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Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  606 ratings  ·  88 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
Aug 24, 2012 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. ...more
Steve Li
Feb 23, 2015 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
Cav
Feb 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
"We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are..."
Anaïs Nin

Counter Clockwise was an incredibly thought-provoking and eye-opening look into the power of the mind; expectations, and presumptions. Reading this book should have you deeply questioning the nature of the stories we are told; both by others, as well as ourselves.

Author Ellen J. Langer is the author of more than two hundred research articles and eleven books, including the international bestseller Mindfulness, which has been t
...more
Gita
Aug 01, 2010 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 heard to ...more
Jon Stout
Dec 17, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the jejune and the geriatric
“Counterclockwise” is named after a study in which elderly people in 1979 lived for a week in an environment which mimicked 1959. They listened to music, heard news, read magazines, and generally tried to live as though they were 20 years younger. The result was that their health indicators, their moods and their capabilities improved markedly. Langer takes this as showing that mindfulness and a positive attitude can do wonders for reversing the effects of aging.

While I can subscribe to the impo
...more
FIONA Norris
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
The subtitle of the paperback version of this book, 'A proven way to think yourself younger and healthier' makes it sound a bit happy-clappy, airy-fairy, 'manifest-me-a-new-body sort of thing; but actually, it's full of interesting suggestions for the ways in we, as individuals, and as a society, can improve our experience of ageing. For example, many older people have arthritic conditions, and struggle getting out of car seats, sideways ( my hand is up, here); so why don't car manufacturers mak ...more
Andrew
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Many of the benefits of mindfulness outlined in this book I ascribe to. Having the right mindset and being mindful of your surroundings and your feelings can change your life for the better. Langer mentioned numerous studies concluding things like: "those who viewed ageing more positively lived, on average, seven and a half years longer than those who were negative about it." I don't dispute a lot of what she is saying - the fact that the placebo effect is even a thing shows us that our thoughts ...more
Leslie
Dec 12, 2010 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
Rubina
Oct 15, 2012 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.
Betty
Oct 17, 2012 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.
Qazwsx
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
The author is essentially postulating that the software of the brain is partially under our control and can effect how your body functions.

The hardware of the body (and the rest of the universe) is less malleable and she doesn’t seem to draw clear distinction. So there is a fair amount of ‘woo woo’ going on.

But I’m all for hacking your brain, so I’m going to keep reading
Jennifer Byers
Jun 10, 2011 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. ...more
Alexis
Jun 24, 2012 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.
Laura Engle
Oct 28, 2014 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. ...more
Claire
I may want to return to this in twenty or thirty years as it seems geared towards a significantly older readership than that which I might fall within.

Dr. Ellen Langer offers some interesting insights about aging, for sure!
I just do not think they apply to me specifically right now. She discusses what it means to have a "chronic" ailment like ADHD, arthritis, dementia, senility, etc... (I do have a "chronic" ailment, which was why I got this book, but none of the specific ones she details.)

Wow
...more
Mattia
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If this book were reduced largely to the questions alone, I still would have found it interesting and useful. I'm giving it five stars (a rare rating for me these days) for two reasons: first, it changed my perspective/brain significantly; second, I will definitely return to read it again.

I chuckled at the introduction saying that she does believe in medical science and would go to her doctor if ill, and it primed me to hear more radical ideas than the book actually holds. As it is, she has a fe
...more
Laura Boram
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ellen Langer is a very, very smart woman. And she is fun. She gets an idea to study something that is a little crazy and she goes for it; and gets tenure at Harvard in the process. I think she may have had a very good editor for this book as well because it is a super clean quick read.

This book will offers a return of agency over your body if the medical establishment has somehow taken it away. It explains the affects of placebos and "priming" and asks you primarily to 'NOTICE NEW THINGS'. It of
...more
Jenee
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, really. Starts out fascinating, asking the reader to examine accepted beliefs, to consider possibility and to question why we don't question science more often, particularly since science itself is ever-evolving and really just the pursuit of answers that beget more questions. Gets a bit slow towards the middle, but eye- and mind-opening for many reasons, includes results from actual studies focused less on how and why and more on "what if" and "why not". Recommend to anyone who wants ...more
Price
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
Any work that results in a positive shift in one's thinking merits 5 stars.

We can personally redefine process of aging in a far more positive light. We can continue to break new ground, detour from established patterns and seek new challenges despite our increasing years. Many of the limitations which prevent us from taking these steps are preconceived notions personally held as well as societal expectations defining what is appropriate for a given age.

I took this book out of the library. I inte
...more
Sue Ronnenkamp
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book blew me away when I first read it years ago, but it was also well worth reading again now. Especially since I’m in a health care role again. AND because I’m older and experiencing things about aging that I wasn’t when I first read Langer’s research and findings and ideas about the power of our words and mindset for aging well and living healthy. I highly recommend this book to any and all who want to become active participants in their health and how they live each day - along with bec ...more
Josie
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
More like a TED talk than a book, and I am not the audience for this book.

The concept has been part of my consciousness for a while: how we frame things matters.

This book looks specifically at how exceptions in healing could be looked at, not as abnormalities and not as statistically unimportant, but instead as possibilities that we haven't yet fully explored.


It's a good idea. The book is ok.
...more
Alejandro
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Power of Possibility

I have just finished reading this book. What a great reminder of the awesome power of Possibility in our lives, frequently we live or days with a fixed mindset, accepting everything as is without questioning. That is a limiting view of what is possible. Let's open or minds to wonderful possibilities and enjoy more rewarding lives.
...more
Irvi
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, kindle
This book give me a perspective about even a scientific data can be probabilistic in the term of trying to understand the correlation between mind and body’s health. When there’s a decision to be made then there always will be uncertainty, questions is how much we want to consider the information we have, what’s relevant and what’s not.
Karen Shilvock-Cinefro
The question asked is “if we could turn back the clock psychologically, could we also turn it back physically? Our mental health greatly affects our physical health. Discusses how our society has an affect on our perception of aging and of ourselves. The defeatist vocabulary and attitude of our medical world and ways to overcome. Good points but probably needs an updated edition.
Luigino Bottega
We exist to open up new paths, not to follow the ones already trodden. It’s the beauty of the universal gift we’ve received, namely that of manifesting the future, and we can realize it by perceiving within ourselves this “divine” capacity. It inspires and guides us in our actions and helps us feel we can make a difference.
Inspiring book!
Alisa Gamblin
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved how this book challenges what we think on a daily basis. Our minds and our thoughts play such an important part in our everyday health and life. Simple changes to what we think and what we belief can make all the difference to our experience of life. A great read.
Janet Wertman
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoyed it, appreciated the new insight...but it felt like the author was trying to stretch what should just have been a great article.
Peahen
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are more possibilities

Perspective increases the possibilities, but also helps you evaluate the choices available. There is more to weighing the pros and cons than numeracy.
Scott Langston
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
Some interesting ideas but fairly dismissive of medical science... The same could have been covered with about half the length of book.
anonymousreader
Aug 07, 2021 added it
Recommends it for: 0
Shelves: 4-4-14
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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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