It’s Mindful Monday everyone and time to set an intention for this week and making it a mindful one that will bring out the child within. How long has it been since you have done something that has made you feel like a kid again? For me, being a new grandmother makes it easy to act like a kuku mama, crawling on the floor, making funny faces, being a goofball and any antic that can make my granddaughter laugh. Acting like a kid and feeling like a kid are different however and the activity that always makes me feel young again is bodysurfing. Years ago, going home to Hawaii for a high school reunion, my forever BFF and I went back to our local bodysurfing beach, Shorebreak in Kailua. My niece was visiting at the time as well and sat on the beach watching in awe as Bonnie and I frolicked and rode waves. Coming out of the water, she remarked, “auntie, you were in there for HOURS!” We totally lost track of time and for me, now an East Coaster, who never has access to warm ocean water, I was in heaven. Even then in our 40’s, we felt like teenagers again when we entered the surf and our bodies responded, muscles reminded how to move through the water to catch a wave. This past weekend in Maine, with a ocean temperature of 59 degrees, I donned my wetsuit , grabbed a boogie board and ran into the water. One quick wave later, I was hooked like always and caught one after another, nothing else on my mind, just being in the water waiting for the next set. Friends on the beach exclaimed when I finally got out, “you look like you were 5 years old, riding a wave all the way in and literally running back in to catch another”. Well, now in my 60’s, I don’t know about 5, but I certainly felt like a teenager again, my body moving and flowing through water with the ease akin to my decades younger self. I actually felt like fourteen and I would have stayed in even longer if my toes were not turning numb! Does putting yourself into a younger mode actually change your physiology? A research project in 1981 proved it can. Two separate groups of eight men in their 70’s and 80’s were taken on a retreat in New Hampshire in two separate weeks. The first group was told to pretend they were actually 22 years younger while the second group was told to just reminisce but not pretend they were any younger than their current age. The retreat was cleverly set up to put the men back in an environment of their younger selves. They perused old magazines like LIFE and the Saturday Evening Post, they watched movies and tv shows from 1959 and listened to tunes popular in the day like Nat King Cole and Perry Como. They discussed “current” events like Fidel Castro rising to power in Cuba, Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to America and sports news of Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson. This was all created to help the men imagine themselves decades younger. Both before and after the five day retreats, measurements were taken of height, weight and gait as well as tests for hearing, eyesight and mental cognition. Results revealed both groups of men became physiologically younger, structurally as well as functionally although there was significant improvement in the first group who pretended they were younger compared to the group that simply reminisced. Height, weight, memory, eyesight, hearing as well as physical strength and flexibility all improved. Their physiology actually changed by thinking they were younger! They not only felt younger, they became younger! The science of epigenetics, the effects of environment on the expression of proteins in our genes may explain how our thoughts alone can not only change our mental and physical selves but offer us healing and regenerative ways we can optimize our health. It may seem that our internal as well as our external environments, including our interactions with others, how we move our bodies as well as what detergent we use can have profound influence on our health. This week, set the intention of doing something that evokes and makes you become your younger self. Throw a ball, ride a bike, catch a wave, listen to oldies, feel what it was like to be in that decade. You may find you can turn on a gene that has long been neglected and actually change your mental and physical body all the while having fun doing it! Imagine, getting younger by actually pretending you are younger! Have fun accessing your “inner child” and become more mindful, happy and healthier to boot! Make it a great week!