More so than any other time in modern medical history, there is an acceptance that our physical condition is very much related to the working of our minds. Believe it or not, there is strong evidence that we can use our minds as a time machine for the body! We can actually feel younger by changing our thinking. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) created a documentary based on a psychological study done at Harvard in 1981. .The original research took eight men in their 70’s and brought them to stay in a house in New Hampshire for five days. This however, was no ordinary house. The interior of the house had been changed to replicate the year 1959. The décor was carefully matched to that time period. The books, magazines, music, and TV shows that played in the house were from 1959, when the research participants would have been over 20 years younger. There were no mirrors, modern clothing, or photos other than those of the men at a younger age. In addition to these environmental changes the participants were asked to ‘inhabit’ 1959. They were encouraged to think of themselves as being younger and not just to reminisce about the past but to make a real attempt to relive the past. Research participants were also treated as though they were their younger selves. For example the each had to carry their belongings upstairs themselves despite their physical limitations.
Before arriving, the men were assessed on such measures as dexterity, grip strength, flexibility, hearing and vision, memory, and cognition. They were once again assessed once they had spent five days ‘in’ 1959. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity, and sat taller. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. It seemed as though the participants had put their mind in an earlier time, and their bodies had gone along for the ride. In 2010 the BBC replicated the experiment using six aging former celebrities, choosing to have them inhabit the year 1975. As with the original study the results were very convincing with all participates showing marked improvement in all test areas. Age, it seems, is not just a number, it’s a mind-set!
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