Be in control of both your body and mind
AGEING used to be thought of as an inevitable, non-stop process. Many experts now believe it is possible to reverse some of its effects. Increasing numbers of doctors and health practitioners are starting to embrace what is called a ‘Lifestyle Medicine’ approach. This advocates that humans benefit from a holistic attitude — so what we eat, think, how we exercise, our social relationships and connection to the world are all deemed to have an impact on our wellbeing. I firmly believe this holds true for ageing, and slowing, or even reversing, the effects of time. Crucially, a holistic approach acknowledges that our mind and body are inter-connected. One scientist goes so far as to believe that up to 95 per cent of how well we age may be down to our mindset and beliefs about ageing. While our culture fosters expectations of an inevitable decline into illness and infirmity, Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology from Harvard Medical School, carried out research that shows how, given the right circumstances, we can reverse our age — not chronologically of course, but biologically. In one of her most influential studies, a group of men went on a retreat where they spent a week reminiscing about the past. Another group spent a week in an environment where all surrounding sensory clues, such as decor, music and food, pointed to a time when the men were 20 years younger and felt at their best, to see if this would make them feel and act as if they were younger. By the end of the study, the group showed marked improvement in health tests such as hearing, eyesight, memory, dexterity and appetite — with no change in the control group.