Turn Back the Clock?

clock spinning framedIn my last post, I referred to a book by Harvard researcher Ellen Langer called Counterclockwise. In that book, she shares findings from a number of studies, including her infamous counterclockwise study on men in their 80s in which remarkable changes took place that seemed to turn back the hands of time.

She took two groups of men on a week-long retreat. One group reminisced about the past while the other group was immersed in the past. They were told to bring photos of themselves from years ago, to speak as if it was 20 years earlier, had discussion groups about political and social events of that time as if they were occurring right now, and were surrounded by magazines and props that recreated the past.

Afterward, each group was tested and there were noticeable changes in the attitudes of both groups of men, such as they were functioning more independently. But the men who had lived as if it was 20 years earlier showed greater improvements in flexibility, arthritic symptoms, and mental ability. They also had better posture and walking speed. Most amazing was the judgment of an independent panel that photos taken before and after the retreat showed those who had lived as if they were 20 years younger actually appeared younger.

In commenting on the results of her study, Langer writes, “Over time I have come to believe less and less that biology is destiny. It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather out mindset about our physical limits.” She goes on to say that instead of assuming that vision or other things must necessarily get worse as we age and that chronic conditions cannot be reversed, if might serve us better to let go of such a limiting perspective.

What we think has an impact on our experience, so why not hold more empowering and expansive thoughts? Studies have shown that the way people think affects their health more than things like smoking or not exercising. If recreating the world of their younger selves and living as if it was 20 years before can create meaningful changes in the men in the study, are you ready to turn back the clock for yourself—from the inside out?

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