The Longing Lab

Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer on the mindlessness of longing and regret & the power of mindfulness on our health

May 30, 2024 Amanda McCracken Season 3 Episode 23
Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer on the mindlessness of longing and regret & the power of mindfulness on our health
The Longing Lab
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The Longing Lab
Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer on the mindlessness of longing and regret & the power of mindfulness on our health
May 30, 2024 Season 3 Episode 23
Amanda McCracken

Episode 23 Social psychologist Ellen Langer, AKA the "mother of mindfulness," explains why our perceived sense of control impacts our mental health, how longing and regret are mindless, why there are no good or bad decisions, and her new book, The Mindful body: Thinking our way to chronic health.

Dr. Ellen Langer, AKA the “mother of mindfulness,” is a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. She is the author of twelve books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 45 years.  Dr. Langer has written extensively on the illusion of control, mindful aging, stress, decision-making, and health. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Liberty Science Genius Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology. She is the founder of The Langer Mindfulness Institute and is a gallery exhibiting artist. Learn more here: Ellen J. Langer (harvard.edu)

 In this episode, (in order) we talked about: 

*The difference between mindfulness and meditation

*How and why people try to change their romantic partners

*Impact of mindfulness on satisfaction in a relationship

*Why perceived sense of control results in mindfulness which results in better health

*The illusion of the illusion of control

*How she recommends making a decision and why regret is mindless

*How to raise children to be more mindful

*The key characteristics of mindfulness and mindlessness

*The mindlessness of hookup culture

*Abundance versus scarcity mindset 

*Her new book: The Mindful Body: Thinking our way to chronic health

*How our sense of perceived time impacts healing

Quotes

“When we know we don’t know, everything becomes potentially interesting. When you don’t know, and you are actively noticing new things, you couldn’t be happier. You aren’t longing for something tomorrow, because today you are experiencing the most you can experience.” 

“Hope is much better than being hopeless. But hope has built into it an expectation of failure.” 

“When you’re actively noticing them (your partner), they feel seen....If you’re both doing this at the same time, the relationship may stay newer for a longer period of time."

"What you’re always in control of is your response to whatever situation you’re met with…The situation is neither good nor bad. Stress is not a function of events. It’s a function of the view you take of the events. And you always have available to you multiple views."

“Decision making is probably the biggest stressor. There is no right decision. What people should do instead, this is wild, randomly decide what to do and then make the decision work for you. We make a decision to take some action. Once you take the action, you can’t access the quality of the decision."

"Given that you can’t compare them (the outcomes of different decisions), for people to experience regret is mindless."

“If we get rid of the idea that there are certain things that are bad and other things that are good and that I have to worry about making the right decision so I can maximize the good and minimize the bad, life is just easy.”

“We are brought up believing that there are good and bad decisions, and that also means there are good and bad deciders.”

“When you’re not in the moment, you’re not there to know you’re not there.”

“To desire a meaningless experience doesn’t make sense to me and it sounds mindless."

“I don’t think we should do anything that feels meaningless. Even brushing your teeth. Be there!”

“Everything is mutable. And the degree to which we can achieve the things we desire, that we long for, is not a big step away. It’s all within our reach.”

Show Notes

Episode 23 Social psychologist Ellen Langer, AKA the "mother of mindfulness," explains why our perceived sense of control impacts our mental health, how longing and regret are mindless, why there are no good or bad decisions, and her new book, The Mindful body: Thinking our way to chronic health.

Dr. Ellen Langer, AKA the “mother of mindfulness,” is a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. She is the author of twelve books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 45 years.  Dr. Langer has written extensively on the illusion of control, mindful aging, stress, decision-making, and health. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Liberty Science Genius Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology. She is the founder of The Langer Mindfulness Institute and is a gallery exhibiting artist. Learn more here: Ellen J. Langer (harvard.edu)

 In this episode, (in order) we talked about: 

*The difference between mindfulness and meditation

*How and why people try to change their romantic partners

*Impact of mindfulness on satisfaction in a relationship

*Why perceived sense of control results in mindfulness which results in better health

*The illusion of the illusion of control

*How she recommends making a decision and why regret is mindless

*How to raise children to be more mindful

*The key characteristics of mindfulness and mindlessness

*The mindlessness of hookup culture

*Abundance versus scarcity mindset 

*Her new book: The Mindful Body: Thinking our way to chronic health

*How our sense of perceived time impacts healing

Quotes

“When we know we don’t know, everything becomes potentially interesting. When you don’t know, and you are actively noticing new things, you couldn’t be happier. You aren’t longing for something tomorrow, because today you are experiencing the most you can experience.” 

“Hope is much better than being hopeless. But hope has built into it an expectation of failure.” 

“When you’re actively noticing them (your partner), they feel seen....If you’re both doing this at the same time, the relationship may stay newer for a longer period of time."

"What you’re always in control of is your response to whatever situation you’re met with…The situation is neither good nor bad. Stress is not a function of events. It’s a function of the view you take of the events. And you always have available to you multiple views."

“Decision making is probably the biggest stressor. There is no right decision. What people should do instead, this is wild, randomly decide what to do and then make the decision work for you. We make a decision to take some action. Once you take the action, you can’t access the quality of the decision."

"Given that you can’t compare them (the outcomes of different decisions), for people to experience regret is mindless."

“If we get rid of the idea that there are certain things that are bad and other things that are good and that I have to worry about making the right decision so I can maximize the good and minimize the bad, life is just easy.”

“We are brought up believing that there are good and bad decisions, and that also means there are good and bad deciders.”

“When you’re not in the moment, you’re not there to know you’re not there.”

“To desire a meaningless experience doesn’t make sense to me and it sounds mindless."

“I don’t think we should do anything that feels meaningless. Even brushing your teeth. Be there!”

“Everything is mutable. And the degree to which we can achieve the things we desire, that we long for, is not a big step away. It’s all within our reach.”