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Change your attitude: manage stress, think young, think positive

Change your attitude: manage stress, think young, think positive

Chill out and get out: People who are relaxed and outgoing have a lower risk of dementia, according to a study in Sweden in 2009. The research at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, looked at more than 500 people who at the start of the study were no younger than 78 and who did have dementia.

The scientists asked the participants about their lifestyle and personality traits and then followed up with the group over the course of six years. During that time, 144 people developed dementia and by matching the questionnaires with the outcomes, the scientists saw that being relaxed and being socially active were both linked with a reduced risk of developing the symptoms of dementia. You can read more about this study here.

Rein in stress hounds: Learning to keep stress on a short leash will benefit your physical health but also your brain fitness and overall memory performance. It is worth remembering that a certain amount of stress is a normal part of everyone’s day and in small doses it can be good for us, by motivating us to do better. Thankfully, there are ways for us to cope better when faced with strong stressors. 

Exercise can smoothen down the wrinkles of stress by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural happy chemicals. It is also a refreshing way to release pent up energy that stress can bundle up. Often our minds can be mobbed by worries and we can find it difficult to focus on the task at hand. By focusing on the present moment, concentrating on what is taking place right here, right now, we can shrug off such worries. It may sound simple, but it can take a bit of getting used to. Rooting awareness in the body, such as feeling the soles of your feet while walking, or focusing on breathing in and out, can tie you closer to the present moment, stopping the mind from wandering. 

Why is attention important?

To find out how focussing your attention on what you are doing, when you are doing it, can reduce the number of absent-minded moments in your life, watch this film made by our friends at freedemliving.com

We can all suffer from a build-up of stress; it may start slowly and then snowball in size, weighing you down. One of the best ways of reducing stress is to talk about your feelings. Talk to someone you feel comfortable with, friend or family, or contact one of the many telephone support lines available with volunteers trained to listen. Talking about our feelings can knock our worries down to size. It can place our feelings in perspective, help us feel a sense of relief and make us feel strength and distance from the source of trouble.

Think young: The sayings ‘you are only as old as you feel’ and ‘age is just a number’ could be good ones to stick on the fridge door. Because research shows that thinking young could be a key to ageing healthily. 

Research at Harvard University has explored this curious mind-over-matter phenomenon and found some eye-opening results. When older men got to live in a retreat fitted out with cues from previous decades, their health improved. Women who believed that having their hair cut and dyed would make them look younger did appear younger to others after a trip to the hairdressers. So believe in the power of thinking young and your body may well follow. You can read more here 

Ditch the stereotype: Do you assume that you are going to get more forgetful as you get older? It might be worth changing your attitude about that. Scientists have found that people who believe the stereotype of older people having worse memory perform worse on memory tasks. So don’t simply expect your memory to decline as you get older. Because if you do, it might just follow.

Do something to make you laugh: It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine, and there’s an element of truth to it. Laughter can be an instant and infectious mood-lifter, whether it’s a giggle or an uncontrollable belly laugh, and a good long laugh can even be a mini-workout in itself.

Laughter can be a tonic for the brain too – a recent study in Japan found that when older people with mild cognitive impairment watched a comedy show once a week for 10 weeks as well as doing some painting, it gave their cognitive scores a boost. You can read more about the study here.

So give yourself time and space to have a laugh – watch a funny movie, meet a friend who tells entertaining stories – anything that makes you chuckle. You’ll instantly feel great and you could be doing your brain a favour too. Illustration: Healthy brain


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