Are you concerned with how old you look? What about how young you feel?

A recent study at North Carolina State University explores the psychology of aging, and reveals what affects how young older adults feel. In particular, researchers found that feelings of control will significantly influence how old someone perceives themselves to be.

In the study, researchers asked 107 younger adults (ages 18 to 36) and 116 older adults (ages 60 to 90) to fill out a survey each day for eight consecutive days. Study participants answered questions about physical health, stress, sense of control over daily life, and how old the participants felt.

Sheavaun Neupert, the co-author of the paper on the study and psychology professor at North Carolina State University, noted, “Everyone’s sense of control fluctuates from day to day, or even over the course of a day — that’s normal.” But Neupert also explained, “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger. That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health.”

This means that for older adults, retaining a sense of autonomy has an effect on well-being — if you’re a bit older, the more control you have over your daily life, the younger you will feel.

In contrast, the self-perception a young adult has will not be severely affected by their sense of control. Instead, adverse health changes and stress is what will affect how old a young adult feels.

So how can you retain a better sense of control over your day, in order to maintain a high quality of life? Consider improving your mood or your sleep.

For example, in another NC State study, researchers found that if you believe you can get a good night’s sleep, you will have better beliefs about how well you control your life, and how capable you are of doing the things you want to do. “When people think they have little or no control in their lives, they may stop doing some of the everyday things that are important for self-care — because they believe those things don’t matter,” Neupert says.

Work to improve your mood, the amount of sleep you get, or other self-care habits. In doing so, you will learn just how capable you are in governing your life. Ultimately, you will start to feel younger than the age you really are.