Ellen Langer, Mother of Mindfulness: Can noticing new things reverse effects of ageing?

In this episode...

In this episode of The Soul of Life I speak with Dr. Ellen Langer about how a comfort with uncertainty and curiosity–mindfulness–creates powerful changes in the brain.

“Mindlessness is pervasive. Virtually all of us, almost all of the time, are not there. But when we’re not there, we’re not there to know we’re not there.”

Langer’s books, written for general and academic readers, include Mindfulness, The Power of Mindful Learning, On Becoming An Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity, and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Her most recent book The Handbook of Mindfulness is an anthology that brings together the latest multi-disciplinary research on mindfulness.

She is the recipient of four Distinguished Scientist Awards and the Liberty Science Genius Award.

We discuss her famous “counterclockwise” studies and her claims that mindfulness leads to powerful improvements in health generally, and specific improvements in memory, vision, and hearing. Among Langer’s six academic books and 200 research articles is her extensive work on the placebo effect.

"So you take that sugar pill and you get better. The question is what’s making you better? And the answer is you’re making yourself better. A good deal of our research is devoted to getting rid of the sham. You don’t need someone to give it to you. You don’t have to make believe that it’s effective. You can actually control your own health." - Dr. Ellen Langer

Dr. Ellen Langer is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University where she was the first woman to be tenured in the department.

Dr. Ellen Langer (photo: Harvard Magazine)
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Episode 5