How can negative self-talk influence Alzheimer’s disease?
Studies show that 80% of our daily thoughts are negative. This inner voice, self-talk, can be physically and mentally damaging and influences how we feel about ourselves and/or who we are. The way we talk to ourselves has a powerful impact on our mental and physical health, as well as our quality of life.
In a study published by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Journal, researchers found that “repetitive negative thinking” (RNT) is linked to later cognitive decline as well as the deposition of harmful brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers urge further investigative studies of RNT as a potential risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to see if these might reduce the risk of dementia.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr Natalie Marchant of University College London – Psychiatry: “Depression and anxiety in middle-aged and older people are already known to be risk factors of dementia. Here, we found that certain thought patterns implicated in depression and anxiety could be an underlying reason why people with these disorders are more likely to develop dementia. Along with other studies, which establish a link between depression and anxiety and dementia risk, we expect chronic negative thought patterns over a long period of time may increase risk We do not believe the evidence suggests that short-term setbacks would increase risk risk of dementia. We hope that our results could be used to develop strategies to reduce people’s risk of dementia by helping them reduce their negative thought patterns.
Harvard University’s Stress and Development Lab identifies 10 common types of negative talk we can experience. These types include:
- 1) All or nothing thinking;
- 2) overgeneralization;
- 3) mental filters;
- 4) disqualifying the positive;
- 5) jump to conclusions;
- 6) enlargement or minimization of things;
- 7) “should” statements;
- 8) emotional reasoning;
- 9) labelling;
- 10) customization.
By recognizing when we fall into one of these types of self-talk, we can reevaluate our understanding of our particular situations, which are helpful in maintaining a positive attitude and quality of life.
Psychotherapist David Baker notes, “Whenever that voice offers the negative dimension or a negative idea, it reinforces and becomes who we are. I think that’s really the wrong question. The right question is: ‘Why is it here?’ Negative self-talk is a symptom, so there is something else going on deep within the psyche that brings this symptom to the surface and emerges as negative self-talk.
While countering our negative self-talk is often difficult, training the mind and shifting perspective, as well as practicing affirmations, can help cast off the negative thoughts and feelings that define us. There is no “off” switch to negative thinking, and we should listen to those thoughts, acknowledge them, and then let them go. Meditation, keeping a gratitude journal, and consciously practicing more control over our thoughts are a few ways to combat negative self-talk. Experts say to talk to each other as you would encourage a friend, and to not think less of yourself, but think less of yourself.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, author of the upcoming book “What My Grandkids Taught Me About Alzheimer’s Disease”, at firstname.lastname@example.org.