For years, Western doctors have separated the mind from the body
in order to study and treat them. But there’s a different way of looking at it, which is more common to Eastern medicines:
The body and brain are one and always have been.
They’re an intricately related system. Similar to the way blood vessels connect to all of your cells, so do your nerves. The central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord, are at the center of the body, and the electrical impulses run from your brain down your spine and branch into your peripheral nervous system that touches and affects every part of your body—all the way out to your fingertips and toes.
We already know that stress
is largely caused by how we view our situations and surroundings. It can contribute to innumerable physical symptoms—the most well-known being cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease.
If stress can create physical responses like these, what can other thoughts do?
I tell clients not to repeat phrases like “I’m getting old,” or “I’m fat,” or “this is my bad knee” because I strongly believe that what we’re thinking about ourselves ultimately manifests through our bodies. I’ve seen evidence of this in my own life and others. But don’t just take it from me.
Dr. Ellen Langer was one of the first researchers to draw the connection between our physical health, even youthfulness, and how we think.
She spoke about it and her new book, Counterclockwise, in an OnBeing podcast: The Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness .
If you’re interested, but don’t have much time, go right to the ten-minute mark and listen for fifteen minutes. You’ll hear Dr. Langer briefly share how she took men in their 80s to a retreat where she treated and spoke to them as if they were twenty years younger. Guess what happened?
Not only did they feel younger, but their hearing, vision, memory, and strength improved.
So much so, that independent evaluators judged them as being younger than their age. And, it’s not just Americans that respond this way, the study was replicated in England, South Korea and the Netherlands.
It’s already been proven that men and women in their 60s-80s can be physically younger with exercise.
We know that if you exercise hard enough and regularly, you can:
- slow the “normal” rate of cardiovascular decline by half, 1
- maintain more of your muscle mass, 2
- keep more of your bone mass,2
- keep your DNA younger than your chronological age3
What would happen if in addition to exercise and eating well, we practiced thinking and speaking differently about our health, our age and our physical abilities?
Click here to listen to what Ellen Langer has to say about it, or read the transcript.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
1. Maharam, L., Bauman, P., Kalman, D., Skolnik, H., & Perle, S. (2012). Masters Athletes. Sports Medicine, 28(4), 273-285.
2. Santos, L., Elliott-Sale, K., & Sale, C. (2017). Exercise and bone health across the lifespan. Biogerontology, 18(6), 931-946.
3. Loprinzi, D.P. (2015). Cardiorespiratory Capacity and Leukocyte Telomere Length Among Adults in the United States. American Journal of Epidemiology, 182(3),