“Positive Affect” Influences Memory in Older Age

Cultivating positivity not only makes one more likely to attract other cheerful people, but research has found that an optimistic and enthusiastic mindset can have an impact on healthy aging.  Older adults who report feeling positive emotions more often also experience a less sharp decline in memory over a period of nearly ten years. 

According to a recent Science Daily report, researchers from Northwestern University analyzed data from 991 middle-aged and older Americans who participated in a national study conducted in three time periods between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014.   Study participants reported on a range of positive emotions they experienced in the past 30 days in each time period.  In the last two assessments, they also completed memory tests.  The “positive affect” among people who feel cheerful and enthusiastic more often was associated with less memory decline over the 9-year study.  

Memory may diminish naturally with age but there are steps middle-aged and older adults can take to slow cognitive decline.  Stay physically active, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol, and eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet are all associated with better overall brain health.  Social interaction and learning new skills can also promote cognitive and physical well-being.  By nurturing a positive mindset, adults can live a better, more engaged, meaningful, and independent older age. 

Having trouble finding your bliss?  You can start today to train your brain to think more positively instead of always going towards the negative.  Having a few tools at the ready when negative thoughts and worry creep in too often is the key to keeping an optimistic attitude. 

Tips to Shift Your Mindset

  • Try creating a gratitude journal. Write down something that you are grateful for each day; things that make you smile.  
  • Take a deep breath and allow negative thoughts to pass by can help halt the cycle of pessimism.
  • Listen to uplifting music – dance and sing out any bad vibes.
  • Go outside and take in all the sights, smells, and sounds. 
  • Spend time with people who bring you joy and foster a positive outlook.

Learn more about how to stay positive by following this link to a recent Psychology Today post.