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Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility
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Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  557 ratings  ·  78 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 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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)

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
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
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.
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.
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
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, self-help
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.
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.
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.
Sep 18, 2015 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 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 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
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
May 08, 2016 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
Nov 29, 2014 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 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 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
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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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