By Val Minard
Don’t ask Rosa Finnegan about retirement. Rosa recently turned 100 and still enjoys her work in a needle factory. She’s one of a rising number of centenarians who continue to live active lives.
Research affirms that Rosa’s desire to be productive is healthy. Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s book, Counterclockwise, explains her argument this way: “We mindlessly accept negative cultural cues about disease and old age, and these cues shape our self-concepts and our behavior. If we can shake loose from the negative clichés that dominate our thinking about health, we can “mindfully” open ourselves to possibilities for more productive lives even into old age.”
Langer’s theory relates to an experiment she did a few years ago. She placed a group of men in their late 70s and early 80s in a New England hotel made to look like something out of the 1980s. They were told “not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they had traveled back in time.” According to the article, after just one week the men who partook in the experiment, when compared with a control group, had “more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably, and they had improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men’s photographs judged them to be significantly younger than the controls. In other words, the aging process had in some measure been reversed.”
Likewise, in other studies Langer conducted, she found “that women who think they look younger after having their hair colored or cut show a decrease in blood pressure and are rated younger in photos, even when the pictures do not show their hair; that people who wear work uniforms (rather than clothes that might indicate their age) are healthier than people in the same income bracket who don’t wear uniforms; that being married to someone younger tends to lengthen life, and being married to someone older tends to shorten it; and that prematurely bald men see themselves as older and therefore age faster. All this adds up to evidence, the researchers assert, that the body may age partly in reaction to “younger” (http://livepage.apple.com/)or “older” cues in the environment.”
Well-known Spirituality and health figure Deepak Chopra puts it this way, “People don’t grow old” he said, referring to the old adage. “When they stop growing, they become old.” Chopra believes that people can use the power of thought to reduce age. For instance, he advises repeating a daily mantra to lessen the feeling of always being in a hurry. He believes feelings of hurry speed up the biological clock. He also advises falling in love. But his all-time favorite is meditation.
Dr. Robert Keith Wallace, one of the first scientists to study the effects of meditation on aging, found this to be true. His research showed that people with an average age of 50 years who meditated five years or more had a biological age of at least 12 or more years younger.
Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones” and researcher of longevity hotspots, thinks stress is the major factor in aging. And how one copes with stress affects the aging process. He suggests making simple lifestyle changes to improve longevity. Aging is 10% genetic and 90% lifestyle. In the longevity hotspots he researched, Buettner found that coping mechanisms such as prayer and meditation, helped to relieve stress, and was a major factor in long-term health and aging.
Spirituality and Health author, Mary Baker Eddy writes in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”
Individuals and experts in the field have known for a long time that what we think directly affects the body. All we need to do is recognize this and make youthful thinking a daily practice.
Valerie Minard is a health blogger/writer and the media and legislative spokesperson in New Jersey for Christian Science.