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Are you Mindful About Aging, Fitness, Food?

Is the way you think about your habits, your every day habits that create the level of health which you currently have, aging you or slowing the process? Mindful practice of your inner and outer conversations may have more influence on your aging process than anything else that you do.

Of course you’ll have to have the right habits. Yet, if you’re mindful of them, you’ll naturally be inclined to make positive changes. You’ll seek the right information and the right steps. Then you’ll be conscious applying them in your life.

Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. She is the author of eleven books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 35 years. Her best selling books include Mindfulness; The Power of Mindful LearningOn Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity; and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Her most recent book is The Art of Noticing which pairs one-liners culled from her research with her original paintings.

Dr. Langer has been described as the “mother of mindfulness” and the mother of positive psychology.

Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology. Most recently she received the Liberty Science Genius Award.

The citation for the APA distinguished contributions award reads, in part, “…her pioneering work revealed the profound effects of increasing mindful behavior…and offers new hope to millions whose problems were previously seen as unalterable and inevitable. Ellen Langer has demonstrated repeatedly how our limits are of our own making.”

This episode was peppered with questions:

You started pioneering this mindfulness movement – certainly about aging – before anyone else seemed to be writing much about it. In 1979, the rest of the world wasn’t quite tuned into the shock that was going to happen when baby boomers all started turning 50 and the change it would have on business opportunity, the economy, health care, so what was it that made you do that study so early in your career? Was it personal? Was there some influence of other researchers that pivoted you in that direction?

In 1979 how old were you? And now you are?
Tell listeners about the Clockwise study

When you removed them from that environment what happened?

This is a quote from some of the press reporting on the Clockwise study:

“What she found, however, surprised even her own team of researchers. Before and after the experiment, both groups of men took a battery of cognitive and physical tests, and after just one week, there were dramatic positive changes across the board. Both groups were stronger and more flexible. Height, weight, gait, posture, hearing, vision—even their performance on intelligence tests had improved. Their joints were more flexible, their shoulders wider, their fingers not only more agile, but longer and less gnarled by arthritis. But the men who had acted as if they were actually back in 1959 showed significantly more improvement. Those who had impersonated younger men seemed to have bodies that actually were younger.” [as printed in Harvardmagazine.com]  

Because your body is listening you can change anything.

-Dr. Ellen Langer

Why didn’t we… the mainstream rest of the world hear more about this earlier?

The counterclockwise study results have been described in several of your books, but have never appeared in a professional journal.

Why was that?

The Impact of Mindful and Mindless Revealed

Almost 4 decades after that study… you’ve been quoted and your research cited many times in regard to placebo, the power of thinking. We’re now using and hearing the word mindset so much more often. Do you think we’re getting it? The majority of us? Or is it mindset that still limits us?

“It is not our physical state that limits us,” she explains—it is our mindset about our own limits, our perceptions, that draws the lines in the sand.”

Why is it so hard – or is it that we’re doing it wrong – to change mindset?

How can listeners put mindfulness to work for them?

But the biggest obstacle for so many is the language and thoughts that reflect their expectations. The entire premise of Flipping 50 is to first change our mindset so that our expectations send us looking for new knowledge and science that will help us live out our much higher expectations.

Exercising less, with the eye on balancing hormones naturally for more longevity and vitality, optimizing weight with more but better food not diets, and moving for joy not punishment.

“Wherever you put the mind, the body will follow”

But if the expectation is currently exercise is hard and it’s only purpose to burn off something that shouldn’t be there or change something unacceptable… or that it must take dietary deprivation and restriction … then getting healthy becomes hard.

Do you live with any care about your age?

Hotel Maids Mindful Change

The other study I love to refer to is that you did with Alia Crum with 84 hotel workers. Talk about placebo effect. The mindset we adopt when we take pills – or not – that matters.

You divided the maids into two groups and nothing changed about their physical habits at work, only the beliefabout their physical activity while at work changed. The study was 4 weeks – is that correct?

Engagement is powerful, it’s the act of noticing.

Much of what you’re saying is about the ability to accept that there is a different way to think about anything.

If I gave you some thoughts from our listeners – limiting beliefs – would you be willing to counter with something that might help them see the obstacles those mindless thoughts provide … and offer an action or thought change that would remove self-inflicted limits?

Many of the women listening are thinking:

  • I’ve always been overweight.
  • I’ve had insomnia forever.
  • I always get injured just when I get some momentum exercising.

How has your work influenced your own aging?

How old are you now? The age of or beyond your subjects back in 1981…

“All Rules Are Turned.”

Connect:

Ellenlanger.com 

Resources:

Counterclockwise book

New book she’s working on: Why Not? The Power of Possibility

Does your mind control how you age?

Listener: Mindfulness and mindlessness were two big words in this episode. What are you doing mindlessly that if changed and approached mindfully could change everything?

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