In this Aug. 2 episode of the NPR show Talk of the Nation, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer discusses her 30 years of studying mindfulness and the beneficial effects of practicing it. Neal Conan, the show’s host, gives one example of how re-framing events in participants’ minds led to health benefits in their bodies:
Langer worked with a group of hotel maids. Just by doing their jobs, each got more than the recommended amount of daily exercise, she told them, but they didn’t think of it as exercise. Once Langer told them that it was, yes, what you’re doing is comparable to working out, they lost weight and reduced both body mass index and blood pressure without changes in their diet or their practices.
“Attention is the first step on the ladder to develop one-pointedness of mind. One must pay wholehearted attention to all of the things he does from morning until evening. The aspirant should also understand why he is acting in a particular way. Actions should not be performed as a reaction without understanding why one does them. The human mind is prone to be reactionary if it is not trained, and an untrained mind creates disorder, disease, and confusion. If one does something with full attention, he will increase his awareness and ability to perform his duty. If one forms the habit of attending fully to whatever he is doing, the mind will become trained, and eventually concentration will become effortless.” – Swami Rama in Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita