A glass half full, at least when it comes to getting older, could help you recover from a health issue.
That’s according to a letter from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health published Wednesday by JAMA network open.
They followed more than 1,700 older Americans – with an average age of 78 – for more than a decade. Participants who had a common type of memory loss known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but a positive attitude towards aging – who disagreed with statements such as “The older I get older, the more useless I feel” – were 30% more likely to eventually regain normal cognitive functioning than those with negative views, they found.
Those with optimistic views also recovered faster, on average, two years faster than those with more pessimistic views.
A sunny outlook also seemed protective for those with normal cognition. From baseline, they were less likely to have MCI, and they were “significantly” less likely to develop it over a 12-year period.
Most people tend to believe that recovering from an MCI is impossible, but that’s simply not true, said Becca Levy, professor of public health and lead author of the letter, in a statement. press about it.
“In fact, half of those who suffer from it recover,” she notes.
Previous studies have shown that positive beliefs about aging can reduce stress caused by cognitive challenges, increase self-confidence about cognition, and improve cognitive performance. Yet little was known about “why some recover while others don’t,” she says. “That’s why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer.”
Indeed, they did.
And there’s more good news: positive thoughts can be cultivated, as the authors point out, which means that efforts to improve attitudes toward aging at a societal level could improve cognitive health en masse.
Tips for living more positively
According to the Mayo Clinic, having a positive attitude doesn’t mean sticking your head in the sand when the going gets tough. However, this involves addressing obstacles such as aging in a positive and productive way.
Here are some tips from the clinic that can help you keep your approach to life upbeat:
- Catch your own self-talk and negative thoughts. Forms of this can include amplifying the bad that happened during the day and minimizing the good, blaming yourself for the bad things that happen in life, feeling obligated to do things you don’t don’t have to do (and feel guilty when you don’t do them), and holding yourself to unrealistic standards.
- Aim to live positively. Set goals, use a sense of humor, plan to exercise about half an hour a day, surround yourself with positive people, and make sure your inner voice is gentle with yourself.
- Rinse and repeat daily. Forming new thought patterns takes practice. To set yourself up for healthy thinking during the day, start each day with the above two tips in mind.