Can You Reverse Ageing with Mindfulness?

Are you more capable than you think you are?

Here is my exciting dialogue with Harvard Professor, Ellen Langer. Ellen has conducted over 40 years of research on mindfulness. She has published more than 200 research articles and is the author of several books, including the famous work on 'Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility' (Ballentine Books, 2009).

What is mindfulness?

Langerian mindfulness is the simple process of actively noticing new things. As you notice, you become more aware of new things about the object of your observation. And, this active noticing makes you understand that you don't actually know what you were looking at (object or perspective) as well as you thought you did. This process naturally draws your attention to greater nuances of object(s). This is when you become situated in the present, more aware of the importance of context and perspective.

She says, “mindfulness is so easy and it's so effective that it’s hard for me to understand why anybody wouldn’t want to incorporate this in their life immediately”

Ellen points out how mindful optimism is a great way to deal with life and its stressors rather than defensive pessimism. But, what is mindful optimism? Read is an exciting short excerpt of my dialogue with Langer to know the answer: 

How to mindfully deal with COVID

"Kavya: As an Indian, practitioner-researcher who is also extensively trained in yoga instruction, I realize that Langerian mindfulness is different from various other kinds of meditation techniques. What is your take on this?

Langer: Mindfulness is different from meditation. In meditation, you take yourself out of the world for twenty minutes, twice a day. Here (in mindfulness), you are very much part of the world in your active noticing. So, it's not a program, it’s an understanding of the world that everything is changing so you can't know. And if you can't know, you sit up and pay attention. And you don't have to feel bad about the uncertainty because everybody else is in the exact same position. 

People worry about COVID and they're like 'Oh my gosh there is so much uncertainty'.

No there was uncertainty last year before COVID, the fact that they didn't notice the uncertainty, it was just because of their mindlessness. The world was changing. You are holding it still with your mind, but it's changing regardless. And whether we like uncertainty or not, that's the reality. So, it's best to exploit all the possibilities that uncertainty provides us with. 

I've been suggesting to people that rather than the position of defensive pessimism they should switch to Mindful Optimism. So, defensive pessimism is to 'expect the worst and hope for the best'. Now the problem is you tend to get with you expect. When you have that negative lens on, you are going to end up stressed, unhappy. You are going to see a very bleak world. 

The other part of that 'that is hope for the best' is very interesting because hope sounds like a good thing. Not to my mind. Because hope is, of course, better than being than hopeless but hope has built into it again and expectation for failure.

Langer: Are you a coffee drinker in the morning or a tea drinker?

Kavya: A tea drinker 

Langer: Okay, so when you get out of bed in the morning, and you going to the kitchen to get a cup of tea. You don't hope that the Tea will be there. You just assume that tea will be there. 

Do you understand what I'm saying? 

Kavya: Yeah 

Langer: Hope is, G it's probably not going to work. 

What do you want to do instead is that make a plan. 

The plan can be to do some quarantining and keeping a distance from people. Wear a mask, wash your hands and then just go about living. And assume that everything will be fine. What happens then is that you are building up your strength and should something not turn out fine then, you are in a much better position to deal with that than if you are defensively pessimistic where are you spending the day overwhelmed and stressed.

Kavya: So your body and your mind, which apparently are the same thing would be here in a better position to fight it and deal with it. 

Langer: Exactly"

Mindfulness urges you to have multiple perspectives on things. By being more mindful, you open yourself up to more possibilities, healthier ones. And, one of its application can be in your relationships. The next time you look at your family member, try to find new things about them. Try to mindfully see them. Who knows, if you apply the same principle to yourself, you might completely rediscover a side of yours that would be healthier, happier and more mindful. 

Some of the other questions we cover in this podcast are: 

1) Can I reverse ageing with mindfulness?

2) How can I be more mindful?

3) Can I lose weight with mindfulness? 

4) What is Langer's advice to researchers and psychologists, and people generally?

5) How can I be more mindful during the Corona pandemic? 

Join me to find the answers to these questions.

Music Credits: Shikhar Shrivastava 

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  1. It is a very beautiful and helpful interview taken by Miss Kavya Bhardwaj. After reading this article I found it very effective and easy to practice in our daily life. And I think, this is a good way to deal with this pandemic by simply following this mindfulness. I enjoyed this and I'm pretty sure who ever going to read this will enjoy.
    Keep it up!!! :)