Cheers! It is time for Happy Hour! It’s not just fun it can make you live LONGER!
This episode discusses the longevity benefits of having a regular time each day with friends, perhaps with a glass of wine, but especially with lots of laughter and good friendships.
Some of the oldest living people in the world, practise a ritual of having a happy hour each day with friends and neighbours. This social connectedness keeps their minds sharp and loneliness at bay.
We also talk about the amazing work of Dr Ellen Langer.
Counterclockwise makes a strong case for the influence of expectation and belief on how our bodies function, on how we heal, and even how we age. Ellen Langer presents fascinating scientific data to support this view and argues convincingly that we should learn to take greater control of our health through the practice of mindfulness. Her research is innovative and empowering.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
In 1979, the first Counterclockwise study we retrofitted a retreat to twenty years earlier and had mature adults live there for a week as their younger selves. By essentially turning back time, their mental health, physical strength, cognitive abilities, and youthful appearance all improved. The results are consistent with many of our research findings since that time.
The original counterclockwise study with mature adults has now been conducted in three countries (US, Great Britain, and South Korea) all yielding very powerful results concerning possibilities for enhanced functioning for older adults. Physical health, cognitive abilities and general well-being were significantly enhanced.
Additional research is collected and shared in Langer’s book, Counterclockwise.
How exactly did that work? Here’s how Bruce Grierson described the beginning of this experiment in The New York Times Magazine:
Eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959.
The men didn’t just reminisce about what things were like at that time (a control group did that). They were instructed to behave as if it were actually 1959, while the control group lived in a similar environment but didn’t act as if it were decades ago.
They discussed historical events as if they were current news, and no provisions were made that acknowledged the men’s weakened physical state; no one carried their bags or helped them up the stairs or treated them like they were old.
“Nothing — no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves — spoiled the illusion that they had shaken off 22 years,” Grierson wrote.
A week later, both the control group and the experimental group showed improvements in “physical strength, manual dexterity, gait, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing, and vision,” Langer wrote in “Counterclockwise.”
And according to Langer’s account, most of those improvements were much more significant in the group told to live as if it were actually 1959; a full 63% of them had better intelligence test scores at the end of the experiment than they did at the beginning, compared to 44% in the control group. Four independent volunteers, who knew nothing about the study, looked at before and after photos of the men in the experimental group and perceived those in the “after” photos as an average of two years younger than those in the “before.”
On the last day of the study, Langer wrote, men “who had seemed so frail” just days before ended up playing “an impromptu touch football game on the front lawn.”
In some ways, the results should not be surprising. Grierson writes that Langer actually said to the participants, “we have good reason to believe that if you are successful at this, you will feel as you did in 1959.”
When you believe that something will affect you in a particular way, it often does. That’s why placebo controls are baked into every rigorous clinical trial.
Your own expectations, and the expectations of others, are powerful. And expectations of the declining cognitive and physical abilities that come with age are pervasive.
Still, Langer seemed to take the “counterclockwise” results as further confirmation of her theories about the power of the mind over the body, even as fuel for her argument that — as she wrote in 1981 — “many of the consequences of old age may be environmentally determined and thereby potentially reversed through manipulations of the environment.”
If we could turn back the clock psychologically, could we also turn it back physically? For more than thirty years, award-winning social psychologist Ellen Langer has studied this provocative question, and now has a conclusive answer: opening our minds to what’s possible, instead of clinging to accepted notions about what’s not, can lead to better health at any age.
Drawing on her own body of colorful experiments—including the first detailed discussion of her landmark 1979 “counterclockwise” study in which elderly men lived for a week as though it was 1959 and seemed to grow younger—and important works by other researchers, Langer proves that the magic lies in being aware of the ways we mindlessly react to cultural cues.
Counterclockwise shows how we can actively challenge these ingrained behaviors by making subtle changes in our everyday lives. Langer describes ways to reorient our attitudes and language in order to achieve better health; she shows us the ways in which our belief in physical limits constrains us; and she demonstrates how our desire for certainty in medical diagnosis and treatment often prevents us from fully exploiting the power of uncertainty.
Scientifically riveting and practically empowering, Counterclockwise holds enormously exciting implications for our general health—including vision, old age, cancer, weight, and heart health—as well as for our fundamental happiness.