381. Change Your Mindset, Your Health, Your Life | Dr. Ellen Langer

    Focusing on maximizing the quality of our lives and embracing a positive attitude towards life's transitions is more important than obsessing over the length of our existence.

    enAugust 31, 2023

    About this Episode

    Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and “The mother of mindfulness,” Dr. Ellen Langer discuss her latest book, The Mindful Body: Thinking Our Way To Chronic Health. From this they explore how intentioned awareness paired with humility allows for a healthier mindset and body, how the perception of time impacts the effects of disease and age, the way to view tragedy and suffering so that we may conquer it through faith and hope, and the immense benefits found in carefully considering to what, where, and who you direct your attention.


    Ellen J. Langer was the first woman to be tenured in psychology at Harvard, where she is still professor of psychology. The recipient of three Distinguished Scientists awards, the Arthur W. Staats Award for Unifying Psychology, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Liberty Science Genius Award, Dr. Langer is the author of eleven other books, including the international bestseller Mindfulness, as well as The Power of Mindful Learning, Counterclockwise and On Becoming an Artist. Her trailblazing experiments in social psychology have earned her inclusion in The New York Times Magazine’s “Year in Ideas” issue. She is known worldwide as the “mother of mindfulness” and the “mother of positive psychology”. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


    - Links -


    For Dr. Ellen Langer:


    Order your copy of “The Mindful Body” today https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/705365/the-mindful-body-by-ellen-j-langer/ 

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Mindfulness encourages us to notice and embrace the ever-changing world around us, while art opens our eyes to the beauty and complexity that often goes unnoticed. Together, they cultivate a deeper connection with ourselves and the world.
    • Being mindful and questioning assumptions allows for personal growth, creativity, and a deeper understanding of the world. Cultivating mindfulness from an early age is vital for success.
    • Embracing uncertainty and practicing mindfulness allows for personal growth, creativity, and the ability to contribute unique perspectives, by challenging ourselves and being present in the moment.
    • Practicing mindfulness can enhance engagement, happiness, and overall well-being by allowing us to fully experience and appreciate the present moment, while also helping us avoid negative situations and reduce stress.
    • By choosing our interpretations and setting realistic goals, we can reduce stress, find fulfillment, and create positivity in any situation and occupation.
    • Delaying gratification is not always necessary. By orienting our attention and finding ways to make tasks engaging, we can extract enjoyment and meaning from them.
    • By paying attention and being mindful of our own behaviors and values, we can better appreciate and accept others for who they are, leading to a more inclusive and respectful society.
    • Recognizing and valuing individual differences while exploring alternative paths can lead to holistic improvement and growth, challenging the conventional standards and beliefs.
    • Our thoughts and beliefs can influence our physical outcomes, highlighting the importance of having a positive mindset and belief in our ability to overcome challenges for better health and fulfillment in life.
    • By challenging limitations, embracing a growth mindset, and refusing to let age define abilities, individuals can lead fulfilling lives and achieve more than they believe is possible.
    • Focusing on maximizing the quality of our lives and embracing a positive attitude towards life's transitions is more important than obsessing over the length of our existence.
    • Despite challenges and a decline in quality, universities still support interesting work and have exceptional students.
    • Stress and fear can have negative impacts on overall well-being, highlighting the need to address psychological well-being and maintain a positive mindset in managing and treating diseases like cancer.
    • Addressing chronic stress levels and empowering individuals through a sense of control are important factors in the fight against chronic illnesses like cancer.
    • Having faith, hope, and a positive mindset can make a significant difference in how we face challenges, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
    • By breaking tasks into smaller steps and recognizing the cyclical nature of challenges, individuals can effectively manage their mental health and find hope for improvement.
    • By adopting a mindful attitude and tracking variations in our well-being, we can potentially influence our physiological responses, improve our chances of healing, and take control of our own health.
    • Therapists should avoid imposing solutions and instead promote collaboration and exploration, empowering clients to take ownership of their experiences and choices. This fosters a meta-learning mindset and emphasizes the therapist's role as a facilitator.
    • True change and positive outcomes in our lives can only be achieved when we ourselves decide to seek help, make positive changes, and actively engage in the process.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Power of Mindfulness and Art in Expanding Awareness

    Mindfulness is about actively noticing and being present in the moment. Dr. Langer emphasizes that most people are mindless most of the time, not fully aware of their surroundings. Mindfulness can be achieved by either noticing new things about familiar objects or adopting a mindset of uncertainty and openness. This mindset allows us to recognize that everything is constantly changing and that our preconceived notions may not always be accurate. It is important to pay attention to what we take for granted and challenge our habitual frames of mind. Art can play a significant role in helping us see beyond our preconceptions and appreciate the depth and complexity of the world around us. By practicing mindfulness, we can develop a healthier mindset and a more connected body and soul.

    The Power of Mindfulness and Fresh Perspectives

    Being mindful and paying attention to what you pay attention to can have a transformative effect on our lives. Ellen Langer and Jordan Peterson discuss the importance of seeing things with fresh eyes and not assuming we already know everything. By novelizing our experiences and questioning our assumptions, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and a deeper understanding of the world around us. Whether it's through creating art, writing about past traumas, or envisioning our future, the act of being mindful allows us to break free from mindlessness and unconscious routines. It is essential to teach and cultivate mindfulness from an early age, empowering individuals to embrace uncertainty and harness its power for personal growth and success.

    Embracing Change and Mindfulness for Personal Growth and Creativity

    Embracing uncertainty and being open to new perspectives is essential for personal growth and creativity. Ellen Langer emphasizes that everything is always changing, and not knowing can be a good thing because it opens up the possibility for new and exciting experiences. Jordan Peterson realizes the lack of vision-setting in the education system, which stems from a historical focus on conformity and obedience. They both agree that teaching mindlessness perpetuates the status quo and limits opportunities for individuals to contribute their unique perspectives. They discuss the importance of mindfulness, which is not about constant thinking but rather being present and engaged in the moment. By challenging ourselves and embracing change, we can foster positive emotions, exploration, and play, leading to personal growth and overcoming stress.

    The Power of Mindfulness: Exploring the Present Moment

    Mindfulness is a powerful tool for engagement and happiness. Being mindful allows us to fully experience and appreciate the present moment, just like exploring a new place or going on a trip. The idea that there are circumstances where being mindless can be advantageous is challenged, as being mindful helps us avoid negative situations in the first place. Mindfulness is not exhausting but rather energizing, and it expands our realm of adaptive competence. It is associated with play, exploration, and a sense of meaning and depth. Fatigue is shown to be influenced by mindset, and stress is seen as a mindless state that can be alleviated through positive thinking and interpretation of events. Overall, becoming more mindful is beneficial in various aspects of our lives.

    The Power of Mindset and goal-setting in Shaping Our Experiences

    Our mindset and perspective greatly impact our experiences and emotions. It's not the events themselves that determine how we feel, but rather the interpretations we attach to those events. By practicing mindfulness and being open to multiple interpretations, we can choose to see the positive or beneficial aspects even in seemingly negative situations. This reframing can help reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, setting realistic and meaningful goals is important. While it's good to challenge ourselves, setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. Ultimately, our happiness and fulfillment come from feeling good about ourselves, our relationships, and making a positive impact, which can be achieved in any occupation.

    Embracing opportunities and finding enjoyment in every task.

    We should embrace opportunities that come our way and deviate from our plans when it aligns with our desires. Ellen Langer emphasizes that delaying gratification is not always necessary, as the world is constantly changing and our desires may also change. It is important to find enjoyment and meaning in every task, even the necessary ones. By orienting our attention and finding ways to make tasks engaging, we can extract enjoyment from them. Jordan Peterson adds that attention has been a subject of deep thought for thousands of years and shares a story from ancient Egyptian theology where they explored the concept of habit and the tendency for ordered systems to become malevolent over time.

    The Power of Mindfulness and Understanding

    Paying careful attention, being mindful, can lead to self-discovery and a deeper understanding of why people behave the way they do. When we become aware of our own behaviors and values, we can better appreciate and accept others for who they are, even if they have different perspectives or behaviors that may seem challenging. Every behavior has a purpose and makes sense from the actor's perspective. This perspective encourages us to value diversity and recognize that everyone has unique strengths and contributions. By embracing this mindset, we can create a more inclusive and respectful society where everyone's abilities and perspectives are valued, fostering personal growth and better relationships.

    Embracing Differences and Challenging Conformity for Holistic Growth.

    Our individual differences should be recognized and valued. Ellen Langer emphasizes that trying to conform to one standardized way of doing things may not be beneficial for everyone. While it may be easier to follow the rules set by someone who shares our similarities, it is equally important to find our own unique approaches. Jordan Peterson raises a valid point about the contradiction between being open-minded and acknowledging the existence of varying perspectives while still striving for an ultimate standard of excellence. Langer admits that there may be contradictions and that we can live with them until we gain enough wisdom to reconcile them. In terms of health, Langer sheds light on the importance of questioning commonly held beliefs and recognizing that research findings are probabilities, not absolutes. This understanding empowers us to explore alternative paths and find new ways to meet our needs. Ultimately, the concept of mind and body unity challenges the conventional separation between our thoughts and physical well-being. By integrating the mind and body, we open up possibilities for holistic improvement and growth.

    The Power of Mindset on Health and Well-being

    Our mindset can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Ellen Langer shares two studies that demonstrate this phenomenon. In the first study, chambermaids who saw their work as exercise experienced weight loss, improved body measurements, and decreased blood pressure simply by changing their perception of their work. In the second study, the perceived time on a clock affected the time it took for wounds to heal and insulin levels in diabetics. These findings suggest that our thoughts and beliefs can influence our physical outcomes. Additionally, Langer shares personal anecdotes and stories of spontaneous remissions to highlight the power of the mind-body connection. By believing in our ability to overcome challenges, we can positively impact our own health and live more fulfilling lives.

    The Power of Beliefs and Mindset in Aging and Well-being

    Our beliefs and mindset play a significant role in our aging process and overall well-being. Retirement, for example, can be a mixed blessing as it often leads to a narrow image of what life should be like, resulting in a rapid decline in physical and mental health. However, by challenging these limitations and adopting a more flexible and positive outlook, we can exceed expectations and lead fulfilling lives. This includes redefining our perceptions of age and refusing to let it define our abilities and limitations. The structure of reality is malleable, and our interpretation of it can shape our experiences. By embracing a growth mindset and rejecting self-imposed limitations, we can achieve far more than we believe is possible.

    Prioritizing Quality over Quantity: Embracing a Positive Attitude Towards Life's Transitions.

    Focusing on maximizing the quality of our lives is more important than obsessing over the length of our existence. Ellen Langer suggests that instead of adding more years to our life, we should be adding more life to our years. By being mindful and respectful towards each other, we can create a world where people look forward to the future rather than being afraid of it. The future is uncertain, and we cannot predict the changes that will occur, but by orienting ourselves towards maximizing the quality of our lives, the issue of how long that should extend will naturally resolve itself. Ultimately, it's about prioritizing our well-being and embracing a positive attitude towards life's transitions.

    Decline in quality and challenges in academia

    There has been a decline in the quality of the university enterprise over the years, according to Jordan Peterson. He observed a lack of professionalism and commitment to excellence at the University of Toronto. However, Ellen Langer points out that this may be a result of her own perspective as someone who has been in academia for a long time. She explains that the rules and regulations have increased, leading to more bureaucratic obstacles in research and intellectual activities. Additionally, she highlights that certain changes like restrictions on taking volunteers have made it more difficult to pursue research effectively. Despite these challenges, both Jordan Peterson and Ellen Langer agree that the university still supports interesting work and has exceptional students.

    The Role of Stress in Health Issues and the Importance of a Positive Mindset

    Stress, rather than genetics or nutrition, is a major contributor to health issues such as cancer. Ellen Langer emphasizes that the fear and stress associated with cancer in remission can have negative impacts on overall well-being. She highlights the importance of distinguishing between being in remission and being cured, as the psychological mindset and attitude play a crucial role in facing the illness. Langer also discusses the challenges faced when conducting research and the biases of review boards. Overall, this conversation sheds light on the need to address stress and fear as key factors in managing and treating diseases, emphasizing the importance of a positive mindset and psychological well-being in the healing process.

    Balancing Boldness and Ethics in Scientific Studies

    There is a need for a balance between daring, creative scientific studies and ethical considerations. Jordan Peterson highlights that studies that are bold and innovative are often scuttled due to the lack of cost-benefit analysis by ethics committees. However, he also acknowledges that most scientists have a high regard for ethical conduct and the truth, as being dishonest hampers the discovery process. Moreover, the conversation touches upon the impact of stress on immune function and the potential relation to cancer recurrence, shedding light on the importance of addressing chronic stress levels. Lastly, Ellen Langer emphasizes the cultural perception of chronic illnesses like cancer, where the notion of "fighting" the disease may actually undermine the belief in one's ability to overcome it. The key takeaway is the need to challenge cultural beliefs, support those who have beaten illnesses, and empower individuals through a sense of control.

    Cultivating Faith, Hope, and a Positive Mindset in the Face of Adversity

    Regardless of a terminal diagnosis or suffering, it is important to have faith and hope alive. The story of Job exemplifies this, as he maintained his faith and hope despite extreme suffering. Similarly, individuals facing a dread diagnosis should consider how they want to live their remaining time and focus on making each moment matter. By being mindful in the present moment, individuals stand a better chance of overcoming their challenges, such as beating cancer. The concept of the "borderline effect" further emphasizes the power of perspective and mindset in determining one's outcome. Overall, it is crucial to cultivate faith, hope, and a positive mindset as it can significantly impact the course of one's journey.

    Taking one step at a time for mental well-being

    When facing challenges or mental health issues, it is important to narrow your focus and take things one step at a time. Jordan Peterson emphasizes the idea of occupying a timeframe that optimizes the challenge without overwhelming stress. This means breaking down tasks or goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Ellen Langer supports this perspective by highlighting the significance of attention to symptom variability. By tracking their moods or symptoms over time, individuals can realize that negative experiences are not permanent and can change. Both speakers agree that diagnoses should be seen as best guesses rather than absolute truths, offering hope and the possibility for improvement. Ultimately, taking incremental steps and realizing the cyclical nature of challenges can lead to real transformations.

    Understanding the Power of Mindfulness in Improving Health

    Our perception of symptoms and our own health is not fixed. Everything in our bodies and minds fluctuates over time. By adopting a mindful attitude and paying attention to the moments when we feel better, we may be able to find solutions and improve our well-being. This approach has shown positive results in dealing with major diseases such as stroke, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and even depression. We have the power to make things fit better for ourselves and take control of our own health. By tracking variations and finding what makes us feel better, we can potentially influence our physiological responses and increase our chances of healing and combating illness.

    Collaborative Empiricism: Empowering Clients through Collaborative Therapy

    In order to be effective in therapy, it is important for the therapist to avoid imposing solutions on the client. When a solution is imposed, it can create resistance and hinder the client's personal growth. Instead, therapists should encourage collaboration and the exploration of multiple understandings and perspectives. By allowing the client to lead the process, it promotes a sense of empowerment and ownership over their own experiences and choices. This approach, known as collaborative empiricism, not only helps find potential solutions to immediate challenges, but also fosters a meta-learning mindset focused on being attentive and open to new possibilities. It emphasizes the importance of the client's agency and the therapist's role as a facilitator rather than an authority figure.

    The Importance of Personal Motivation and Engagement

    The decision to seek help and make positive changes in our lives must come from within us. No matter how much someone else tries to guide us, it ultimately depends on our voluntary choice and focused attention. This is highlighted by Ellen Langer's example of how people value a service more when they pay a higher price for it. Paying for something creates a fair exchange and helps determine its value. Moreover, pricing psychological interventions also follows this principle. Making them free may seem compassionate, but it undermines the value and neutral interaction. Therefore, we should recognize that personal motivation and engagement play a crucial role in achieving positive outcomes.

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    441. TBD | Tor Nørretranders

    441. TBD | Tor Nørretranders

    Dr. Jordan B. Peterson sits down with author and speaker Tor Nørretranders. They discuss the entropy of emotion, the nature of pointlessness, the over-civilization of societal structures, how relationships shape perception, and why play might be the antithesis to tyranny.


    Tor Nørretranders is an independent author, thinker and speaker based in Denmark, serving an international audience. He has published over 30 books on topics ranging from society to human consciousness.



    - Links -


    2024 tour details can be found here https://jordanbpeterson.com/events  


    Peterson Academy https://petersonacademy.com/  



    For Tor Nørretranders:


    The User Illusion:



    The Generous Man:



    Wild food and agriculture:





    Website https://www.tor.dk/


    Article “We Are Waking Up” : https://www.tor.dk/2019/05/06/we-are-waking-up/