Word-Of-the-Week #930: Shush

June 2, 2022 by  

Shush to silence or calm. 

Do you talk to yourself like you would a good friend? Do you believe that with age comes wisdom?

This week features excerpts from Parade Magazine “Never Say “I’M TOO OLD FOR THAT!” How to shush your negative inner voice and think positively” by Paula Spencer Scott.

“We all have a voice in our heads. It reminds us what’s on the grocery list, rehearses what to say next, encourages good choices and psyches us up. But sometimes that inner voice causes more harm than good. It might say, I’m too old for that! I’m not good enough. Who do you think you are? They’ll never hire you. Or, OMG, what if what if what if what if…! 

The truth is, when it comes to your inner voice, “bad is stronger than good,” says University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross, author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It. “We’re wired to notice the negative stuff more.”

 That can undermine reasoning and decision-making skills (older adults who believe stereotypes about aging are more likely to do worse on cognitive tests). 

Negative mental chatter can spiral to anxiety and depression, Kross says. Replaying a worry in your head stimulates a stress response, over and over. At toxic levels, this can lead to inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer. In fact, repetitive negative thinking has been linked to faster cognitive decline. On the other hand, a 2018 study found that people who held positive age beliefs were 49 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, even if they had a high-risk gene for it. Read on to shush your negative inner voice. 

  • Talk to yourself like you would a good friend. 

Use your own name and the word “you.” You’ll bring so much good experience to that job, Jane! “The links in the mind are incredibly tight, so when you refer to yourself the way you refer to others, you’re thrust into adviser mode. You shift perspective and it’s easier to wade through difficulties,” Kross says. 

  • Think about how you’ll feel tomorrow. 

Shifting to a future view highlights the impermanence of present woes. “I’ll say to myself, Ethan, how are you going to feel about it in the morning?” 

  • Talk to someone who will broaden your perspective. 

Venting may feel good in the moment. But avoid passive listeners or like-minded friends. It’s more productive to go over things with a confidante who’ll help you broaden your perspective and think through options. 

  • Reframe your situation as a challenge – not a threat. 

For example, focus on how getting older brings wisdom and new opportunities, rather than on losses. 

  • Stop doomscrolling. 

We’ve been living through “the biggest chatter period of the last 100 years,” Kross says. All that negative chatter – Political polarization, the pandemic, inflation and war brought two feelings that weaken our inner cheerleader: uncertainty and lack of control. Is it any wonder that there have been spikes in road rage and general incivility?” 

  • Get outside 

Green spaces reset our attention, which negative chatter depletes. Outdoors, we often feel the emotion of awe, being in the presence of something vast or indescribable (the Grand Canyon, a tree, a cathedral). Awe triggers us to think beyond ourselves—and magically shrinks the pesky voice in our head, Kross says. 

This week’s focus is to shush. Do you have a confidante that broadens your perspective? Can you let your inner voice focus on the positive instead of the negative? Have you ever asked yourself how you’ll feel about it tomorrow or next week or next year?

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