Senior Living Blog

Five Ways to Think Positive – Yes, Even in 2020

August 5, 2020

The idea of thinking positive thoughts while dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 may seem a bit too much to ask. But consider this: There is a connection between long-term persistent negative thinking and dementia.

“Depression and anxiety in mid-life and old age are already known to be risk factors for dementia,” says Dr. Natalie Marchant of the University College London psychiatry department. In a study completed in July 2020, Dr. Marchant says her team found that “certain thinking patterns implicated in depression and anxiety could be an underlying reason why people with those disorders are more likely to develop dementia. We expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period of time could increase the risk.”

Experiencing more anxiety than usual is normal for everyone right now. What’s important is to not let negative thinking become a long-term habit. Consider talking to your healthcare provider, who can recommend a therapist or other mental health professional. At the same time, try these five tips, offered by the National Institutes of Health, to focus on the positive.

  1. Try to hold on to positive emotions when you have them. And take a break from negative information. Know when to stop watching or reading the news. Use social media to reach out for support and feel connected to others but don’t fall for rumors, get into arguments, or negatively compare your life to others. 
  1. Practice gratitude. This can help you see life differently. Make a point of noticing things you’re thankful for. Some people find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal where they write down the things they are grateful for every day. These can be big things, such as the support they have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal.
  1. Take care of your physical health. Physical and mental health are connected, so get plenty of exercise, get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet that includes all the nutrients you need.
  1. Connect with others. Strong, healthy relationships with others can improve our attitude. This could include spending time with family and friends, volunteering, or joining clubs and other groups. (These days a lot of this socializing happens online. Ask for help from family and friends if you need assistance setting up video chatting or email.)
  1. Develop coping techniques. A skilled therapist or support group can help. Many people also find their attitude is more positive if they practice meditation, which is a mind and body practice where you learn to focus your attention and awareness. There are many types, including mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, and guided imagery, where you learn to focus on positive images in your mind.

One bit of good news from Dr. Marchant: It is long-term negative thinking that is the most harmful. “We do not think the evidence suggests that short-term setbacks would increase one’s risk of dementia,” Dr. Marchant notes. So if you, like many others, are thinking a lot about the COVID pandemic, politics and the other things going on today, it’s good to know there are ways to think about them in a less harmful way.


Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from University College London and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Categories: Healthy Aging