Venting your thoughts and fears to someone you trust can be the equivalent of taking off your make-up, wearing your comfiest shirt, and slipping into bed, right? Just hearing you out helps. A 2021 Framingham Heart study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association Network, showed that having positive social interactions including having a good listener can help prevent cognitive decline and improve brain health. Researchers noted that simply having someone you can count on to listen to you most or all of the time can help improve cognitive resilience.
Cognitive resilience is a measure of your brain’s ability to function better than expected for the amount that you have physically aged, or due to disease-related changes in the brain (think dementia or Alzheimer’s). Many neurologists believe that brain health can be boosted by engaging in activities like reading, writing, playing games, and physical exercise. Having higher cognitive resilience acts as a shield and prevents brain ageing and diseases.
This study shows that one can take steps to increase their odds of slowing down cognitive ageing and prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s–a disease that we don’t have a cure for, yet.
The study included 2,171 subjects where the average age was 63. The participants assessed themselves on the availability of social and emotional support, including love, affection, advice, and listening. Researchers found that for every unit of decline in brain volume, subjects in their 40s and 50s with lower listener availability had a cognitive age that was four years older than those with a high listener availability.
When it comes to improving your or your loved one’s long-term brain health and quality of life, the solutions are sometimes simpler than we think. Ask yourself if you have someone who listens to you in a supportive manner and ask your loved ones the same.
Want to be a better listener? Here are three tips:
Listen to learn, not to be polite or to respond
Having a curious mindset can help you to have more stimulating conversations with everyone in your life. Listen to what someone is trying to say versus what you think you know they’re going to say.
Inquiring and asking questions can help put people at ease. Create a safe space for them to vent out what’s truly on their mind.
Let people complete what they’re saying before you respond
Definitely easier said than done because it can be difficult to hold back, especially when you don’t agree with what someone is saying. A good rule of thumb? Wait for five seconds after someone has finished speaking to say what’s on your mind. This will give you a moment to gather yourself and you most likely won’t end up interrupting them mid-sentence.