How to train your brain to be happy?

How does the conclusion “Your brain is not happy enough; you need more training” sound to you? Probably nobody in Bulgaria has told you this but be sure that this time will come, because, as it turns out, our happiness now is decisive for our lives after the age of 60. How to “train” to be happier, while we are only offered the standard weights in gyms? We will answer this question as well, but it seems that it is easier to train for happiness than for muscles.

Today we will tell you about a new, interesting study, according to which the negative thinking of young people almost certainly leads to cognitive decline, deposition of two of the harmful proteins in the body that are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia with age. Continue reading and give yourself another reason to smile… for no reason. The scan shows that people who spend more time thinking negatively have more accumulation of tau and beta proteins, poorer memory, and a greater cognitive decline than people who are not pessimistic.

Dr. Natalie Merchant, a psychologist and associate in the Department of Mental health at University College London said the following: “We suggest that recurring negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia”. According to the research she conducts, negative thinking, be it thoughts about the past or worries about the future, has been measured in more than 350 people over the age of 55 over a period of 2 years. About a third of the participants in the study underwent a brain scan that tracked the deposits of tau and beta-amyloid protein, which cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

The scan shows that people who spend more time thinking negatively have more accumulation of tau and beta proteins than people who are not pessimistic. The study also tested levels of anxiety and depression and found a greater decline in depressed and anxious people.

This is the first study to show a biological link between recurrent negative thinking and Alzheimer’s pathology and allows doctors to assess risk more accurately and suggest more personalized interventions”, said neuroscientist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the clinic for Alzheimer’s prevention at the New York – Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center. According to him, many people at risk do not know about the specific negative impact of worries and thoughts and do not know how it directly affects the brain.

It is important to note that research and studies like this are still in their infancy, which means that they have not been conclusively proven. As Fiona Carragher, chief researcher at the Alzheimer’s Society in London puts it: “Most of the people in the study have already been identified as being at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease, so we will need to see if these results are repeated in the general population and if repeated negative thinking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Researchers suggest that the so-called “brain training” such as meditation can help promote positive thinking while reducing negative thoughts. Therefore, they plan future studies to test their hypothesis.

Look on the bright side

Let’s think positive. Different studies in different fields of medicine over the years support this hypothesis. People who look at life brightly and positively have much better chance of avoiding a heart attack than pessimists, according to a 2019 study by cardiologist Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine. It was conducted among almost 300,000 people and concluded that the optimists have about 35% lower risk of heart complications, stroke, or heart attack than the pessimists in the study. It turns out that the more positive a person is, the more protected he is! Of course, happiness is linked to other aspects of health. It is also visible to the naked eye that the happier a person is, the greater his desire for a healthy lifestyle and more exercise – this strengthens his immune system, improves lung function, etc.

“This is probably because optimists tend to form healthier habits,” said Dr. Rozanski. “Optimists are also better at what we call proactively tackling or anticipating problems and then taking proactive steps to fix them,” Rozanski said in an interview with CNN.

Train for optimism

Is the glass half full or half empty? Don’t think about it, you are probably aware of what type of people you are. However, there are tests for this that will prompt you and “classify” you – in America it is called a “test for orientation in life.” The test includes statements such as “After every cloud comes the sun” or “If there is something that can go wrong, it will go wrong.” You should rate these statements on a scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” and the results will determine your level of pessimism or optimism. As we mentioned at the beginning, training is needed to “lift our spirits” and it is entirely possible if you accept that the brain is a muscle that needs activity, just like the other muscles you know.  It only takes 30 minutes of meditation a day for about 2 weeks to feel different, so the brain could respectively understand things around you differently.

One of the most effective ways to increase optimism is called the Best Possible Self method. According to this method, you should imagine yourself in the future or write about yourself in the future, in which you have achieved all your goals and all your problems have been solved. Another technique known in yoga is to practice gratitude. Taking a few minutes each day to write what makes you grateful can improve your outlook on life. As you describe all the positive emotions you had on that particular day, you will also increase your optimism. Over time, you will find that it is much easier to discover the positive than to delve into the negative or what has “ruined your day. As Dr. Alan Rozanski says, “Pessimism is on the way to depression.”

We told you about this interesting study for preventive reasons. Maybe not every happy person is protected from dementia, but we believe that every happy person “fights” it much easier when he is taught to see and look for the positive in every situation. This is the reason why in Blocks Memory Care we smile, talk, have fun, and play. You know Schiller’s words, “A man is fully human only when he plays.”

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