How old are you really?
In 1979, a researcher from Harvard by the name of Ellen Langer did a really interesting study. She asked volunteers in their late 70s and early 80s to spend a week in a retreat centre, asking them to spend that week acting as if it was 1959, a full 20 years earlier. The centre was completely decked out in décor from the late fifties, the TV had programmes on it from that time, and the radio, magazines, books and music there were also from that time. The volunteers were asked to dress in fifties clothing, and to discuss things that were current at that time, like the first US satellite launch, as if it was happening now, and there was nothing there to spoil the illusion of living in a completely different era.
Prior to the volunteers going in to the centre, they were measured on a number of parametres, which were measured again at the conclusion of their stay. The results were really interesting. On average, the volunteers were taller when they left, had better manual dexterity and greater finger length due to a diminishment in arthritis in their fingers. They also had better memory, higher scores on intelligence tests and even showed improvements in their eyesight. In effect, the volunteers came out significantly younger than when they went in.
This study, along with others, shows that age is not just an irreversible biological process that we have no control over. In contrast, age is something which is significantly affected by our mental and emotional states. In one study, blood pressure was measured in women before and after they had their hair cut and coloured. Results showed that blood pressure dropped for the women who thought they looked younger after their styling. Numerous studies also show that people who are positive have better immunity and recover more quickly than those who are negative, and indeed, one of the most significant findings of these studies is that people who are positive actually live longer.
What do you believe about getting older? What do you believe when it comes to your health? Do you believe that your memory will get worse and your body will deteriorate? Or do you believe that your mind can stay sharp and your body can remain fit and healthy? Our beliefs matter. Our beliefs have effects on our body we can’t see, but which are very real all the same. Our beliefs also affect our actions, leading us to stay at home and sit in front of the tv, or get out and about, socialising with others, learning new languages for fun, and keeping our bodies and minds active.
Naturally, our mental and emotional states are not the only things affecting our health and how old we look and feel. The research is clear though. The way we feel and what we believe matters greatly and causes changes in our mental and physical wellbeing. How can you keep your body and mind performing well?