I’m reading a great book, Ellen Langer’s Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. It’s about being more mindful in everything we do and how that breaks through many of our assumptions and beliefs and can help us maintain and attain greater health, and happiness.
It’s about thinking about our health, and aging, differently, turning our own stereotypes on their head, and taking back much of our power.
It’s about how language either empowers or disempowers us, and sets us down a path of expectation, and how we then tend to create what we expect.
For instance when you go to get a “second opinion” don’t those two words already make you feel it can’t be quite as credible as the first doctor’s diagnosis? After all now you’re going for “second” and it’s only an “opinion.”
Langer, a social psychologist and teacher, has written a book, this is actually her fourth on mindfulness but first on health, that is philosophical in part, and practical throughout. It is based on many of her studies and those conducted with her students. One classic study Langer conducted had senior citizens, some of whom were in nursing type facilities spend a week living as though it was 1959 again, wearing the type of clothes they wore then, doing things like carrying their own suitcases, which they hadn’t done in years, bringing photos of who they were then and “acting as if” they were their younger version, again. A week later, most were actually livelier, stronger and healthier, they expressed more vitality and took more interest in life than they had in years.
Langer pokes through our routine thinking as in where did these thoughts come from? Do they make sense? And she beseeches us to be mindful, to notice new things. And she reminds us that our routine thinking may indeed be deteriorating our health rather than vitalizing it.
For instance she proposes that maybe older people are thought to have poor memories not because they lose their faculty to remember but because they’re not much interested in what’s going on in a world geared for younger people. So they don’t pay attention. What looks like memory loss may be a case of older people never having listened to something to begin with because it doesn’t interest them.
Or maybe older people seem weaker because we’ve been socialized to see them that way, and they’ve been socialized to expect they will become that way. Maybe 80 year olds have trouble getting out of a car not because they’re feeble. Maybe cars just aren’t built for 80 year old bodies.
Langer and her students’ experiments will offer you lots to reconsider that may change how you think which may impact your health more positively.
Counter clockwise tests many of our assumptions about healthfulness and reading it would be a very healthy choice.