Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility- my book review

My friend Brad gave me this book as a gift. The last two books that I received from him were gems: Journeys of Simplicity by Philip Harnden and Imrov Wisdom:Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. This is a companion piece to those two superb books. These two books have been essential aids to my understanding of the universe for the past two years.

I recently became aware of Dr. Langer’s work. She is best known for a unique 1979 study of nursing home residents. A group of research psychologists from Harvard University placed a group of eight men who were in their late 70’s to early 80’s into a controlled setting for a one week study. The participants moved into an old monastery after a series of baseline psychological and physical tests were administered. The setting was retrofitted to “replicate” 1959. The group living there were instructed to go about their lives as if the present was 1959. A control group of 8 went on a second retreat in exactly the same setting a week later but aspects of the second condition were altered to reflect more present day issues and topics. Post testing revealed greater improvement for the target group, not only on physiological measures ( height, weight, gait, and posture), but demonstrated improvement on IQ tests, and even differences in pre and post-test facial photographs. Since then the study has been replicated in three other countries.

I was aware that Dr. Langer has been associated with several psychological studies on Transcendental Mediation and aging from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those findings reported benefits for the elderly from TM practice, which included: increased longevity; increased cognitive flexibility; improved mental health; and reduction of blood pressure. I have been practicing TM for the past 45 years.

The gist of this book is that word choices in speech and written material, choices in decision making, or even slight changes in the physical environment can improve health and well-being. It urges readers to question medical advice from doctors (which I take to include Langer), particularly in the area of diagnostics. Langer explains why medical decisions tend to rest on uncertainty, that doctors are sometimes wrong or sometimes overstate their case, and that they use language with patients that can be viewed as being manipulative.

This is a hopeful book, and should encourage people to wake up and becoming a more genuine, thinking person. There are increasing levels of bullshit that are affecting our quality of life, and this book is one tool that could assist you with making better sense out of a puzzling overload of information.

Thanks, Brad, for helping me to fill my toolbox. You have inspired me to lighten up, looosen up, and now smarten up.

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