Priming the Mind-Body Connection between Illness & Wellness
"One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959."
~Bruce Grierson, NY Times, 10/22/14
Fascinating piece in the NY Times this week showcasing the psychological timewarp interventions of Harvard's Ellen Langer, who is the author of Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.
Langer's seminal 1981 study placed 8 men aged 70+ in their 1959 environment for 5 days, as if nothing had changed in that 22-year period. Her hypothesis was that this psychological timewarp would function as a "prime" that would trigger the subjects' minds to take curative measures to improve their wellbeing.
At the end of the study, which was admittedly small and expensive to administer, Langer tested key biomarkers versus that of a control group: memory, manual dexterity, posture, and even vision. Remarkably, she found that the experimental group outperformed the control group on each of these biomarkers.
We've written at length about treating mind and body hand-in-hand and helping clinicians build maps of mind-body relationships. Langer's findings reinforce the need for further research into the connections between mind and body, and whether low-cost primes can be introduced to improve personal wellness.