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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 December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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