Gloomy Thinking is Contagious, and can Lead to Depression and to Dementia

Every close relationship (eg, romantic; marriage; boss and employee; parent and child) can be described by a positive circle and a negative circle. If the positive circle is larger, the relationship tends to succeed, and vice versa. The success of a relationship can depend on which circle we emphasize. If we emphasize the positive, that circle tends to grow, and God may even amplify the circle further. And vice versa. Therefore, one key in a good relationship is to emphasize the positive rather than the negative.

Within this context, problems come to everyone, rich or poor. How we respond to them is critical. Can we respond positively? Or do we react negatively? How resilient are we? Resilience is a relatively new word that has crept into education theory……it’s now become popular to teach our kids about this. Sports is a good way to learn resilience.

Two different styles of thinking. Katherine Streeter for NPR. Click on image to enlarge, or to reference source.

New research at Notre Dame University has studied pairs of students who board together.
The study found that some students had a positive attitude, while others had a negative attitude. “One student fails the exam and thinks to herself, I’m dumb, I’m worthless. I can’t believe I failed this exam.

The same student may also engage in catastrophic thinking, imagining that because she failed the exam, she’s going to fail the class or even flunk out of college. By contrast, although the other student also tells herself it was disappointing to fail, she puts it down to a lack of preparation. She tells herself, I’ll work harder next time”.

When a positive attitude roomed with a negative attitude, the study revealed that both moved toward the middle after a period of 3-6 months. That is, the positive student became less positive, and the negative became less negative. Beneficial result for the negative, but a downer for the positive!

So a negative (brooding) personality can infect an upbeat positive personality…. one’s personality is contagious, at least if living in close quarters! We have heard the distinction between balcony people and basement people, and it’s not uncommon to hear a person say “I cannot stay long with him or her, as they are so negative and they drag me down”. As the authors of the study say “You can catch someone’s style of thinking like you can catch a cold or the flu”. One of my buddies said “I love to choose balcony people as my friends because I usually go home with a happy face”.

A key learning is that some internal personality traits are malleable and, with time and effort, people can teach themselves new positive habits and attitudes.

However the consequences of staying negative can be fatal.The student who takes an exam failure too personally, and applies that failure to a bunch of other problems in the future, is at a higher risk of depression compared with the student who puts the failure down to circumstances and bounces back from it.

Vincent van Gogh’s 1890 painting Sorrowing old man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’). To reference source, click on image.

A separate study suggests that depression in middle age and beyond, may lead to dementia in old age. It was found that the risk for dementia nearly doubled among people who had suffered depression after the age of 50.
To quote from the article: “One psychologist looked at ways to help older adults prevent depression.

In his study, counselors visited people in their homes, looking for problems that could lead to depression including difficulty sleeping, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and social isolation. Each participant met with a counselor for six to eight sessions; the counselor helped people tackle these problems themselves.

As a result, the grim predictions that one in four older adults would suffer major depression just didn’t pan out for this group. Over a period of two years, the incidence of depression was reduced from 25 percent to about 8 – 9 percent”. This was true for both black and white older adults, as well as those with low and moderate incomes.

As the coangel Michelle kept urging us humans in Hiking Toward Heaven “Please help someone to hope”.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah, chapter 40).

“Blessed – happy, fortunate — is the man whose strength is in You; in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Passing through the valley of weeping they make it a place of springs;…..They go from strength to strength — increasing in victorious power” (Psalm 84).

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