In 1979, an incredible anti-aging study was done.
Have you ever wondered how some people who are 60 seem to be as strong as an ox?
As limber as a gymnast?
As sharp as a young college student?
And then there are some 35 year olds are so sluggish, who appear (and act) twice their age?
I became curious, does your thinking have power over your aging, and if so, how much?
Can we control it?
A surprising study was done asking this exact same question.
The Incredible Study
In 1979, Dr. Ellen Langer designed a week-long experiment with a group of 75 year old men.
They men weren’t told many details about the study- they were just told they’d be going away on a retreat for about a week at a retreat center.
They were not allowed to bring any pictures, newspapers or books dated later than 1959.
Once the men arrived at the study, they were told that for the next week they had to pretend that it was 1959 – a time when these men were 55 years old.
And to make the entire situation more believable, they were encouraged to dress and act like their younger selves , and were even given ID badges with pictures of their 55 year old selves.
They were told to talk about president Eisenhower, and other world events that happened around this time, and magazine issues from 1959 like Life were posted around the experiment area.
So the entire experiment was designed to make them really commit to the idea that they were really living back in 1959.
The Crazy Experiment Results
Before the retreat, the men were tested in many various aspects of their health that got worse with age:
- Physical strength
- Reaction time
- Short term memory
… After the study, most of the men had improved in every single category.
They were more flexible, had better posture, improved hand strength.
Their eyesight even improved by an average of 10%, as well as their memory.
Over 50% actually went up in intelligence.
Here’s the best part:
They took pictures before and after the experiment, and they showed the pictures to strangers.
Guess what they noticed?
Random people were asked to observe the age of these men, and the men looked, on average, three years younger than when they arrived.
How to Apply This to Reverse the Aging Process
So we know, without a doubt, that your thoughts affect your reality.
We know that if you think you can become smarter, you will become smarter.
If you think your situation is bad (no matter how it may be objectively) it becomes bad.
So how can we use this to actually get healthier or younger?
Here are my two suggestions:
- You become what you think about
- Act how you want to feel
You become what you think about.
How often have you said to yourself, “oh man, I feel old. I’m getting old. I have so many problems. I have so many health issues now. My knees ache, my back hurts, and I need pepto-bismol every time I eat.”
STOP the self talk that describes you as old – this sounds woowoo, but there’s so much science behind this now it’s scary.
Just like we know that describing ourselves as happy actually makes us happier, if you describe yourself as healthy, happy and young – you’re making real changes.
That’s how we all know someone who is 80 or even 90 with a very young, child-like spirit, with tons of energy and vitality – they’ve made a choice to view life as an adventure, rather than a drudgery.
If you currently describe yourself as old, sick and weak, start describing yourself as the opposite: “I’m strong as an ox, I can out compete a college kid, I’ve got more energy than a kid on Christmas morning!”
It’s not really a secret that the healthiest, fittest people that maintain good health into old age constantly have this “I’m young at heart” mindset and self-talk.
Act how you want to feel.
A classic reason people come to me or join one of my programs is that they have low energy, which makes it incredibly hard for them to accomplish anything throughout the day.
But here’s the thing: a very large part of low energy is psychological, think about it:
- Ever get low energy being forced to go to church as a kid?
- Do you feel exhausted showing up to your day job, but as soon as you get in the car to leave at 5 you’re peppy as a schoolgirl?
- Do you experience fatigue almost every day, but once you get on vacation, it magically disappears?
Try an experiment for 30 days –
Just pretend you have insane energy.
Pretend you just slept 10 hours, drank a double coffee, and went for a run.
Just pretend – and see what happens. You’ll quickly see that your energy is off the charts, all because you pretended you had high energy.
And, also describe yourself to others as having high energy. “My energy has been amazing lately, I don’t have any low energy problems.” What you talk about, you start believing.
You become what you think about.
Please leave a comment below – what’s one change you’re going to make regarding how you describe yourself?
Original study: Langer, E. (2009). Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possiblity. New York: Ballantine.
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