Encouraging older people to spend some time every day going over their thoughts, feelings and behaviour could be the key to cutting Alzheimer’s risk. That’s according to a study led by researchers from University College London that found just ten minutes of daily self-reflection can make a difference.
The practice was linked to significantly improved cognition and brain health in data analysed from 259 individuals. The participants had an average age of 70 and were asked questions about how often they spend time contemplating their thoughts and feelings.
Those who engaged in more self-reflection were found to have better memory, concentration and problem-solving skills. It has not been determined why this may be the case, but reducing stress and improving mental health are among the possibilities.
Lead author Harriet Demnitz-King said: “There is a growing body of evidence finding that positive psychological factors, such as purpose in life and conscientiousness, may reduce the risk of dementia.
“Anyone can engage in self-reflection and potentially increase how much they self-reflect, as it is not dependent on physical health or socioeconomic factors.”
While scientists around the world are working on treatments for Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, there’s currently no cure. Many experts advocate for lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating and exercise to reduce risk factors.
The study has been backed by the Alzheimer’s Society, which suggested it could lead to physiological treatments to help reduce the risk of developing the condition in the future. Finding ways to encourage elderly people to build healthy thought patterns could help reverse the trend for increased Alzheimer’s diagnoses.
Ms Demnitz-King added: “Self-reflection is all about stepping back and trying not to be so harsh on yourself – actively evaluating our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. So when we’re feeling down or there’s a problem, it’s trying to think about how we can solve it – not getting stuck in these negative thinking styles and thinking of solutions.”
It’s estimated by the Alzheimer’s Society that around 900,000 people are living with dementia in the UK. One person will develop the condition every three minutes this year and by 2040, there could be 1.6 million dementia patients in this country.