Over the holidays I read Counterclockwise by Ellen Langer. Her study reveals how our beliefs and expectations have a profound impact on our emotional and physical health. As we grow older, our physical limitations are often determined by the way we think about ourselves rather than what is possible. We need to challenge the social constructs about aging and take responsibility for our well-being.
In 1979 she conducted a counterclockwise study in which eight elderly men lived for a week in which they acted as if they were in 1959. After one week all eight participants showed significant improvements in their overall well-being. They also looked younger to outside observers who saw photos of them before and after the experiment.
Although this was a small sample size, she refers to a number of other studies that support the importance of our mindset on our physical health. She warns of the danger of our cavalier use of labels and stereotypes, “Instead of mindfully attending to our health, we are a culture bent on the psychopathologizing of everyday life. Instead of recognizing that at times sadness is rational, we call ourselves depressed” (p.186).
If you’re interested in the mind-body connection, you will find this a thought-provoking book on the influence of your thinking on your health. This study supports King Solomon’s assertion, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is . . .” (Proverbs 23:7a)
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
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