Recent Study Finds that Worrying Too Much Changes Your Brain
You’re not alone if the pandemic, and all of the school, job, and community concerns that go with it, weigh heavy on your mind. But, worry can actually harm your brain (as if you needed something else to worry about.) A new study gives us a concrete reason to stop worrying.
Recent research shows that worry actually changes the structures in your brain, and not in a good way.
Researchers found that senior citizens who had negative thoughts on a regular basis were more likely to show signs of cognitive decline and memory loss than seniors who were more positive.
Chronic worriers also had higher levels of beta-amyloid proteins, which create the brain plaques that are associated with brain degenerative disorders like Altzheimer’s disease. These plaques appear in scans even in the early stages of Altzheimer’s.
This study suggests that there may be a relationship between anxiety and dementia, as patients with anxiety and depression typically exhibit patterns of worry.
Does worry happen to us, or do we choose to worry?There’s a saying that “energy flows where attention goes.” There’s some truth to that, even in a physical context. It’s as if worry begets worry.
Have you ever been in a situation where you worry about a small matter, and after your brain has been churning on it for a time, your “what ifs” have exaggerated and become terrifying?
Worry has a way of keeping you hyper-focused on the object of your worry, to the point that it evolves into something that might happen, and then warps into situations that probably won’t happen. Nonetheless, your fight-or-flight switches on until it passes, or until you can talk yourself down from it.
The key is to develop stress management techniques so that you can start the process of quieting your fight-or-flight before it turns into a cycle of compounding stress.
Gratitude on the other hand rewires your brain too – toward positivityDid you know that an intentional gratitude practice can make you feel more positive throughout the day?
It’s true. Making a habit of scanning your world and finding things to be grateful for can change your entire outlook on life after a while. Researchers found that gratitude was associated with a thicker prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which is a characteristic that they found was tied to life satisfaction.
How to practice gratitude on purpose
- Start a gratitude journal. Just a few lines a day are all you need to notice a positive change.
- Start a gratitude habit at mealtime or bedtime, and involve your family. Ask everyone to share one gratitude.
- Pause several times throughout the day and name something you’re grateful for. - After a few days, you’ll start noticing the small details that bring you joy.