I had an opportunity recently to teach a bunch of 4th and 5th-grade kids at a long-term youth development program called “716 Squash”.
Experiencing 3 hours with squirming, enthusiastic, curious, happy, engaged, laughing kids reminded me of what it means to be young.
Hands shot into the air as I had them identify fruits and vegetables I pulled out of my bag. I swear, one of the little guys must have added a couple inches to his arm length, shoving it higher and higher to get my attention.
The energy was infectious!
After identifying the 20-some offerings (They missed on the fennel and skapes), we constructed a community salad, homemade dressing first. By this time, they were out of their chairs, packed so tightly around me I could hardly move. The energy was infectious! We were one tight, connected, happy scrum!
I turned over all my utensils to them (except my favorite chopping knife!). They measured out the vinegar. Squeezed in some lemon. Then Dijon and some olive oil and all took turns whisking and whisking and whisking to create an awesome, creamy vinaigrette – their eyes wide and alive as they watched their creation unfold.
As we added everything – yes, everything: greens, lettuce, green beans, corn, beets, celery, peppers, cucumbers, parsley, romaine, carrots, onions, spinach, I had this overwhelming sense of what it means to be young, and how we change as we get older. How our thinking shifts.
Your thoughts impact your body.
As we age, we often think ourselves old: “I’m too old to….”, “I’m over the hill…”, or “It’s too late for…” You can fill in the blanks.
But here’s what you may not know: Your thoughts impact your body. Physically.
Yes, physically, biologically, biochemically. What we think, feel, and believe changes us.
And there is mounting science to support this.
“Health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and in our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand.” (Bruce Grierson, NY Times)
Taking the mind back 20 years.
One of the pioneers in this research, Dr. Ellen Langer, developed a research project with her students at Harvard that even she thought was so crazy they almost abandoned it. But crazy as it seemed they followed through.
Langer asked the question: “If we put the mind back 20 years will the body reflect this change?”
They took a group of older men, recreated their environment of 20 years earlier and asked them to: “make a psychological attempt to be the person they were 22 years ago.”
“We have good reason to believe that if you are successful at this,” Langer told the men, “you will feel as you did in 1959.”
Here’s what happened…
The men did exactly as Langer instructed and carried it out so well that after only 5 days not only did they look significantly younger in comparison photos, but all their vitals improved. Some who arrived in wheelchairs left on canes. You can read the whole story here, or in Langer’s book, Counterclockwise.
“At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group … They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.” (NY Times article on Langer research)
The next time you get thinking about your age or bemoaning the number of years you’ve clocked, be careful what you think. Remember, your mind leads. Your body follows.♥
PS – If you need some help uncovering that little one in you, go here to book a complimentary session with me here. You’ll come away with some strategies to gently tweak yourself back in time. Promise!