How to stay young and overcome negative thinking – Dubai Psychologist, Aamnah Hussain, speaks with Gulf News

Aamnah Hussain, Clinical Psychologist at the German Neuroscience Center, provides much-needed answers for some pressing questions:

Why do people start ageing earlier than they should?

People start ageing earlier when they experience a lot of stress that is not managed well, because stress impacts every aspect of our well-being. One may also feel/seem older when one begins to restrict one’s engagement with the world, with people and activities, or when one feels overburdened and unable to take care of self. Some people age earlier because they have limiting beliefs about older age.

Why is it so hard for people to think positive?

As humans we have certain instincts and intellectual abilities that have ensured our survival as a species, but they can have negative consequences for us and don’t necessarily make us very happy. One of these is our wonderful ability to think. To form mental images, hold them in our memory, project them in the future. It surely helps us plan and organize, problem solve and achieve goals but we dont always have control over our thinking and it can often have a negativity bias. Evolutionarily speaking, it is important for the brain to remember negative events and to keep scanning the future for any signs of trouble, to avoid pain and problems and to keep us protected. Thus many of us often find ourselves ruminating about the past or worrying and stressing about different scenarios in the future. If there have been traumas in our past, very painful events, then this can increase our tendency to think more negatively. The more we exercise these circuits of the brain, the stronger they get, the more persistent the negative thinking.

How can this be reversed?

Talking about and expressing yourself during difficult times can help you process your thoughts and feelings and gain new perspective and being socially connected and having strong support networks are very helpful. Bringing awareness to your negative thinking, evaluating it and replacing it with more positive self talk is also very beneficial. Practice staying in the moment rather than jumping to the future or the past, and also practice being in touch with your body’s experience rather than always being in your head, can also help reduce negativity. Mindfulness meditation is a particular evidence based practice that is easy to use and can help you develop a different relationship with your thoughts and emotions, such that they do not take control of you anymore.

How can you feel young as you grow older?

Enjoy what you already have, develop the capacity for gratitude for the small wonders of life, practice viewing each moment as if it is the first time you are witnessing such an experience. Accept and celebrate your own self and maintain a healthy support system. Embrace change and novelty, because when we encounter new things, situations or challenges, our brain grows and develops. Respect and show compassion to your mind and your body, respect your limitations and draw good boundaries in relationships. Take out time to practice positivity, laughter, a break from the chatter of the mind and strengthen those circuits of the brain.

The full original article was published in Gulf News