A positive mindset about aging could do more than just make the process more enjoyable, it could also protect against dementia. This is important information for caregivers who witness both the good and bad sides of aging.
By being proactive about ideas that are embedded as beliefs, caregivers may be able to bolster cognition against future memory decline, as psychologist and epidemiologist Becca Levy explained in her book, “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determines How Long and Well You Live”:
“Age-related beliefs may even act as a buffer against the development of dementia in people who carry the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease gene,” she wrote.
How to identify your negative beliefs about aging
Negative beliefs can be hard to spot because they tend to linger in the background where they are easy to miss. However, a good way to resolve them is to pay attention to negative thought patterns.
All sorts of negative patterns can affect our mindset about aging, such as over-generalization – believing that one bad experience is the rest of what’s to come. Likewise, catastrophizing turns something small and probably meaningless into a big deal, like the adage to make a mountain out of a molehill. All-or-nothing thinking — also known as black-and-white thinking — occurs when thoughts go to the extremes of all-good or all-bad.
Negative thought patterns can also be found when emotions are overwhelming or thoughts are allowed to run wild, so pay attention to emotional reasoning, which occurs when feelings are taken as evidence of something’s seriousness. Thinking about all possible outcomes and planning for all possible situations (overthinking) are also easy patterns to adopt.
“Should” statements can be harder to notice because the purpose of this thought pattern is to motivate. Yet, it is important to recognize when these statements occur, because they set expectations that lead to feelings of inadequacy if not met, which in turn can lead to negative feelings about aging.
Common negative beliefs about aging
These negative thought patterns can lead to a lot of anxiety about the aging process. For example, over-generalizing may make you think you are destined to have health problems in the future because of a past or present illness, just as catastrophizing occurs when a forgotten detail turns into overwhelming fears. of inevitable madness. These negative thought patterns and their associated fears are often informed by stereotypes about older people:
- Memory issues
- Chronic or serious illness
- The Depression
- not be necessary
- Not being able to drive
- Not being sexually active
- Financial problems
- be a burden
However, negative stereotypes about aging do not represent all of the experiences experienced by older people. In fact, older adults reported experiencing these experiences at a much lower rate than the general public believed they had.
How can caregivers disrupt their negative patterns and beliefs?
Once you recognize your own ingrained thought patterns and negative beliefs about aging, it is possible to disrupt those thoughts through patience, persistence, and technique. Replacing negative beliefs with new, more positive beliefs is an effective way to rewire a healthier mindset. The easiest way to do this is to create a mantra or affirmation and say it silently whenever negative thoughts arise about aging. This technique is effective in interrupting negative thought patterns and promoting mindfulness, which is imperative for cultivating a positive mindset. Here are some statements to test:
Affirmations for Caregivers to Cultivate a Positive Aging Mindset:
- “Getting old is a gift.”
- “I’m aging gracefully.”
- “I appreciate the wisdom and memories that come with the years.”
- “Good health is mine to enjoy for a long time.”
General mindfulness is a great way to interrupt negative thought patterns and beliefs. By being aware of what’s going on in your head, you have more control over your beliefs. Mindfulness can also help silence this inner criticism through positive self-talk or repeating an affirmation. Meditation is another useful tool: the practice can help calm tired nerves and release negative thoughts.
Some people may benefit from more active techniques like journaling, writing a gratitude list, exercising, focusing on a project, or changing scenery. It’s not the action itself that counts, but rather the distraction that stops spiraling thoughts in their tracks. These methods may prove more difficult for caregivers who are responsible for an older person with immediate care needs, but they are options to keep in mind when possible.
If an ounce of prevention is better than cure, then anticipating triggers is a great way to prevent negative thought patterns from developing in the first place. This can be especially helpful if you’re triggered by the heals themselves. In this case, it is important to prepare mentally beforehand.
For couples where one spouse is the caregiver, the need for a positive image of aging is two-fold, as partners can affect each other’s well-being. Research has shown that when a husband has a negative view of aging, it can lead to depression in his wife, while a wife’s negative beliefs were more likely to physically harm her husband’s health.
…when a husband has a negative view of aging, it can lead to depression in his wife, whereas a wife’s negative beliefs were more likely to physically harm her husband’s health.
So how does a positive mindset lower the risk of dementia?
“We are told the same tired stories about how we should look, act and feel at our age,” said Maria Shriver, journalist and founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. “It’s no surprise that many of us focus on the negative ways aging will change us.”
In fact, such pessimism has real implications for cell health. Depression, hostility, and a host of other negative thoughts can also cause cells to die prematurely, leading to premature aging, poor health, and cognitive decline.
Negative beliefs about aging also have behavioral and psychological effects, as Levy explained:
“In an older person with a negative view of aging, who therefore doesn’t exercise or stays intellectually engaged and experiences more stress, you may not see much regeneration; you might even see neuronal loss.
Conversely, positive beliefs about aging encourage people to pursue healthy lifestyles and behaviors, which protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.