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Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility
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Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  35 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.

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Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Carolyn Rose
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.
Gita
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
Leslie
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
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
Betty
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.
Rubina
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.
Laura
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
Jennifer Byers
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.
Alexis
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.
sandy
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
Laura Effel
The author is a psychologist who does research on human behavior. She makes a powerful case that through mindfulness and taking control of our own choices we can improve our health. Her insights are well documented and often wise. Unfortunately, the book is also tedious in places and therefore difficult to stay with. But the insights were worth making the effort.
MM
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
Thomas
Oct 13, 2013 Thomas rated it 1 of 5 stars
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.
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda
Book has interesting insights about recognizing how health is contextual and that by recognizing degrees of personal heath improvement, one can improve one's health. This concept is repeated throughout the book which is why I did not give this book 5 stars.
Joan
Sep 11, 2012 Joan rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
Great cover blurbs, excellent title, might have been a good magazine article, but is a total waste of a book. Repeats the premise, alludes to one small experiment over and over, and never takes off with either practical or inspirational advice.
Betsy Ng
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.
Blake
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.
Amanda
Although the author tended to be defensive of her research and somewhat repeaty, the premise of the book -- the influence of mindset on health, negatively or positively -- is a good one and the cited studies convincing.
Shelagh
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.
Kristine
A short read containing some v. interesting reports of social psychological experiments with thought-provoking implications. Writing isn't especially engaging; somewhat repetitious, too.
Klbell2
This book has an important message. The first chapter discusses some really important ideas. There are tidbits through out that are very interesting but it isn't the best read.
Sarah
Interesting studies and concepts but seemed to lack an organizing principle. There were many ideas loaded into each chapter and no real suggestions for application.
cartercam
I just couldn't get past the first couple chapters. I skimmed around and nothing appealed to me, so I gave up and returned it to the library.
Amy Flaherty
Interesting idea and interesting studies but the book is like twice as long as it needs to be..writing for words is always a bore.
Caffection Mariah  Byron
Interesting topic. Understanding our ability to exchange our own (mis)beliefs to ones which suit us better can serve us well.
Linda Ashman
Intriguing, eye-opening, inspiring approach to aging. A tad repetitive on occasion, but skimmable.
Jewell
A research-based study of how mindfulness can improve health and aging.
Sue Marie
What if all you knew about aging wasn't correct? Question your assumptions!
Jen
Research heavy BUT written in an easy to read fashion.
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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.” 4 likes
“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.” 2 likes
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