A few years ago we were excited to learn that Jennifer Aniston proposed to co-produce and star in a film based on the book, “Counter Clockwise Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility,” written by the Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, whose research interest is in how attitude affects both health and the rate of ageing. This film would have introduced Langer’s research findings to a new and wider audience but sadly, it seems that after the initial publicity the project has been discontinued.
Langer’s book records a study she did in 1979. Eight elderly men in their late 70s and 80s spent a week in a disused monastery that had been designed in every detail to recreate the year 1959. Even the magazines and newspapers were from that era. The men were asked to talk and behave as if 1959 was the present. At the end of the week significant measurable improvement was shown in some cognitive processes, vision, hearing and strength of the study’s subjects. Their joints were more flexible and posture straightened.
Many studies support the idea that our beliefs about old age affect our health and well-being and the assumption that old age means physical and mental deterioration is not a minor problem.
Becky Levy and colleagues at Yale University report that their studies show that a negative attitude to ageing in their subjects didn’t only affect performance and attitude but that their beliefs contributed to serious illness and death. Holding positive views, conversely increased life expectancy by about 7.6 years.
Professor Felicia Huppert from Cambridge University suggests that society’s structures and attitudes are not keeping abreast of the new reality of ageing. “Positive psychology is helping to challenge people’s views of the old and of ageing and questioning taken for granted assumptions.”
Clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Mario Martinez, is uncompromising in his book “The Mindbody Code”. He claims that “ageing is a cultural concept of how our biology “should” respond to the passing of time.”
Langer’s study suggested that mental attitude can reverse the effects of ageing and as most of us can now look forward to a quarter of our lives in retirement challenging cultural beliefs about ageing could serve us well as accepting assumptions about mental and physical deterioration could be self-fulfilling.
Jocelyn and Kristina at Trance-Formed