book hack


Ellen J. Langer

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

Counterclockwise takes a critical look at current perspectives on health, with a particular focus on how we can improve our own when we shift from being mindless to mindful.




by Ellen J. Langer


Ellen Langer doesn't dismiss science as a way to learn about health. After all, she's an academic. Instead, what she does is to recognize the limitations of medical science today.

Langer's work is about looking for ways to surpass what seems impossible in the medical field. She calls it the psychology of possibility: finding out what's possible in the realm of health, rather than what is universally true. The latter is, according to Langer, not feasible for humans to attain anyway.

Langer's flagship counterclockwise study provided an astonishing insight into what's imaginable in reversing the physiological effects of aging. In the experiment, researchers invited a group of 80-year-old men to a 'time travel retreat.' For seven days, they lived in a setting emulating the world from 20 years before. The men spoke about past events as if they were happening in the present.

As a result, the participants came out of the experiment with significantly improved memory, vision, physical strength, and other measures that are commonly believed to irreversibly decline with age. The study became a springboard to Langer's further research on mindful health, which she sums up in Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.

Favorite quote

We can wait for science to catch up and then do as it suggests, or we can begin today to become more involved in our own care.

- Ellen Langer

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