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  • Writer's pictureMeredith McNerney

Want to slow down the aging process? Learn How!

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with my amazing girlfriends from college. It seems that we are always talking about ways in which we are each growing and changing. Every time we are together we end up sharing unique challenges we are facing and we spend plenty of time encouraging and edifying one another. At this point in my life I have carefully weeded out friendships that drain me. I keep a distance from negative women (and men) and new research out of Stanford affirms why positive friendships are super important to brain health.

First it’s important to understand how cognitive health is developed and diminished. Brain function including attention, memory, and decision making are directly aligned to self efficacy. What we believe about ourselves and our ability to be successful has a lot to do with our actual cognitive health; which has a direct impact on how we age. According to Stanford Center on Longevity, “brain diseases grow more common with age and threaten the well-being of older people and their families.” This isn’t surprising, but how many of us are actually committed to improving life satisfaction through specific brain interventions?

Love yourself. Be curious. Wander. Grow.

Hammond & Feinstein (2005) studied the strong correlation between self-efficacy, lifelong learning, and well-being. Researchers found that our own self-efficacy about health and wellness directly impacts individuals ability to cope effectively with stressful circumstances. Bandura (1997) suggests that self-efficacy also directly aligns to anxiety disorders, depression and dependency on drugs. Our mindset toward our own abilities has also been linked to our ability to manage pain, perform athletically, find fulfillment in occupational roles, produce creativity at home and in the workplace and experience effective social relationships. Thus, greater self-confidence and mindset toward oneself has a lot to do with how well we age.

Stress, health complaints and self-confidence are all interrelated. For example, some women struggle to believe they are good enough. They may feel they have a lot of societal expectations placed on them because Western societies sexually objectify the female body which often teaches women to internalize the need to obsess about their bodies (Hildingh C, Luepker RV, Baigi A, & Lidell E. 2006) . Demands around work and their social life along with health and beauty expectations may cause some women to become plagued by the need for perfectionism. All of this leads to an increase in stress and a decrease in self-efficacy (Hammond & Feinstein 2005).

So what does this research tell us? Basically, a lack of confidence contributes to fears that impacts our ability to learn and grow. The correlation between aging and self-efficacy is huge. Feelings of success in learning give us confidence in our abilities and a tremendous sense of pride which has a positive impact on our cognitive abilities (Hammond & Feinstein 2005).

This begs the question, “How do we build self efficacy and cognitive health in adulthood?” Adults, especially women, “may be motivated to learn in a familiar and safe setting with others” (Hammond & Feinstein, 2005). Thus, we need support and guidance to learn specific tools for self-improvement. Social relationships really do matter. Healthy friendships can serve as a way to motivate and inspire one another. Committing to being a lifelong learner is another intervention that has incredible benefits to developing cognitive health. Thus, we all need to be willing to try new things, have the confidence to fail, and try again. This is what excites our brains and keeps us young!


Bandura, A. (1997) Self-efficacy: the exercise of control (New York, W. H. Freeman & Company).

Hammond, C. c. hammond@ioe. ac. u., & Feinstein, L. (2005). The effects of adult learning on self‐efficacy 1. London Review of Education, 3(3), 265–287.

Hildingh C, Luepker RV, Baigi A, & Lidell E. (2006). Stress, health complaints and self-confidence: a comparison between young adult women in Sweden and USA.

London Review of Education Vol. 3, No. 3, November 2005, pp. 265–287.

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