Emotional intelligence has been described as ‘consciously integrating feeling, thought and action to create choice in relationships with self and others’ (Source: Six Seconds). In essence, what we say to ourselves (our self-talk or beliefs) and about others determines our reality.  By becoming more aware of our thinking and disputing potentially destructive/negative thoughts can result in us feeling differently. This awareness can certainly assist us in achieving our true potential.  Howard Gardner, a respected leader in the field of emotional intelligence (EQ, as opposed to IQ – the traditional measure of intelligence) from the Harvard Business School identifies self-awareness as a crucial element of emotional intelligence.
iStock_000005377907SmallResearch has shown that by increasing someone’s awareness, bringing it into a new focus and breaking out of old patterns, you can even alter aging!  This phenomenon was brilliantly demonstrated in 1979 by psychologist Ellen Langer and her team at Harvard, who effectively reversed the biological age of a group of old men by a simple but ingenious shift in awareness.  The men, all aged 75 or older in good health were asked to meet for a weeks’ retreat at a country resort.  They knew in advance that they would be given a battery of physical and mental exams, but in addition one unusual stipulation was placed upon them: they were not allowed to bring any newspapers, magazines, books or family photos dated later than 1959.

The purpose of this odd request became clear when they arrived – the resort had been set up to duplicate life as it was twenty years earlier.  Instead of magazines from 1979, the reading tables held issues of ‘Life’ and the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ from 1959.  The only music played was twenty years old, and, in keeping with this flashback, the men were asked to behave entirely as if the year were 1959. All talk had to refer to events and people of that year.  Every detail of their week in the country was geared to make each subject feel, look, talk, and behave as he had in his mid-fifties.

During this period, Langer’s team made extensive measurements of the subjects’ biological age.  Gerontologists have not been able to fix the precise markers that define biological age, as was noted earlier, but a general profile was compiled for each man using measurement of physical strength, posture, perception, cognition, and short-term memory, along with thresholds of hearing, sight, and taste.

The Harvard team wanted to change the context in which these men saw themselves.  The premise of the experiment was that seeing oneself as old or young directly influences the aging process itself.

In addition to the first group of men, a second (control) group of the same age, were chosen to attend the country resort but were asked to attend ‘as is’, as 75 year olds in the present day.

To cut a long story short, both groups were tested in a variety of physical and psychological dimensions during and after the attendance at the resort.  Compared to the control group that went on the retreat but continued to live in the world of 1979, the make-believe ’55 year-olds’ improved in memory and manual dexterity.  They were more active and self-sufficient regarding such things as taking their own food at meals and cleaning up their rooms and behaving much more like 55 year-olds than 75 year-olds.

The most remarkable changes related to aspects of aging which were considered irreversible such as facial aging, finger length (which tends to shorten with age) and stiffened joints which had become more flexible.  The men behaved physically and mentally younger than their 75 years of age.

This fascinating story reminds us of the power of the human mind and its’ role in determining the quality of our lives by being more consciously aware of the quality of our thoughts and the proactive choices we make in shaping our perception of our world. The message is clear: Think young, act young and…stay young!

This story was sourced from Deepak Chopra’s – Ageless Body, Timeless Mind