Just Say NO To Old Age: Professor X isn't the only one with incredible mental powers: recent research says that you might be even better at brain-boosting, helping heal yourself with the power of a positive attitude - while he can't even summon up the mental energy to stand.
The power of positive thinking might make us sound infinity percent more likely to wear hemp and say "man" an inappropriate number of times for science reporters (i.e. ever), but it's real research at Harvard. Professor Ellen Langer has conducted several studies into "mindfulness theory", researching just how much your attitude affects your actual body. The answer: quite a bit.
One of Benjamin Button's many stories-within-stories in F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, involves the tale of a clock built for the New Orleans train station that is designed to run backwards, in the hope that it will resurrect the First World War dead.
With a similar result in mind, in one experiment Langer shut several septuagenarians in a hotel that had been redecorated in mid-eighties style, eliminating all evidence of the last two decades. Subjects were instructed to act as if they'd really gone all Doctor Who, and after only seven days they were faster, stronger, better than before. Stronger for seventy-year olds, anyway, and certainly stronger than a control group who didn't get this amateur time-travel and were basically left to think about how damn old they were.
This raises a number of interesting questions, and if you don't think so then we hate to bear bad news but aging applies to you too. How can we best apply this technique to our own lives? And if you can feel younger but have to listen to 80s music to do so, is that too high a price to pay?
Dr Langer's theory is that all the external reminders that "you are old and broken" can convince the brain and body that it must be so. It's quite possible - anyone who talks about brain and body as if they were separate items isn't using either properly, so all kinds of unconscious instructions could affect your health. There's no "be healthy!" switch, and this can't prevent aging (that's a job for the gene-workers) - but it can slow the clock down.
Posted by Luke McKinney.
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