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The Lowdown Hub

7 Worst Habits for Your Brain: Bad choices and everyday missteps could be harming your cognition.


YOU ALREADY know that a bad diet and a permanent indentation on the couch aren’t good for your brain. But there are some lesser-known daily routines that could be undermining your cognition, says Jessica Caldwell, a neuropsychologist and director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at the Cleveland Clinic. Altering just one of these habits could change how your brain works—and help you age healthier and better. And it’s never too late to start: Even people with memory issues can benefit from altering harmful behaviors.


BAD HABIT 1

YOU ACCENTUATE THE NEGATIVE

Ruminating on grudges, resentments and negative thoughts won’t just keep you in a pessimistic mood; it has also been linked to a decline in cognition and memory in people 55 and older, according to a study in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Participants who repeatedly dwelled on negative thoughts had more amyloid and tau deposits in their brain, the biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.


Everyone engages in repetitive negative thinking to some degree. “It’s part of the human experience, and not everyone will develop Alzheimer’s,” says lead researcher and research psychologist Natalie Marchant. But it’s also a changeable behavior, according to Patti Johnson, a psychologist in Los Angeles and creator of the anxiety relief app Emma, the Emotional Manager for Anxiety. She suggests that the next time you’re overtaken by negative thoughts, you should:

Make a list of five specific things that you are grateful for, and focus on those.

Take some deep belly breaths, try a new task or change your focus to something in your environment.

Greet a negative thought when it pops up with “hello,” then verbally tell it “goodbye.”


BAD HABIT 2