A New Study Has Revealed a Whole New Brain Booster

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Keeping our minds in good working order is incredibly important, especially as we age. Dementia, defined as a loss of cognitive functioning severe enough to interfere with daily activities, affects approximately 55 million people worldwide. If that number isn’t staggering enough, it’s estimated that one person in the world develops dementia every three seconds.

Researchers have worked hard to identify risk factors for dementia in order to develop recommendations for prevention. Regular physical activity, managing your weight and maintaining your blood pressure are all positively correlated with reduced risk of dementia.

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Recently, startling research has found that regular self-reflection — taking time to sit down and think about your actions and emotions — helps improve cognitive function.

Here’s an overview of how self-reflection can improve brain health and how to use it to your advantage.

What is self-reflection?

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Self-reflection, as the term suggests, refers to the process of becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Self-reflection requires you to be aware not only of what you are doing or thinking, but also of the potential reasons and motivations behind those thoughts and actions.

Self-reflection can be done at a high level, assessing your overall life trajectory from a bird’s eye view. This type of self-reflection allows a person to visualize their goals and desires for the future and gives them a sense of purpose.

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At a more granular level, self-reflection can provide insight into our daily reactions and feelings. For example, self-reflection can be used to assess an interaction with a family member that made you feel sad. Maybe that family member misunderstood what you were trying to say or made you feel like your opinion didn’t matter. Watching the situation and reflecting on what happened and why it made you feel a certain way allows us to learn and unlock parts of ourselves that allow us to better understand why we are the way we are. are.

How does self-reflection benefit brain health?

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In a recent study published in Neurologythe researchers wanted to expand on early findings that mindfulness and purpose reduce the risk of dementia.

Because self-reflection is linked to both, researchers asked senior participants questions about their self-reflection habits to determine how often they take the time to unpack their feelings and thoughts.

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Those who reported engaging in self-reflective behaviors more often showed better cognitive function and improved glucose metabolism, which is essential for fueling the brain.

This discovery is remarkable. Although a decrease in physical abilities may limit a person’s ability to get the recommended amount of exercise or maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of dementia, self-reflection is a habit that anyone can to participate. the kick of it.

How to Practice Self-Reflection

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The idea of ​​taking time out to think about yourself might seem silly, especially to those who haven’t tried it yet. But with a growing body of evidence showing just how beneficial it can be, there’s never been a better time to try self-reflection. Here are some tips on how to use self-reflection to improve brain health.

1. Start by asking questions

Self-reflection does not come easily to everyone. If you don’t know where to start, making a list of questions that get you thinking can help your self-reflection process. Here are some thoughtful questions to consider:

What do I take for granted?

What goals am I working towards?

What am I most worried about right now?

What matters most to me?

If an answer doesn’t come to you right away, take the time to sit down and think. You may be surprised at the thoughts and feelings that these simple questions unlock.

2. Find a comfortable space

Some people may find it easy to practice self-reflection in any environment. But choosing a place to do it with intention can benefit the process of self-reflection. Take the time to experiment with sitting in different parts of your home. You may find that self-reflection is difficult to engage in while sitting at your kitchen table, but much easier while lying on your couch. Choosing a place with minimal distractions is also beneficial, such as sitting away from your TV or computer.

3. Keep self-reflection constructive

Taking the time to sit down with your thoughts and feelings through self-reflection can be a healthy habit to adopt. However, sometimes well-meaning self-reflection can start to skew negatively – especially when we become hyper-focused on a certain worry or concern.

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If you find yourself judging your actions in a way that constantly puts you down, pay attention to that pattern and find a way to break it. It may be necessary to walk away from reflecting on a certain thought, feeling, or action on your part until you can be more kind and understanding with yourself.

4. Start a journal

Putting a pen to paper can help jump-start the process of self-reflection and allow you to look back on the progress you’ve made. Consider keeping a daily journal and setting aside time each day to write down what you experienced that day. How have your interactions with others made you feel? What activities have you done that made you feel healthy? What goals did you work towards? What are you grateful for today? Many people find that self-reflection is easier to do when there’s an action like writing behind it, so you might want to give it a try.

5. Ask for help when needed

If you’re having trouble with self-reflection or if it’s brought up something that’s been difficult for you to process, there’s no shame in seeking professional help. Therapists often use self-reflection as a tool with their clients and can help guide your process so that it is beneficial rather than harmful.

Summary

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As dementia becomes more prevalent, it is crucial to engage in activities that benefit our cognitive function. Whether you’re new to self-reflection or have tried inconsistently, incorporating this practice into your daily routine can help keep your mind sharp. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, sticking to self-reflection can be helpful.

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