Study Links Negative Thinking to Alzheimer's—Here's How You Can Learn to Be More Positive
Are you a “glass half empty” kind of person? Sorry pessimists, but for the sake of your brain, you might want to take another look at that glass.
A new study published in Alzheimer's & Dementia found that repetitive negative thinking (RNT) in later life was linked to cognitive decline and greater deposits of harmful proteins responsible for Alzheimer's disease.
"We propose that repetitive negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia as it could contribute to dementia in a unique way," lead author Dr. Natalie Marchant, a psychiatrist and senior research fellow in the department of mental health at University College London, said in a statement.
Over the course of two years, 292 people over the age of 55 responded to questions about how they typically think about negative experiences with a focus on RNT patterns like rumination about the past and worry about the future. The participants also completed measures of depression and anxiety symptoms.
What researchers found is that people who displayed more RNT patterns not only experienced more cognitive decline over a four-year period, they also exhibited declines in memory (an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.) Pessimists were also more likely to have deposits of harmful amyloid and tau proteins in their brains.
"Taken alongside other studies, which link depression and anxiety with dementia risk, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period of time could increase the risk of dementia," Marchant said.
The researchers hope to find out if reducing RNT, possibly through mindfulness training or targeted talk therapy, could in turn reduce the risk of dementia.
If you tend to veer towards pessimism, fear not. Research has shown that there are effective ways to train your brain into being more optimistic. One study found that 30 minutes of daily meditation over the course of two weeks was enough to produce a measurable change in the brain.
In addition to limiting how much you complain, you can also work on practicing gratefulness by making daily lists of all the things you’re grateful for in your life. Research shows that within four to six months, practicing gratitude regularly can have a positive impact on mental health, even reducing depressive symptoms.
So, how’s that glass looking now?