The answer appears obvious: if an antidote to aging existed, surely we would have heard about it by now. As for growing younger, entire industries are devoted to the appearance of youth but under the surface it would seem that time marches on. How, then, is it possible for men in their late seventies and early eighties to suddenly improve their memories, hearing, eyesight, dexterity and appetite without any pharmaceutical aid? One of their first surprises came when they asked leading geriatricians how they could measure the biological markers of age before and after the study: they were told there are none. They were not allowed to bring up any events that happened after , and they were to refer to themselves, their families, and their careers as they were at that time.
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Bookmark In Counterclockwise , Ellen Langer , a renowned social psychologist at Harvard, suggests that our beliefs and expectations impact our physical health at least as much as diets and doctors do. As a result, we need to challenge our socially constructed, implicitly learned assumptions around health and aging in order to take control of our own well-being.
For evidence, Langer draws on her 30 years of pioneering mind-body research, including her "Counterclockwise" study in which eight elderly men lived in a residential retreat that recreated the social-physical environment of After one week sequestered in this virtual year journey back in time, all eight participants showed marked improvements in their hearing, memory, dexterity, appetite, and general well-being. They even looked younger to outside observers who saw photos of them before and after the experiment.
Langer cites other research that has made similar findings. In one study, for instance, people were surveyed about their attitudes on aging. Twenty years later, those with a positive attitude had lived seven years longer on average than those with a negative attitude.
By comparison, researchers estimate that we extend our lives by four years if we lower our blood pressure and reduce our cholesterol. In another study, participants read a list of negative words about aging; within 15 minutes, they were walking more slowly than they had before.
Indeed, by considering whether limbs can regenerate or paralysis be reversed, Langer tries to push science beyond what we know, to discover what might be. And I challenge myself daily to think more optimistically about my own health and aging than I ever could have imagined before. Get the science of a meaningful life delivered to your inbox. You May Also Enjoy.
The Langer Mindfulness Institute