mental health, which is typically in decline from early adulthood with a stark drop for many as they enter their 70s and 80s, the desire, again, is to have high cognitive functioning.
For emotional health, to have better control than a spoilt child when you are a full-grown adult while not being irate or impatient as you get much older would be great. There is an optimum.
Increasing spiritual health towards infinity would be ideal!
How should you Move towards Optimality?[ Top ]
You want to have optimal levels of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. All of these are intricately connected. Each of them affects the other three. For example:
You are likely to have severe cognitive decline in the later decades of your life if you do not take care of your physical health. So, reversing physical-health biological age helps optimize mental-health
If you maintain good mental health, you can make intelligent choices about your nutrition which will impact your physical health. The hormonal and neurotransmitter components of your physical systems directly impact your emotional health. So, optimizing mental-health biological age helps reverse physical-health biological age and optimize emotional-health biological age.
The detailed steps for optimization (be it reversal or maturity) are for us to review and implement. I invest time in this. You could too.
Tip: Dying your hair to look younger will not make you live longer. In fact, given the toxins in hair dyes, you are likely to die earlier!
Who messed up the clocks? What should you do?[ Top ]
Most of us in an urban world setting have an underdeveloped understanding of time, especially as it applies to us at an individual level. You probably do too. It’s not your fault – because it was never part of your formal schooling. Time was measured by school hours, break times, exam schedules and holiday dates. Later it becomes office times, daily commuter train times, and happy hour at the local pub.
Our perception of time in a modern urban setting is trained by society to be driven by the wall clock i.e. chronological time. What was and is tracked by other living creatures, and your very recent forefathers was biological time. We need the former for engaging successfully with society, but we must be very aware of the latter to live a better life.
Awareness of the existence of both clocks and their links is a good first step. Thoughts about how to make them work in your favour will then allow you to formulate a plan. Actions that emerge from that will take you to better places. [Read: The Better Life Infographic]
It would be nice to be active in your vegetable garden, speaking 5 languages, be able to play your favourite instrument and not panic when there is an electrical power cut in hot weather. At chronological age 100.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.