The Science Behind the Law of Attraction Magazine June, 2017 - Page 24

Th e M i n d i s So Pow er f u l , I t Can Rever se Agi n g By Featur ed Colum nist Ellen Wood When you read the headline, did you believe it? A very small number of us think it?s true; the rest of us don?t. Many people think that aging can never be re- versed and certainly not with positive thinking. The whole idea would be laughable if it weren?t for Pro- fessor Ellen Langer and her Counterclockwise Study conducted more than three decades ago. The first woman to gain tenure in the Psychology De- partment at Harvard University, Dr. Langer has writ- ten extensively on the illusion of control, mindful ag- ing, stress, decision making and health. But it is the ground-breaking experiment she organized and car- ried out in 1979 that rocked the world of psychology. Dr. Langer designed her Counterclockwise Study to find out if turning back the clock psychologically could also turn it back physically. In other words, if we mentally become younger, will our bodies also become younger? To explore this provocative question, Langer enrolled a group of men in their 70s and 80s to participate. The men were divided into two groups and each group was taken by bus to live for a week in a se- cluded location about two hours north of Boston. The first group arrived and stepped into a virtual time-warp ? back into the 1950s. They were in- structed to live as though they were actually in that time ? with Life and Saturday Evening Post magazines from that era, a black-and-white TV and old movies that had been new then. They listened to radio news from the ?50s and discussed ?current? events such as the launch of the first U.S. satellite, Castro?s victory ride into Havana, Nikita Khrushchev and the need for bomb shelters. Dr. Langer believed she could recon- nect their minds with their younger and more vigor- ous selves by putting them in an environment con- nected with their own past lives. The men also found themselves in a place that wasn?t adapted to their infirmities ? no ramps or hand rails and they weren?t assisted with anything. Langer wanted them to be totally self-reliant during their stay. She insisted they carry their own suitcases, even if it meant scooting it along an inch at a time. Dr. Langer almost abandoned the study as she ob- served, ?When these people came to see if they could be in the study and they were walking down the hall to my office, they looked like they were on their last legs, so much so that I said to my students, ?Why are we doing this? It?s too risky.? However, during that week, Langer and her team ob- served many changes in the participants. They were standing more erect, walking faster and some even decided they didn?t need their walking sticks. After a week, they returned home and the second group of men arrived. These men, given a slightly dif- ferent set of instructions, were told to simply spend the week remembering their experiences of the ?50s and reminiscing. During each week, on one evening the men sat by the radio, listening as Royal Orbit won the 1959 Preak- ness. For the second group it brought back a flood of memories; for the first group, it was a race being run for the first time. None of the participants was told they were part of a