Most of the work in progress is concerned with the interaction of mindfulness and health, business, and education. We have conceptually replicated it with respect to weight loss, vision, diabetes, and colds. It is soon to be tested with women with stage four breast cancer. Health studies we have recently conducted are aimed at improving disease outcomes by attention to symptom variability. Arthritis, chronic pain, als, tbi, prostate cancer, and ms have been shown to be amenable to this treatment. Studies with other disorders are now underway.
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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. The point was not living in the past; rather, it was about giving mental signals to the body to reflect the energy and biological responses of a much younger person. At the end of the study, the experimental group demonstrated marked improvement in their hearing, eyesight, memory, dexterity and appetite. Some who had arrived using canes, dependent on the aid of their children, walked out under their power, carrying their own suitcases.
Langer concluded that by expecting them to function independently and engaging with them as individual minds rather than as old people, she and her students gave them the opportunity to see themselves differently. This, then, had an impact on them biologically. If the mind could have such an impact on the body, what other potentials might exist in terms of healing?
How important are the words that doctors use when talking with patients, or that patients use about their disease? Langer has continued to study what she calls mindfulness and its effects. A film based on her book is currently being made, starring Jennifer Aniston. SuperConsciousness caught up with Langer at her Harvard office. SC: Before the Counterclockwise study, you consulted geriatricians and discovered that there are, in fact, no reliable biological markers of age.
How did that change your thinking about aging? It changed my idea about how easy it was going to be to run a persuasive study, because if there were clear biological markers how could I change them so nobody would disagree.
I think it was this great variability that led me to some of the ideas in the first place. SC: How important is language in terms of the way that both doctors and patients talk about health and aging? Because people are brought up to seek certainties, they become vulnerable to language in ways they need not.
Chronic means uncontrollable, but it turns out you can never prove uncontrollability. When you start paying attention, you start to see that whatever your symptoms are, they change from moment to moment, from day to day. Why is it that I feel a little better now than I did before?
We often let our mindsets about aging rule. We all would if we were more mindful. You do things, then, that are forwardlooking. When you buy into the mindset, you assimilate all of your behavior to that mindset.
At that point it would be unreasonable and almost irresponsible to not try to heal ourselves. The symptoms are real. I actually believe our minds have almost complete control over our diseases.
EL: The exciting thing is to be able to teach some of the work on mindfulness on the big screen, meaning that many, many people will see it and hopefully be influenced by it. Maybe they will take all of this information to heart. We have a lot more control over our health and well-being than many people realize. My hope is that people will come to that realization. Share This Post.
She is an academic. Her work is about looking for ways to surpass what seems impossible in the medical field. The latter is, according to Langer, not feasible for humans to attain anyway. The men spoke about past events as if they were happening in the present. As a result, they came out of the experiment with significantly improved memory, vision, physical strength, and other measures that are commonly believed to irreversibly decline with age. The words we use when describing our health matter, a lot.
The Langer Mindfulness Institute
Aging in Reverse: the Counterclockwise Study