In 1979, a 34 year old Harvard psychology professor named Ellen Langer decided to conduct a study on age reversal. She had come to the conclusion that staying young had a lot to do with your psychological state—your beliefs and attitudes about the aging process—as much as anything else.
Her overriding philosophy was stated in a simple and succinct manner… “It occurred to me that wherever we put the mind, the body should follow.”
But it's one thing to talk about such metaphysical, woo-woo concepts, and another to put them into actual practice. So the stage was set for what she would call “The Counter Clockwise Study.”
Professor Langer recruited two groups of 8 men each in their 70's and 80's, not sickly but, in her own words, “extremely dependent.” The non-control group was to spend a week at a New Hampshire monastery. These eight older gentlemen were surrounded by a carefully designed and controlled setting that was meticulously retro-fitted to simulate the year 1959. The calendar had been convincingly turned back to 20 years earlier.
Everything in the retreat's environment screamed 1959; newspapers, magazines, art, music, TV and radio shows, clothing, personal photographs… all of them were of 1959 vintage (or earlier).
The men were also instructed to talk about 1950's ‘current’ events and that any recollection of memories from 1959 were to be remembered in presence tense only.
Because of an over-sight on arrival, the men, not filled with an oversupply of vigor and vitality, labored to carry their own bags to their rooms. It wasn't real pretty, but that was to change over the course of the week.
These 8 Men Actually Became Younger!
What Langer found was that “The men’s physical behavior followed their psychological convictions. Over the course of a week, signs of aging appeared to reverse and the men looked visibly younger. The subjects’ joints became more flexible, their posture straightened, and the lengths of their fingers, which typically shorten with age, actually increased.”
These changes were further confirmed when compared to the control group who spent the same week in an otherwise normal setting, but at a separate location. Overall the men showed improvements in physical strength, memory, manual dexterity, posture, gait, hearing, taste, appetite and visual acuity. In other words, they had become younger!
Their before and after photos were deemed to look (on average) two years younger than when they arrived at the monastery. The big difference however was the very apparent disparity in their condition from when they first showed up—somewhat bewildered and struggling with their bags—to having to break up their game of touch football in order to get them to climb back into the departing van.
Langer talks about “The Counter Clockwise Study” in more depth in her 2009 book, “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.”
Although her study is fascinating, she didn't have the necessary funding to properly ‘control’ the control group so she decided to not officially publish the results. That being the case, it's likely that an experienced controlled test scientist might be able punch more holes in her study than a colander.
It's even safer to say that most professionally trained scientists turn their analytic and academic noses up at any mention of any age-defying powers of the mind.
And, there's a valid reason why they're trained to think this way.
Something happened a little more than 300 years ago that to this day continues to be a major influence as to how our western culture views the world, and how we age in it.
>>> Click here to find out what occurred back then… (page 3 of 5)