The mindset reset.

October 26th, 2012

“There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and whatever certainty we have is a function of our mind-sets.” – Dr. Ellen J. Langer

Jennifer Aniston will star as Harvard Professor of Psychology Ellen J. Langer in a movie titled “Counter Clockwise” about Langer’s life and work, and, in particular, a 1979 age-defying study.

Described in her 1989 book, “Mindfulness,” Langer conducted a weeklong study with a group of elderly men that temporarily reversed signs of aging simply by being asked to believe they were experiencing 1959 for the first time.  After the experiment, the men’s posture, strength and flexibility improved, as did their scores on vision, hearing and intelligence.

In her recent book, “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility,” Langer describes another placebo-like study with a group of 84 hotel maids to track how their attitudes about work and exercise affected them. After a month, the half who were told their normal duties met the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for an active lifestyle lost about two pounds each and showed improvements in body-mass index and blood pressure. Without any change to their level of physical activity, their belief, through the power of suggestion, had a measurable effect on their health.

I was reminded of Langer’s studies after my post last week on the power of expectation, for they support theories of mindfulness and positive thinking in creating change for the better. The groups of elderly men and hotel workers both started telling different stories. They changed their beliefs about what was possible. They improved their health and, in the case of the hotel workers, their professional well being.

If all of our limitations are self-imposed, are you telling your story the way you want it to be?

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