‘Glass half full or glass half empty?’ Many of us will fall into one of these categories. Now there has been a study undertaken which shows that if you are in the latter category, there may be some consequences for your mental health.
The study of 350 people aged over 55 carried out by University College London has shown that repeated negative thinking may increase the risk of developing dementia in later life. Constant dwelling on negative thoughts, negative events in the past or worrying excessively about the future and what might happen, cause the brain to develop certain proteins – tau and amyloid –which are closely associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The connections between long term depression and dementia in later life have already been studied and it is generally accepted that those suffering from chronic depression throughout their life may be more likely to develop dementia. Short episodes of depression or occasional periods of negative thoughts are not thought to have a significant effect on the likelihood of developing dementia, but those who have a more negative outlook in life or who are chronically negative over a long period of time may also be influencing their long term mental health. Further studies are however required in order to determine with certainty whether negative thinking is a direct cause of dementia and whether this is true for the general population as a whole.
If we are susceptible to negative thoughts and pessimism, there are ways we can control and even overcome these tendencies. Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be helpful not only in the treatment in some cases of depression, but also in improving mood and outlook generally and for anyone whether they suffer from depression or not. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a technique frequently used in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, works on the premise of viewing situations in alternative, more positive ways and thus developing methods of coping with those situations.
Techniques such as these can be particularly helpful in maintaining general mental health in challenging situations when it can sometimes be difficult to keep a positive outlook.
Our mental health has a direct effect on physical health and vice versa. By remaining positive we not only make it easier to deal with difficult situations and make us and those around us happier, we are also helping our mental and physical well-being both now and as we get older.