Day Four: Turn a Negative into a Positive Experience
When we are under stress due to time or financial pressures, it’s pretty easy to let small things take on big energy. Here’s a great way to turn that around.
Another thing that can sometimes trip us up in a negative way is the way we think about aging. I always say “It’s better than the alternative!”, but many people really struggle with this, and it can do a real number on mindset.
More and more studies have shown that our attitude toward aging has a huge impact on our health, including that of our brains.
Back in the 1990s, a researcher divided a group of 60 year-old-plus participants into two groups. One group was exposed subliminally to negative age stereotypes, the other to positive age stereotypes. Those subjected to the negative stereotypes showed a decline in performance on memory tests compared with the results taken before the exposure. On the other hand, those exposed to positive age stereotypes showed an improvement in many cognition tests.
In an observational study, actual physical changes in the brain were observed. People who had more negative views of aging at the outset of the study had a significantly greater buildup of the plaques and tangles that indicate Alzheimer’s, compared with those who had more positive attitudes at the outset. Those with negative views also had more shrinkage in the memory center of the brain.
So you can see how important an overall positive attitude is for our health, AND a positive attitude toward aging is important toward how we age. Whether this has to do with the attitude itself or the fact that people with a positive attitude tend to be more proactive and look after themselves better, it doesn’t really matter.
So, don’t worry, be happy about aging. Because aging doesn’t mean getting old!
Your Health Tip for the Day: Exercise is Amazing for your Mindset!
For our extra tip today, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the one thing that is ALWAYS good for us, and helps alleviate just about every condition known to man.
Can you guess what it is?
Yep – exercise. There are literally thousands of studies that show that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a powerful anti-stress tool.
And if you can do it with others, even better. Walking of course is free, and easy, and you can do it basically everywhere. But swimming, cycling, and even boxing are great. And interestingly, boxing with a reflex ball is not only good exercise, it’s a fabulous stress-reducer and it’s good for your brain because it engages the parts of your brain that are responsible for balance and coordination.
Another amazing exercise is dancing. It’s aerobic, it requires coordination, and you really don’t have any choice but to feel more positive when you dance, do you?
It’s even better if you dance some form that requires coordination, choreographed steps and with a partner. Like ballroom or Latin dance. Not only does it require mindful attention to just that action, it also engages more parts of the brain.
Why does this work? Some research shows that regular exercise may increase the production of molecules that support the growth and survival of brain cells. By increasing blood flow to the brain, exercising might also allow for a better circulation of the blood and the nutrients it carries, including boosting oxygen levels in the brain. All of this can translate to better cognition and mood, which contributes to a healthier mindset and, of course, a healthier brain.
So, if you are struggling with negative thoughts, memory or cognition issues or simple lethargy, get moving!
1. 30 to 45 minutes 4 days per week – walk like you’re late for something! Get those endorphins going. It is better than most drugs for depression!
2. Strength training 2 days per week – that does NOT mean becoming a bodybuilder. It means getting stronger, because you are less likely to develop dementia.
3. Dance or play some sport that requires coordination, like table tennis or tennis or badminton 1 or 2 days per week. Not only is it good cardiovascular exercise, it is also a great way to engage the mind to encourage neuroplasticity AND cognitive reserve. Plus – who can be in a bad mood when you’re dancing? Just enjoy it. Have fun! No judgment!
More reading: This is one of many excellent articles on the importance of exercise for a healthier brain. Exercising more than once per week is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that causes people to have more problems with memory and thinking than is normal for someone their age.
Your Mindfulness Note for the Day
As we turn things around, from negative into positive, this is a great opportunity to consider the attribute of Acceptance.
Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world, or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty.
Acceptance is not about being resigned to things. It is about the courage to look a situation right in the eye and acknowledge the issue or problem.
Accepting that we have an issue by not trying to cover it up gives us the opportunity to deal with it, which can have an incredibly positive effect on our mindset and our lives.
Rather than spending our energy refuting or ignoring something, we free it up to tackle the situation with some freshly gained insight.
“I accept and love myself thoroughly.”