Becoming the Master of Your Mind: How Mindset Impacts Aging & Your Health
Point to Ponder: What's your outlook on age and aging?
There's no doubt that seventy is the new fifty, sixty is the new forty, and fifty is the new thirty, IF you want it to be. There's also no doubt that medical, industrial and technological advancements play a monumental role in our ability to live longer and feel younger. Furthermore, we all know that implementing a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, high-quality sleep, managing stress and connection with others is essential to living a youthful, healthy, happy and long life. However, there’s one missing ingredient to this equation that likely has the greatest effects of all: how and what we think, otherwise known as our mindset.
To set the stage and to showcase the power our mind and expectations have on our body, last week I wrote about the power of the placebo effect. I shared information from a new book called Life Force by Tony Robbins. For this week, I'm continuing to provide persuasive and scientifically proven information from Life Force, but the emphasis changes to a topic I know every single one of us is interested in: aging and most specifically, how our attitude and mindset affect it.
Did you know that simply changing your outlook can add years to your life? According to an Ohio study, middle-aged subjects with positive attitudes on aging wound up living more than seven years longer on average than those with negative attitudes. And, research out of Yale found that older people with a positive focus on aging were 44% more likely to fully recover from a disabling health problem.
In a seminal study on mind-body connection, my friend Ellen Langer, PhD, a professor of psychology at Harvard, took a group of older men on an isolated New England retreat–but with a twist. The hotel was retrofitted with every visible cue–magazines, TV shows, movies–from twenty years earlier. The subjects were told to act as if they’d actually traveled back in time. When they discussed “current” events from two decades earlier, they spoke in the present tense. At the end of the five-day “counterclockwise” experiment, the men showed measurable improvement to memory, hearing, vision, grip strength, joint flexibility, and posture. Their arthritis eased up. Based on before-and-after photos, they even looked younger.
It turns out our cultural stereotypes about aging, good or bad, become self-concepts–and self-fulfilling prophecies. Positive attitudes protect against dementia, even in people with the high-risk ApoE4 gene. What’s the common thread of these studies? A positive mindset can reverse the aging process!
More evidence: In a more recent study by Professor Langer, a group of hotel room cleaners were told that their everyday work met the surgeon general’s requirements for an active lifestyle. A control group wasn’t given this information. Four weeks later, the first group had lowered systolic blood pressure, their body mass index, and their percentage body fat. The control group showed none of these improvements. As professor Langer wrote, “it is clear that health is significantly affected by mind-set".
Action Item: Let go of any negative or self-sabotaging thoughts about your body, your health and your life. Visualize and speak of yourself (and your life) as youthful, vibrant, healthy, purposeful, playful and happy (or whatever adjectives bring you joy and make you smile).
Here's to a week and life of positivity, optimism, health and longevity!