You Become What You Think

Over my thirty plus years as a Massage Therapist it became quite obvious to me that the “body and mind” are not separate, especially when it comes to healing or recovering from illness or injury.  A positive attitude and a willingness to work with the body both by accepting where you are and seeing or imagining all the possibilities for the future were the  hallmarks of clients who were more likely to live longer and enjoy being alive.
Now there is intriguing new evidence arising from long term studies that is showing what many of us already know—we become what we think, especially when it comes to aging.  Over the last 20 years, Dr. Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University has been conducting a series of experiments with older people in laboratory settings.  In these experiments she subliminally exposed them to either negative or positive stereotypes associated with aging by using a computer screen that rapidly flashed images that couldn’t be processed consciously.  Then she would ask the participants to perform a task.  Those who had been exposed to stereotypically  negative words about aging like “decrepit” had poorer handwriting, slower walking speeds, greater cardiovascular stress.  Those exposed to more positive words like “wisdom” performed much better both on tests and over time. She continues these kinds of studies which all seem to indicate that people with positive age stereotypes have a stronger will to live, take better care of themselves and are more likely to have a higher level of physical functioning over time.  In other words, “we become what we think.”
I see the practice of tai chi as yet another way to enjoy the process of  aging because it tends to enhance the senses (quite literally) of balance and strength.  As I watch my classes each season become more proficient in movements that just weeks before they may have struggled with, I also see a kind of confidence and empowerment come into their faces.  And in many of the classes, new friendships and connections arise with people that just weeks before may have been strangers to them.  By the end of even a beginning 8 week course, something else begins to manifest: a new sense of what life can be for them, regardless of age.  If we “become what we think” then tai chi can help us to cultivate the positive ideas of better balance (internal & external), deeper breath, and a sense of energy that can help us create new things in our lives.  Make 2013 your year to start creating that joy and positive self image through the practice of tai chi.

Categories Tai Chi | Tags: | Posted on January 5, 2013

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