Maintaining a positive mindset during these uncertain and challenging times is important to protect good mental health but recent studies have also found that thinking patterns may contribute to an increased risk for older adults developing dementia.
According to a recent study, led by the University College London, persistent negative thinking patterns are linked with subsequent cognitive decline as well as tau and amyloid protein buildup in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that repetitively negative thinking among study participants over the age of 55 who were followed for two years led to higher rates of decline in memory and a greater incidence of protein deposits in the brain.
Researchers suggest that the stress caused by repetitive negative thinking (RNT) may have a physiological impact on high blood pressure and contribute to amyloid and tau protein buildup in the brain. By practicing mindfulness or engaging in talk therapy to help dispel negative thinking patterns, older adults may not only feel more positive about life but could also help to lower their risk for developing dementia later in life.
As many older adults continue to remain physically isolated at home or in care facilities to protect themselves from COVID-19, paying attention to mental health is vital. Families and loved-ones of older adults can help seniors stay socially connected with regular phone calls and video chats and many physicians and mental health professionals are conducting telehealth visits online.
To support good mental health during stressful situations, experts suggest that older adults maintain a regular daily schedule taking breaks from the news and social media during the pandemic to stretch, journal, meditate, create art, garden or take deep breaths. Focus on getting regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet and practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Not sure where to start or how to begin a meditation practice? Try Calm, or Headspace meditation, sleep and relaxation Apps for free; American Express card members can now receive a free year of Calm Premium and the unemployed can receive Headspace free for a year. Writing in a gratitude journal each day can also help encourage a positive and optimistic mindset. If all that sounds a bit too New Agey, try listening to music, going for a walk, dancing, practicing yoga or coloring. Anything that keeps your mind in the moment can help older adults manage stress.
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