“Counterclockwise”: Can We Age Backwards Through Mindfulness?

In studies over four decades, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer showed that mental attitude can actually reverse the effects of aging and improve physical health. Her theory, argued in her book Counterclockwise, is that we are all victims of our own stereotypes about aging and health. We often mindlessly accept negative cultural cues about disease and old age, how we are supposed to act, live and be as we age, and these cues shape our self-concept and our behavior. It’s no wonder so many of us have questions about how to have a happy retirement! If we can shake loose from the negative clichés that dominate our thinking about health and retirement, can we “mindfully” open ourselves to possibilities for more fulfilled lives, even as we age?


You might think Dr. Langer’s research is a bit Pollyanna. To me, I’ll admit: at first it sounded like a real-life case of Benjamin Button. After all, what about the seemingly inevitable health setbacks, aches and pains or even disease that often strikes us in old age? Surely I would never blame those things on our mental mindset.


Gratitude, Mindfulness & Change

When I thought about this more closely, I began to understand that change is inevitable. We have no control over:
  • The seasons
  • The year
  • The economic forecast
  • The aging process
  • Our children growing up
  • Our work situation
  • The political climate
But I believe we do already possess the power to create everything our hearts desire, regardless of – and even because of – our advancing age. Our wisdom and maturity become our biggest asset as we age. We can tap into a sense of peace and comfort with ourselves that young people can’t even fathom. Like Dorothy’s realization in the land of Oz, that there’s “no place like home,” we come to realize we don’t have to go on exotic vacations or to faraway places to find happiness. It is always right there, within us. (On the flip side, if we’re sad, angry, depressed or lonely, we’ll take all of those things with us wherever we go, too!)
I believe it is of vital importance to guard our mental well-being as we mature. This is how we have a “happy retirement.”

As a Retirement Coach, it’s my job to make sure people drop the people-pleasing, “should-do’s” and “have-to’s” and consider what they really want.

Here are some simple questions to move you along that path:

  • When was the last time you received a compliment that really made you feel good? What were you complimented for?
  • In what types of activities or pursuits do you really shine?
  • What exists in your life right now that makes you feel grateful and complete?
  • If you’re honest, what feels like drudgery?

Listen for the voice nudging you in a certain direction, rather than focusing on what you think you “should” be doing.

You can learn more about Ellen Langer and her Mindfulness Institute here.

Happy Retirement Coaching

certified retirement coach Karen CarrMy job as a retirement coach is to help you plan what can be the best years of your life.

Revitalize Retirement Coaching gives you the retirement wisdom you just can’t get from your financial advisor, including how to:

  • structure your days
  • look after your mental well-being
  • replace the aspects of work that gave your life meaning
  • develop an “aptitude for leisure” and purpose
  • retire happy

If you’d like to get started, use my Appointment Scheduler and get on my calendar for your complimentary Retirement Coaching consult. In your complimentary 30-minute intro session, we’ll use my proven life-coaching strategies and tools to begin to chart your course together.