Ellen Langer

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  • May 28, 10:00 AM

Temporarily-abled

I was once on a book tour and my guide realized we were late for a radio show. He asked if I minded to take a short cut through a parking garage. I didn’t. After entering the garage, he exclaimed, “PHEW, do you smell that?” Apparently it smelled from urine, but I didn’t smell anything.

The experience made me begin to reconsider our culture’s ideas about disability. When it comes to smell, I think the ratio of Ugh, did you smell that?” to “Ahh, did you smell that?” to may be something like 100 to 1. My smell “disability” certainly seems like it was an advantage. All disability is ability in some context. Every aspect of getting older is also an advantage in some contexts, if we only bothered to notice.

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  • May 27, 04:00 PM

Change as Gain

The New York Times recently reported that people born before 1957 appear to have some immunity to the swine flu virus now circulating. That’s not the only advantage to being over 50. If we stop seeing change as loss, that getting older is a one-way road downhill, we may find many advantages to our maturity beyond the immunity to swine flu and the absence of acne.

I just was getting ready to appear on a news show and I realized that I don’t get nervous any more for these sorts of events. I think this is largely because I now have little or no difficulty saying, “I don’t know”. Part of this comes from growing up and no longer fearing negative evaluation from others. To explain another part, I’m reminded of a story.

Years ago I was stopped by a policeman while driving and I was surprised that I didn’t become anxious. In thinking about it, I was pleased that I had grown. Then I realized that it may have had little to do with growing up. The first time I was stopped by a policeman, I was 18 and he was about 25. This time I was 35 and he was still around 25. But now, 25 years olds just are not scary to me. The older I get the younger the rest of the world seems to be and so, for me, older age comes with less stress in that regard.

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  • May 27, 10:00 AM

Adding Life to Our Years

Last week, I taped a PBS show to be aired in September. The discussion we were taping lead to think thought about the widespread notion that we might choose between adding more years to our lives or more life to our years. All of my research suggests to me that by living mindfully—and adding more life to our years—in fact, we will probably live longer. So, if we take care of how we are in the present, the future will take care of itself.

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  • May 26, 05:43 PM

Anti-crastination

I think the idea of procrastination is bizarre. Many people imagine that they are procrastinators and they struggle to overcome the tendency to put work off. It’s something I don’t feel myself. When people are living mindful lives, we enjoy whatever we are doing so there is no need to put it off.

The whole notion of procrastination strikes me as bizarre. There are always things we’re not doing whenever we choose to do anything, and by that reasoning, each of us is always procrastinating. Too many of us choose to demean ourselves rather than take responsibility for our choices.

It made me realize that I was an anti-crastinator.

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  • May 26, 02:46 PM

Word of Mouth on Counterclockwise

New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth” show talked with me this afternoon about mindfulness and aging. We talked a lot about the original Counterclockwise study.

You can listen to the show here: Word of Mouth