We are what we eat but also what ... we think. In fact, as shown by a recent study published in the Alzheimer's and Dementia journal by a team of the University College London, repetitive negative thoughts can increase the risk of dementia.
Scientists have already known that depression and anxiety during middle age and old age represent a risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the long run. But the researchers went further and tried to understand what exactly, in these conditions, could be the cause of an increased risk for brain health. Almost 300 people were followed for two years asking them to compile a diary in which they should write down every time they thought about negative experiences, how often they found themselves brooding over the past and how many times they had worries for the future. The study participants were also followed to evaluate their mental health, with tests of memory, attention, spatial cognition and language. Moreover, one third of people underwent also diagnostic tests performed with PET to measure deposits of amyloid beta and tau proteins, the cause of Alzheimer's disease. What emerged was that people that had a higher number of repetitive negative thoughts showed, in the long run, about 4 years, an increase in cognitive and memory decline and, in addition, it was also more likely to observe, in these people, accumulations of beta amyloid proteins and tau proteins.
The authors of the research add that their hope is that, by reducing repetitive negative thoughts with meditation and mindfulness techniques, it could be possible to reduce the risk of developing dementia. However, this promising research is still ongoing. In the meantime, while waiting for the results from science, being able to reduce negative thoughts, the action of brooding over the past and fears for the future may certainly be useful to bring out talents and resources and to solve problems. By distracting the brain from these mental cages, in fact, we leave it free to find solutions. The great psychiatrist Raffaele Morelli says that it is important to detach yourself for a moment from the problem, instead of continuing to wear yourself out mentally, try to stop and look at a landscape, or get lost in a manual activity such as making bread or taking care of a vegetable garden.