This is a fantastic episode of On Being on Mindfulness and Mindlessness. This shit is everything, and parts of this idea are very reminiscent to me of what David Foster Wallace talked about in This Is Water about default modes. Our default mode is to be mindless, running our lives in autopilot. Most times, our default modes aren’t great. Which is why being mindful is important.
Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who some have dubbed “the mother of mindfulness.” But she defines mindfulness with counterintuitive simplicity: the simple act of actively noticing things — with a result of increased health, competence, and happiness. Her take on mindfulness has never involved contemplation or meditation or yoga. It comes straight out of her provocative, unconventional studies, which have been suggesting for decades what neuroscience is pointing at now: our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery — but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are in control. Ellen Langer has shown it’s possible to become physiologically younger through a changed frame of mind; to find joy in what was experienced as drudgery by renaming it as play; and to induce weight loss by substituting the label “exercise” for labor.
Grit your teeth through the parts where the host talks over the guest, trying to fit in some lesser point that feels like all she really wants us all to know that she knows things, too, because Ellen Langer has some pretty great truthbombs about brains and life.