Help Yourself

Help Yourself

In 1979 there was a wonderful study completed by a Harvard Professor by the name of Langer. She recruited eight men who were in their 70’s who were neither healthy nor unhealthy for a five day retreat. These age-appropriate men, slow, bent, and easily fatigued were shown vintage TV programs from 1959, listened to music from that era, and overall treated as if they were still in 1959. No one offered to carry their bags in or fetch them something to drink or a blanket. They kept their topic to things that were happening in 1959—critiquing how Eisenhower was doing in the White House, and discussing the face-off between the Dodgers and White Sox’s. All mirrors were taken down so that the men would not get a reminder of how they look in 1979. At the beginning and end of the retreat each man undertook a series of physical and cognitive aptitude tests and as you would expect, their performance improved dramatically on virtually every metric, and in many cases it was closer to what would be expected for men a decade or two younger. Langer’s experiment shows the volume of change that we have the ability to make. At some point our brain or others influence our brains into thinking that we can’t. If you are 20 and you break a hip, you know you will get better. When you are 70, you’ve no doubt been told that you are falling apart. Help yourself; know your mind-body connection, and choose to remain active and in control of your life and your mindset.

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Sharlet Briggs, PHD
sharletb@thrivingbrain.com
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