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

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  224 ratings  ·  43 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
Steve Li
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
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.
Bill Pritchard
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
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
Gina
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.
Sanja
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.
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
Judith
Ellen Langer has done fascinating research on how our mindset influences our behavior and our well-being. We can think ourselves younger than we are.
Francisca
fascinating - the idea that aging is all in our heads - and we put it there! Also the way disease defines us, rather than those being an occurrence.
Chris
A must read for those with aging parents or aging themselves.
Connie Bauer
This book helped to understand my 93 year old mother.
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.
Laura Engle
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.
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.
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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.” 6 likes
“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.” 3 likes
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