What does it mean when we describe someone as an old soul? As descriptors go, it's more intuitive than precise: No psychologist can diagnose you with an "old soul" condition, and even the most spiritual among us generally mean it metaphorically, rather than literally. It's not necessarily that you've lived past lives (although, of course, that's one interpretation). Rather, it's about being wise beyond your years, able to see the big picture and act with empathy and compassion (here are 3 simple ways to be more empathetic).
Sarah (*name changed for privacy), a teacher friend, can easily identify kids in her classroom who are old souls: They're the ones who feel things deeply, display extreme compassion and wisdom, or are a touch moodier than their peers. "I feel that a person who has an old soul often has an innate understanding of how the universe works," she says. Life can seem harder for these kids, but Sarah also finds "they often have a deep center that is unflappable no matter what the circumstances are around them." The old souls in her classroom tend to have incredible emotional tools—far beyond what you'd expect for their age. (Looking for more ways to live a happy, healthy life? Order Prevention—and get a FREE Yoga DVD when you subscribe today.)