In 2007, researchers at Harvard set out to see if a link existed between mindset and weight loss.* Room attendants from seven different hotels across the country served as subjects. On average, the room attendants didn’t feel like they were meeting the minimum criteria for exercise each week. They felt like they should be exercising more for their health and well-being. The room attendants that were placed in the intervention group were shown how their work satisfied the surgeon general’s recommendation for physical activity. They were given information about what muscles they were using and how many calories they burned each hour, while the control group was simply given information about the benefits of exercise. After four weeks, the intervention group had a different mindset regarding their work. They viewed themselves as getting significantly more exercise than before. They lost weight, their blood pressure, body fat, BMI, and waist to hip ratio all decreased. The only thing that had changed was their perception of what they were doing.
It comes as no surprise, at least on some level, that what we think affects our physical selves. If instead of thinking, “I don’t like carrying the heavy groceries to the car because it makes me tired,” we looked at it as an opportunity to build strength, maybe our relationship with the groceries would change. (As an aside, my husband and I frequently fight for who gets to carry the groceries. As soon as I told him a heavy grocery bag was simply an awkward farmer’s walk, he was all over it as a strength training opportunity). Mindset matters in all areas, and if a changed mindset leads to a healthier physical you, think of what it could do in other areas of your life.
*The link to the full study can be found here: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3196007/Langer_ExcersisePlaceboEffect.pdf?sequence=1