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Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  380 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
If we could turn back the clock psychologically, could we also turn it back physically? For more than thirty years, award-winning social psychologist Ellen Langer has studied this provocative question, and now, in Counterclockwise, she presents the answer: Opening our minds to what’s possible, instead of presuming impossibility, can lead to better health–at any age.

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Carolyn Rose
Aug 24, 2012 Carolyn Rose rated it it was amazing
I can't speak to the science in this book, but I can say that it made me more aware of things that cue my opinions and prime my thinking about aging, disease, and depression. So, five stars for waking up my brain.
Aug 01, 2010 Gita rated it it was amazing
An absolutely amazing book that provides new perspectives on aging, mindset, perception, and our personal influence over our life experiences. As a music therapist & yoga instructor, I found the theoretical basis for her theories sound, and am encouraged by her scientific approach to researching how our perceptions shape our health. Her clear definition of mindfulness, loosely paraphrased here as "the simple process of actively noticing distinctions" is one of the best explanations I've hear ...more
Steve Li
Feb 23, 2015 Steve Li rated it did not like it
Dr. Langer is a skilled and talented psychologist with an excellent reputation and has made significant contributions to psychology. This makes it all the more surprising that I found the book to seem more like an informercial for 'natural cures'. Her premise that you can 'turn back the clock' and fight off the ravages of aging by practicing mindfulness. She bases this approach on a study done where a group of elderly people were place in a 1959 environment for 1 week and supposedly had physical ...more
Dec 12, 2010 Leslie rated it it was ok
This book stretches your perceptions of possibility for the ways people look at their health. For example, reading an eye chart from top to bottom causes people to be able to read fewer lines than if it were reorganized so that they were first trying to read small letters and working up to bigger ones. Apparently, this may be due to the different ways our brains interpret an imminent barrier as opposed to an imminent opportunity. Dr. Langer goes through decades of psychological research looking ...more
Oct 15, 2012 Rubina rated it liked it
A thought provoking book which focuses on the mind-body connection especially in relations to our health. Through the practice of being mindful, Dr Langer provides a different perspective on health and aging. It will likely transform the way you view medicine and help you to learn and change from being a passive recipient to one that is informed and active.
Oct 17, 2012 Betty rated it it was amazing
I read the first chapter and immediately bought this book for my 90-year-old mother. The insights on how perception changed the physicality of aged adults were inspiring. Too often the clock of aging is turned forward, thinking and being treated as older than we are. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is interested in challenging how mindfulness can increase health and happiness.
Laura Engle
Oct 28, 2014 Laura Engle rated it liked it
This book inspired me and made me think. I especially loved her ability to reframe everything we think about aging and illness in such a simple and practical way. It's all baby steps and...there is way more right with us than wrong.
Jennifer Byers
Jun 10, 2011 Jennifer Byers rated it liked it
I don't think that Langer's writing style is the most gripping but I appreciate the information that this book has to offer and I think it can begin a conversation that we can have with ourselves around age and how we choose to engage with it.
Jun 24, 2012 Alexis rated it liked it
Author seemed only too happy to keep reviewing her own published literature. While I enjoyed the main argument about patients taking control of their own health, the book seem somewhat repetitive and could have been shorter.
Jan 29, 2017 Cathy rated it it was amazing
This book will shake up the way you view health and medicine, and it will remind you that no one can know your body's signals the way you can. Excellent book on mindfulness as it relates to your health and perceptions.
Robin Rogers
Nov 21, 2016 Robin Rogers rated it it was amazing
Some interesting ideas on aging in place, mind-body connection, taking control of your health, and on interacting with doctors and therapists as consultants
Sep 18, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
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 just became aware of Dr. Langer’s recent work. She is best known for a unique 1979 study of nursing home residents. A group of resear
Nelda Pearson
I heard the author on the Talk IQ On Being program hosted by Krista Tippet--an excellent show btw--and was impressed enough to buy the book. Before I go further I must say I have a PhD in sociology and was a professor for 30+ years Unfortunately I was disappointed, perhaps due to my professional back ground. Her ideas have been around for a long time and include role theory, labelling, stereotyping, and self fulfulling prophecy. All concepts taught in introductory sociology. The research is old ...more
Bill Pritchard
Apr 01, 2015 Bill Pritchard rated it really liked it
I ended up liking Counter Clockwise - Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility by Ellen Langer more and more as I made my way thru the book. At times I found myself not being mindful of the words on the page. But as the book progressed, I began to understand the core message of the book. Her research makes clear that actively noticing new things is literally or figuratively enlivening. Not only is it not tiring, it is exhilarating. It is the way we feel when we are fully engaged. There seems ...more
Oct 16, 2012 sandy rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I heard about this book when the author did a recent interview on NPR. She talked about this book and the fascinating study she did with the elderly, which I thought was incredibly innovative with eye opening results. I had hoped that she would talk more about the study in the book, but it was merely used as a springboard for the message she went over ad nauseum till it just got really tiresome. Basically the fact that nothing is certain, and you should not affix mindless value to medical progno ...more
May 08, 2016 Alan rated it liked it
I subscribe to all of the ideas about mindfulness that Langer describes in this book - there is good advice here but a lot of it is common sense with a good measure of critical thinking. I give Langer credit for looking at the labels we use to describe illness and concluding that most of them have bias and too many are vague. The best part of the book describes Langer's health studies, especially the one in which she took a large group of elderly people from a nursing home where the staff said t ...more
I read this for a class on ministry to seniors. It was a pretty good read, given this isn't really my genre. I like Langer's challenging attitude towards science and so much of what we assume we know about aging (she's a professor of psychology -- at Harvard-- not medical science). She's done a lot of cool experiments that I've seen referenced other places, and between reading this book and Atul Gawande's BEING MORTAL, my ideas of aging have really turned around. I think this will be helpful as ...more
Nov 29, 2014 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the type of book I usually read but I was intrigued by Langer's Counter Clockwise experiment. In this book, Langer urges us to view aging as more of a process, not as degeneration, and to be aware of our language as it applies to various aspects of our life and health in the belief that we can create our own placebo effect just by changing our attitudes. If more of us were to apply her ideas to the aging process, we might approach it with a little less fear. I'm not sure this was a l ...more
Jun 22, 2010 MM rated it it was ok
I was curious to know more about the "counterclockwise" experiment Langer ran -- bringing elderly men together, prompting them to act like it was still the 50s, and then finding that their physical health improved after the experiment. So that was interesting, yes, and Langer cites all kinds of interesting psychological studies. But I can't help but wonder why the social psychologists don't seem to be in conversation with the critical theorists, cultural studies folks, or feminists. All explore ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Megan rated it liked it
I really like the concepts in this book, particularly keeping an open mind about your own health once you have a diagnosis, and not letting yourself or anyone else put you in a box and slap a label on it! There are many ways to approach most, if not all, health issues and its up to each person to explore that to the extent of their ability/desire. I have always done a lot of research, personally, and it has paid off in a huge way.

That said, I have a lot of trouble getting through this author's b
Jul 28, 2013 Thomas rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Brutally bad. Poorly written and surprisingly anti-scientific for a Harvard professor. I had been considering this professor for a potential graduate-school advisor and after reading this book, it was clear her "science" is of a very poor quality. Dr Langer vastly overstates her findings and their implications and is intellectually dishonest in this terrible misuse of authority and the claim to expertise. A travesty.
For as much as the book was touted to be about mindfulness, I found that angle to be a stretch. However, the social psych studies included were presented well. It would be a nice, slim volume for a beginning med student or social psychology course. Currently going through some medical problems myself, I found her perspective on the doctor-patient relationship and categorization of sick-well (versus a % of both or continuum) to be personally most helpful.
Knjiga nije ono što se može pretpostaviti iz naslova, nego govori o preispitivanju stavova službene medicine i odnosa prema štićenicima doma za starije i pacijentima. Knjiga razotkriva trenutno prevladavajuće stavove kao ne pretjerano utemeljene i navodi konkretne primjere, uključujući i vlastita istraživanja. Jako zanimljivo. Svatko tko ima nekoga starijeg smještenog u instituciju treba pročitati ovu knjigu.
Dec 10, 2014 Jen rated it it was ok
I listened to this as an audiobook. It has an intriguing premise: that by changing the way we think about aging and health, we change the way we interact with medicine and thus, sometimes, improve our aging and health. But it was very repetitive. I wished she had elaborated on the study the book is named for--that was the most intriguing part to me.
Stacey Raymond
Mar 30, 2016 Stacey Raymond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It had an interesting perspective. Most of the info was already things I believed or had pondered in the past. Reading it has brought a new perspective on aging to me. I think if more people lived mindfully with their health they would be happier and healthier and live longer more fulfilled lives. This book can help see other ways of viewing aging in positive ways.
Gwen Kaplan
Aug 12, 2015 Gwen Kaplan rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was interesting, and left me thinking about my thinking (the assumptions I make, etc). However, I was very curious about the main study itself and wished she had given more anecdotal details about it. The book turned out to be mostly reflections on healthcare, with supporting details from a variety of studies included where appropriate.
Oct 08, 2011 Blake rated it liked it
Fantastic subject matter and one of the most Buddhist-centric medical books I've read. Though it is highly repetitious and never excels beyond its initial point. Still, I'd highly recommend taking a glance through it.
Aug 17, 2012 Shelagh rated it really liked it
A book I'm going to keep with me for a long time. Very wise, well-researched. The product of a very practical academic's (apparently they do exist!) research work and it's effects on her life and her thinking.
Betsy Ng
Dec 15, 2013 Betsy Ng rated it really liked it
This book is worth reading for those who care about mindful health and well-being. Life is full of uncertainty and we should learn to accept variability. Nevertheless, it will be ideal if there are more recent research included as well.
Michael Gold
Dec 24, 2015 Michael Gold rated it really liked it
Looking at life from a new lens leads to a new life, often one that is healthier and more fulfilling. Langer is constantly challenging my own assumptions with insights that should be obvious, but are not because of our societal primers.
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Ellen Langer, Yale PhD, Harvard Professor of Psychology, artist. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology, and has authored eleven books and over 200 research articles on the illusion of control, perceived control, successful
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“The hefty price for accepting information uncritically is that we go through life unaware that what we’ve accepted as impossible may in fact be quite possible.” 9 likes
“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.” 4 likes
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