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You’ve probably heard that positive thinking can take you far, but there’s some new evidence out there that negative thinking is equally powerful.

Two recent studies show that people with bad attitudes toward aging tend to decline faster both physically and mentally compared to their more positive peers.

The first study was published a couple of months ago. Researchers looked at decades-old questionnaires from healthy adults that measured attitudes toward aging. They compared those scores to brain scans taken more recently and found that those who had expressed negative beliefs about getting older, such as “elderly people are decrepit,” were more likely to experience changes in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s.

Yale’s Becca Levy, the lead researcher, explains it this way: “We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.”

The second study came out just last week. Similarly, it showed that people with bad attitudes toward aging came out worse down the road: They had slower walking speeds and worse cognitive abilities two years later than the subjects with positive attitudes toward aging.

I’m a big believer that the body, brain, and spirit are all connected and a deficit in one area tends to affect the others as well. The good news is that we have power over our attitudes and can influence those around us, too.

Starting now, let’s try and remember the good things about aging: Wisdom, experience, perspective, time to relax, a mature ability to regulate our emotions, and my personal favorite–grandchildren.


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