If You Think You’re Old, You’ll Get Old

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The kind of information you give your brain is important. If you keep dreaming, actively designing the rest of your life, your brain will be filled with hope and a new sense of expectation. It will help you keep your body and mind healthier, fully mobilizing your muscles, bones, organs, nervous system, and hormones.

Many studies show that thinking positively or negatively about aging actually affects your quality of life in old age, as well as your lifespan. According to one study led by Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London, people who thought of themselves as younger than their actual age lived approximately 50 percent more years during the course of the study than those who thought of themselves as older than they are.

Even more surprising, some research has shown that when we think, “I’m old,” our brain’s abilities decline. Dr. Thomas Hess of North Carolina State University performed memory tests on people ages 60 through 82 and compared those who thought negatively about their age and memory with those who had a positive outlook. Individuals who had negative attitudes about their age scored lower. In other words, negative thoughts such as “My memory is poor because I’m old” or “My memory is going to be poor because I’m an old man, and people despise me because of this” actually make memory worse.

According to a report on a two-year study of 4,135 older people in Ireland, participants who had negative attitudes toward aging walked more slowly and had worse cognitive abilities than those who had a more positive outlook. Interestingly, exactly the same results were seen even when changes in medications or other factors affecting mood and health were taken into consideration. Deidre Robertson, Ph.D., lead researcher for the study, said, “The way we think, speak, and write about aging directly affects our health. Everyone ages, but if we have a negative attitude toward aging throughout our lives, it can have a measurable, harmful effect on our mental, physical, and cognitive health.”

You’ve probably heard about the “placebo” and “nocebo” effects. The placebo effect is a phenomenon by which even a fake medicine with no efficacy at all has a real effect if the user believes it will be effective. In contrast, the nocebo effect is when a medication that is actually effective is shown to have no effect in users who don’t believe in its potency. Both show us the powerful impact that our thoughts can have on our bodies and minds.

Giving ourselves positive, hopeful messages in our old age is critical for brain health. The brain operates most vigorously and exhibits its highest performance when we are joyful, when we feel happy, and when we think of ourselves as noble beings.

Information is brain food. Just as we need to concern ourselves with the food we eat to protect our physical health, we need to concern ourselves with information for the sake of our brain’s health. If you eat the wrong food, you may get indigestion or food poisoning, gain or lose weight, become sick, or even die. In the same way, some information gives us hopes and dreams, while other information makes us discouraged, angry, or sad. Good information makes a good brain, just as healthy food makes a healthy body.

What sort of messages and information are you giving your brain concerning old age? What information are you accepting from others? Boldly reject socially accepted ideas that don’t help you live your later years in health, happiness, and fullness. No matter how much depressing information the media pumps out, you can decide what attitude you will have about growing old. The second half of life is a time when we can complete our lives as we desire. Love this time and consider it precious and meaningful. Ceaselessly inspire your brain with messages that bring you expectation, passion, dreams, and hopes.

This passage is excerpted from Ilchi Lee’s “I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation.”

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