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ColoradoGuy
08-05-2007, 08:18 AM
I ran across this fascinating article (http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Reprints/aging.pdf) in a psychology journal about how using language, especially language that describes complex ideas and emotions, is associated with better mental health. Really—writing is good for your brain! It also is good for your body. From the article:

“Among people who write about emotional topics, certain word categories reliably predict subsequent improvements in mental health. For example, individuals who use an increasing number of words suggesting causal thinking and self-reflection have visited physicians for illness at lower rates . . . than those who do not use these word categories.”

There are many other interesting things in the article, among which is the observation, based on an analysis of authors spanning the past 500 years, that aging writers become more positive in their outlook. Again from the article:

“. . . with increasing age, individuals use more positive and fewer negative words, use fewer self-references, use more future tense and fewer past-tense verbs, and demonstrate a general pattern of increasing cognitive complexity.”

This intrigues me because recent research with animal models of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that the more an older person encounters complex situations, the longer they keep mentally sharp. So the brain really is kind of like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and using abstract language is an important part of that. (This was in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine, but unfortunately you need a subscription to read it online.)

So the more you write, the more spry your brain stays. Food for thought indeed.

Higgins
08-05-2007, 04:57 PM
I ran across this fascinating article (http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Reprints/aging.pdf) in a psychology journal about how using language, especially language that describes complex ideas and emotions, is associated with better mental health. Really—writing is good for your brain! It also is good for your body. From the article:

“Among people who write about emotional topics, certain word categories reliably predict subsequent improvements in mental health. For example, individuals who use an increasing number of words suggesting causal thinking and self-reflection have visited physicians for illness at lower rates . . . than those who do not use these word categories.”

There are many other interesting things in the article, among which is the observation, based on an analysis of authors spanning the past 500 years, that aging writers become more positive in their outlook. Again from the article:

“. . . with increasing age, individuals use more positive and fewer negative words, use fewer self-references, use more future tense and fewer past-tense verbs, and demonstrate a general pattern of increasing cognitive complexity.”

This intrigues me because recent research with animal models of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that the more an older person encounters complex situations, the longer they keep mentally sharp. So the brain really is kind of like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and using abstract language is an important part of that. (This was in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine, but unfortunately you need a subscription to read it online.)

So the more you write, the more spry your brain stays. Food for thought indeed.

I like the idea, after all, according to most recent studies, only writing and THC will literally blow the crap off your neurons as you become an aged mass of decaying gunk....but why is "more positive" the same as becoming more cognitively complex? Does it mean that as you get older it takes a lot more thinking to find anything pleasant?
Or that if you manage to survive, you have built up some cognitive moves to keep you amused?

Lyra Jean
08-05-2007, 07:32 PM
No wonder I haven't had any major illnesses. I thought it was due to playing in the ditch behind my house. Now I know it was from my writing.

This is really cool to know thanks.

Oh it's mental health. Yeah well I think Alzeimers runs in my family so I'm going to continue writing.

wayndom
08-20-2007, 06:40 AM
I like the idea, after all, according to most recent studies, only writing and THC will literally blow the crap off your neurons as you become an aged mass of decaying gunk....but why is "more positive" the same as becoming more cognitively complex? Does it mean that as you get older it takes a lot more thinking to find anything pleasant?
Or that if you manage to survive, you have built up some cognitive moves to keep you amused?

Or here's a negative interpretation: You've given up the fight, and accept life and the world for what they are, not what you'd like them to be.

Personally, I have my own thoughts on aging. About ten years ago, I was pulled over by a traffic cop for a bogus speeding rap (I was doing 40 on a six-lane road with no pedestrian traffic and no intersections -- everyone always does 40 on it, but occasionally, the cops issue a random ticket).

The cop played the, "you know why I pulled you over?" game, and I replied politely, and called him "sir" without rancor or irony. He let me off without a ticket.

I thought: "My gawd! At age 47 (or whatever I was), I've finally learned how to act like a grown-up!"

I formulated Smith's Theory of the Wisdom of Age: It's not the result of accumulated knowledge. It's the result of one's glands finally slowing down enough to allow me to act on my knowledge, instead of on impulse.

I think my theory goes to the heart of the question. Your glands calm down with age, and things just don't look as dire as they did when you were younger.

Footnote: Also, you've survived so many things you didn't think you would, that you take a more jaded view of impending disaster.

kdnxdr
08-26-2007, 07:27 AM
To impending disaster, I say, "peeshaw!"

gingerwoman
10-07-2007, 03:02 AM
Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that the more an older person encounters complex situations, the longer they keep mentally sharp.
You know this really annoys me. I read this over and over again and it was based on ONE study done with nuns.
My mother had a PhD, taught at the medical school, did cross word puzzels in her spare time and came down with a very aggressive form of Alzheimer's in her 50s which she died from in her 60s.
Sorry I'm just sick of hearing about this one study.

That being said I'm not negating the fact that WRITING may be good for your brain.

ColoradoGuy
10-07-2007, 05:13 AM
You know this really annoys me. I read this over and over again and it was based on ONE study done with nuns.
My mother had a PhD, taught at the medical school, did cross word puzzels in her spare time and came down with a very aggressive form of Alzheimer's in her 50s which she died from in her 60s.
Sorry I'm just sick of hearing about this one study.

That being said I'm not negating the fact that WRITING may be good for your brain.
So you postulate a calling to become a nun is a confounding variable because such women's brains are different? Anecdotes like yours (and mine, too--my mother was an English Literature professor who died demented) are not data, although they are often use to generate hypothesis that can be tested with clinical studies.

JoNightshade
10-07-2007, 05:16 AM
I knew I didn't need to do those stupid sudoku puzzles to keep my brain in shape.

ColoradoGuy
10-07-2007, 05:18 AM
Just get thee to a nunnery.

Azraelsbane
10-07-2007, 05:24 AM
I think it's nice that writing keeps the brain in shape. I know it was the only thing that's kept me from going to a psychiatrist when I was younger. That makes me wonder, is it only helpful to mental health while we're lost in our fantasy worlds? Is that perhaps the problem with author suicide? Writing is an escape from the outside world, but sooner or later you have to deal with it anyway.

Perhaps mentally unstable writers feel they don't need doctors to help them through their emotional trauma, and while it works for awhile, in the end the separation between the writer and the real world becomes too much to handle.

Just a thought.

Hapax Legomenon
10-09-2007, 04:02 AM
I like the idea, after all, according to most recent studies, only writing and THC will literally blow the crap off your neurons as you become an aged mass of decaying gunk....but why is "more positive" the same as becoming more cognitively complex? Does it mean that as you get older it takes a lot more thinking to find anything pleasant?
Or that if you manage to survive, you have built up some cognitive moves to keep you amused?

Well, when I read 'more positive', I believed it meant more along the lines of using active adjectives and whatnot. As opposed to something being 'not good,' it's 'bad,' as opposed to being 'not moving,' it's 'resting,' etc., but I'm not sure, I haven't read a lot of papers on English.

aruna
11-25-2007, 01:48 PM
I ran across this fascinating article (http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Reprints/aging.pdf) in a psychology journal about how using language, especially language that describes complex ideas and emotions, is associated with better mental health. Really—writing is good for your brain! It also is good for your body. From the article:

“Among people who write about emotional topics, certain word categories reliably predict subsequent improvements in mental health. For example, individuals who use an increasing number of words suggesting causal thinking and self-reflection have visited physicians for illness at lower rates . . . than those who do not use these word categories.”

There are many other interesting things in the article, among which is the observation, based on an analysis of authors spanning the past 500 years, that aging writers become more positive in their outlook. Again from the article:




This doesn't surprise me in the least...!
The knowledge of how words effect the brain is the basis of the ancient practice of repetition of Mantars, especially Sanskrit ones. The effect on the brain in terms of improved mood, attitude and outlook, and in the long term, enhanced ageing, is simply amazing. Nowadays people tend to ridicule words like OM and so on but they should just try it--seriously and with an open mind--for an hour. Those old Sanskrit guys really knew their stuff.