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Learning A New Language Can Slow Aging

Learning A New Language Can Slow Aging

Feeling too old or lazy to learn a new language? Think again, for it may be worth persevering. Knowing an additional language is not only worth your while to converse with a wider audience, hitch a date or watch your favorite foreign language film without a subtitle. Researchers claim that it can have a positive effect on the brain and keep your mind sharp, no matter the age.

Strong evidence

A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh and published in Annals of Neurology reveals that people who speak two or more languages, even those who learned the second language as adults, may slow down cognitive decline from aging.

The team, led by Dr. Thomas Bak from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, relied on data from 835 native English speakers who were born and living in the area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The participants were given an intelligence test in 1947 at age 11 and then again in their early 70s, between 2008 and 2010. Findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities compared to what would be expected from their baseline. The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading.

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The effects were also present in those who learned their second language early, as well as later in life. While it’s commonly known that learning a language is easier at a young age, this study suggests that it’s never too late to start in order to promote increased intelligence and healthy brain aging.

Dr. Bak said that the pattern they found was meaningful and the improvements in attention, focus and fluency could not be explained by original intelligence.

What breakthroughs is it going to make?

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK which supported the research, said: “Over one million people in the UK aged 65 and over are estimated to have some degree of cognitive impairment. We urgently need to understand what influences cognitive ageing so that we can give people better advice about protecting their cognitive health. This latest breakthrough is another stride forward in finding out how thinking skills can be preserved in later life.”

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Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: “The epidemiological study provides an important first step in understanding the impact of learning a second language and the ageing brain. This research paves the way for future causal studies of bilingualism and cognitive decline prevention.”

“The study provides a unique research opportunity”, said Ellen Bialystok at York University in Toronto, Canada, who was first to discover that being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer’s. “You have this absolutely homogenous sample of Scottish kids – all monolingual – and you let them go off and have their lives and see what happens,” she says.

Why does it work?

It has already been previously established that being bilingual has benefits of improved decision making, memory and critical thinking. A 2013 study found that bilingual patients suffer dementia onset an average of 4.5 years later than those who speak only one language. A significant difference in age at onset was found across Alzheimer’s disease dementia as well as other kinds of dementia.

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According to researchers from the Northwestern University in the United States, bilingualism is akin to brain training as it is a form of mental workout. Their study also revealed that bilinguals respond to sound better. In the test of 48 volunteer students, they found that those that only spoke English and those that were bilingual responded to different sounds in the same way under quiet laboratory conditions. When noisy chatter was introduced, those that were bilingual were able to tune in to all the important information and blocked out unnecessary chatter.

How could languages protect the brain? A leading theory is that people who speak several languages constantly activate all the available words in each one before choosing the appropriate expression, giving them a mental workout. If you are waiting for the right time to master a new language, the time is now.

Featured image is sourced from Flickr Creative Commons.

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Featured photo credit: Shawn Econo via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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