A new study reveals that positive thinking can help reduce memory loss as people age. It seems that people who see life through pink glasses may have the right idea after all. This study adds to growing research on the role of a good attitude, or “positive effect,” in healthy aging.
The study, published on October 22, 20202, in the journal psychological science, found that people with an optimistic attitude have better memories as they get older. Most people want to preserve good memories of life, but the ability to do so depends largely on physical and emotional health. While many factors come into play regarding the strength of our memory, it turns out that being cheerful can reduce memory loss.
For the study, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 9-year longitudinal study involving 991 middle-aged and older American adults. All participated in a national study conducted at three different times: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014. In the questionnaires, participants reported various positive emotions that they had experienced in the past 30 days.
In the last two tests, the researchers also gave the participants tests to see how strong their memory was. For these assessments, participants had to remember the words right after they were spoken to them, and again after 15 minutes had passed. The researchers looked at how positive thinking might reduce memory loss, taking into account age, gender, education, depression, negative outlooks, and extraversion.
“Our findings showed that memory declined with age,” said Claudia Haase, lead author of the paper and associate professor at Northwestern University.
“However, people with higher levels of positive affect had less pronounced memory decline over the course of nearly a decade,” added Emily Hittner, lead author of the article and Ph.D. Graduated from Northwestern University.
In the future, they hope to do more studies on what factors in life can improve positive affect and therefore reduce memory loss. For example, better physical health and stronger relationships can influence one’s overall happiness.
Other ways to reduce memory loss
Besides thinking positively, other lifestyle factors can help improve your memory:
1 – Get plenty of exercise.
Exercise improves all aspects of health, not just our physical appearance and the ratio of muscle to fat. You’ll increase your endurance and strength, plus your brain muscles are also running for their money. Since the mind and body are indisputably linked, we must take care of both.
Lack of exercise can lead to the development of health problems such as obesity. A growing body of evidence links obesity and all of the health complications that accompany it with increased memory loss. Additionally, obesity increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.
Researchers believe that this may occur because obesity negatively affects the structure and volume of the brain. Being overweight and obese cause the hippocampus to shrink, leading to cognitive decline. Also, the same proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s have been found in those with severe obesity.
Several studies show how regular exercise can help reduce memory loss. For example, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can result in a larger hippocampus. This area of the brain helps in learning and memory; therefore, a larger brain can support a stronger memory.
2 – Prioritize sleep.
Unfortunately, in our “24/7” society, many of us suffer from some level of sleep deprivation. When we fall asleep little, it begins to affect our cognitive function, including memory. Deep, quality sleep helps us consolidate and classify memories, so without enough REM sleep, our memory suffers. No matter what your schedule is, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and make sure to keep it consistent.
3 – Eat a healthy diet.
What we put in our body affects not only our physical health, but also our mental performance. Eating too many high-calorie processed foods can cause a feeling of mental confusion, which affects our memory. Experts say that if you want reduce memory loss, you should include these foods in your diet:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate (almost 100% cocoa, little or no added sugar)
- Nuts like walnuts
- Green Tea
4 – Play brain games and puzzles.
Like any other muscle in your body, your brain needs regular exercise to function at its best. Play crosswords or other brain games that require you to jog your memory. Instead of spending time browsing social media or watching Netflix, take a few minutes a day to challenge your brain. You will not only learn something new, but also reduce memory loss in the process.
5 – Watch your sugar consumption.
This tip will help both your physical health and your memory. Just like berries and nuts can improve your memory, unhealthy foods like sugar can hamper it. Studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar have difficulty remembering things and are at higher risk of developing dementia. Even if you don’t have diabetes, eating too much sugar can affect memory and brain health.
Researchers believe that once again the hippocampus begins to malfunction with excessive sugar intake. While it requires a certain amount of glucose to function, too much can cause the opposite effect.
Positive thinking improves many aspects of life, from our relationships to our physical health. Researchers have found that optimism can also help reduce memory loss, perhaps due to stronger pathways in the brain. While more study is needed on the relationship between memory and positive thinking, this shows great promise for future research.
Since thoughts create our reality, it seems vitally important that we pay attention to what is going on inside our heads. Positive thoughts lead to better results in life, so be sure to take care of your mental health.