Harry Potter, a Harvard Study, and the Mind Body Connection

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(Excerpt below, in italics, is from the sixth installment of the Harry Potter Series, “The Half Blood Prince.” I say “excerpt,” unofficially, because I wrote it from memory. I’m like 99 percent sure it’s accurate…)

hogwarts

The rain came, heavy, smashing into the stone turrets and dancing upon the highest towers of Hogwarts Castle. Wind followed, too, swirling and hammering in a display of might and fury. It was morning, although there would be no sight of the sun today, or it’s warmth, when the students crammed into the Great Hall.

They ate breakfast in haste, chilled from the cold while also readying themselves for the match to decide the house cup—Gryffindor vs Slytherin. This was the big one; the match to decide it all; a match to cement a legacy, to triumph or fail. For a moment, albeit the briefest of respites, Lord Voldemort was held at bay. Students could be students and nothing else mattered, nothing other than this match. Ron, the Hogwarts goal-keeper and least experienced player, was about to shit his pants.

“Ronald.”

“Ronald!” Hermione pestered a second time, this time grabbing his arm and breaking his stupor. “Ronald you need to eat something. You must eat before the match!”

Ron stared at his plate, face white—super Ed-Sheeran-ish—and could not move. Nerves, it seemed, had him. Had him by the bludgers.

A small crowd of students walked by, bumping Ron and pointing in his direction. “Ahh, poor Weasley, looks like he needs his mummy!”

Laughter.

The Slytherin students high-fived, and walked away, because J.K. never really got aggressive enough with these inter-house raggings and missed opportunities like these for Draco and gang to make comments about Harry getting in there with Ron’s sister, the stuff that definitely would/should have been said. But Ron was still flummoxed.

Harry saw this.

He had to act.

“F*ck it! I’m putting the felix felicis in your tea, Ron.”

Hermione’s eyes burst open, bright and condemning, like two full moons. She was about to speak, assuredly in protest, when Harry furtively commanded again.  

“Hand that chalice over,” forcing in a whisper, “quick, bro, before anyone sees!”

Ron did. He was victim to order. The pit in his stomach, brooding and heavy, had ascended to his head, most aptly described as evolutionary response routed by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum.

Quickly, dexterously, Harry hovered his hand over the drink, flashing the small vial of Felix Felicis (highly potent potion ensuring good luck and guaranteed success; banned substance amongst House Cup Quidditch competition and all international play). When he saw Ron take note of the vial, he rescinded his arm in blur-like form, both quick and calculated. Harry was the sac. He got things done. And Cho Chang.

And the rest, as they say and as you know, is history: Ron quickly downs his tea, assuming the performance enhancing potion inter-mixed, rushes to the pitch before Hermione can protest, filled with confidence, and plays the game of his life. Gryffindor wins and Harry reveals—post-match—he never put the potion in Ron’s beverage… Ron only thought he did.

Mind body connection, even amongst wizards.

felix felicis

That, when I first read it, was my introduction to the mind body connection. Until recently, I hadn’t come across anything better.

Then, in both book and article, Harvard psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer came into the fold. I’m pumped she did.

In 1981, Professor Langer took two groups of elderly men—in their seventies—and bussed them for retreat at a monastery in the New Hampshire countryside. Baseline tests of cognition, flexibility, memory, and several other forms of functionality were recorded before the two groups departed. Once there, at the monastery, the groups split.

In one setting, the group of men was told to reminisce about their lives twenty years prior. She wanted them to discuss and recall events of those times, what they were doing, and anything impactful or important to them and their families of that time.

The other group, in one of the coolest dang—in form with the study, I’m assuming “dang” was as aggressive as it got with expletives—controlled environments I’ve ever read about, actually acted as if they were living back in 1959. Like, the actual year, 1959. The monastery was set in both function and aesthetic exactly as it would have been 22 years prior. More than reminisce, these men were told to do and think just in the manner they would have, had they been here 22 years prior, circa 1959.

And they did.

They watched films from that year, listened to radio broadcast from that year, moved and cooked and debated as they would have in that year, and, regarded their health as they did in that year.

At the end of the week, both groups performed those same baseline tests they had taken just seven days earlier. Both groups exhibited immense improvement; quantitatively, with respect to the tests they took, and in qualitative form, as feelings of strength and vitality were reported as significantly elevated from all participants.

But, and I’m assuming you able to follow context clues, one groups scores were significantly higher than the other: chemical and physical measurements of body and mind actually measured as “younger” men.

Can you guess which group?

I’ll wait.

Yes! Nice job! The second group, where the elderly men actually embodied and thought as younger men, made actual changes to their chemistry. Gene alteration occurred—on a pretty significant scale given the time of the study—and ailments dissipated. Flexibility, strength, reasoning, and deduction all improved. I’m not sure how progressive this study was, but if any broads were around, I’d assume 1959 desecrated that monastery.

Again, until I came across this study, and the work done by Professor Langer—a straight up cougar, if she ever sees this—I hadn’t really ever seen measurable proof of mindbody cohesion. I’ve felt it, sure, and always believed in the power of thought as well as the influence of movement on the mind, but I had never seen tangible measure. Obviously Ron played an amazing match, and his confidence carried over into a risqué romance with Lavender Brown, but official score-keeping from that aforementioned House Cup Final was never revealed; “concrete” proof isn’t there, unless you count the look on Draco Malfoy’s smug face.

Which I do.

Saying all that, and drawing comparison and significance from the two examples—Felix Felicis and a Harvard Study—I want to conclude with a palatable takeaway. Realize, though, that even the first group, whom merely thought of happier, younger times, registered significant holistic improvement, and then consider these few significant, applicable bullets grounded in mindbody application:

  • Be mindful of both thought and body language: Your subconscious mind and nervous system is/are the most intricate, intelligent system around. It is always learning. Learning from you, in your active thinking and doing. If you stand like a turd, with shoulders slumped, or your face looks like you just smelt a turd, your body remembers. Those same healing progressions the mindbody made for those old men who acted/thought in vigor and vitality can become regressions just as quickly.
  • Note your language: Language is just verbal thought. And as we know—we know, shut up—that thought is registered in chemical form in your body and genes, so too is language. So, if you’re the pick-up basketball player who lets everyone know he is wrapping his ankles, even though we never ask—“bad ankles in high school”—your ish ain’t ever going to get better or stronger. If you talk about always getting sick on planes or at certain times of the year, aside from knowing people don’t like you, stop doing that. Invoke the positive response. Talk about growth, and improvement, and healing. Your Patronus is only as strong as your mind.
  • Embrace the potentiality: There is now too much science and evidence documenting the natural healing properties of the mindbody to discredit it. So use it. Embrace it. Study it. Do all that, and then, live in the present as if your future is already your own.
  • Uncle Vernon does not believe in the mind body connection

uncle vernon

 

 

***Quick end-note: this is not delusional positive psychology/physiology in place of medicine. Doctors are the absolute best people on the planet and should be considered so. But your greatest resource in terms of preventive medicine, and healing, is you. It is the symbiosis of mind and body. Try not to forget that. You’re a wizard, Harry!

 

 

 

 

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