Top Ten Things to do to Protect Your Mental Health as You Age
The relationship between aging and mental health is a study in contrast. On the one hand, as we get closer to retirement, there is an elation at the anticipation of new freedom and a whole new world of opportunities. But this stage of life also has its hurdles which can elicit some emotional responses. The empty nest, lots of unscheduled time on our hands, a new financial reality, or the loss of loved ones are just a few of the circumstances that can be daunting.
Paying attention to maintaining your overall psychological wellbeing will enhance your ability to manage your feelings and deal with whatever challenges are in your path.
Check out these 10 tips for supporting your emotional wellness.
Join the Party
As social creatures, we thrive on positive connections to others. Socializing is critical to our mental health even as small children. In today’s world we can reach out to each other in a myriad of ways, but nothing is as uplifting and psychologically beneficial as getting together with friends and sharing a face to face experience. If you are a part of an active adult community, it’s easy to create and nurture new relationships through the vast array of social opportunities.
The mind and body are inexorably linked. Improve your physical health and your spirits will automatically reap the benefits. Regular exercise and the release of endorphins will not only lift your mood, and provide added energy, it will also decrease stress, improve memory, and help you sleep better. The good news for those who are not exercise enthusiasts: You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic. Even modest amounts of activity will have a positive impact on your psychological health.
Go Out and Play
Now that you’ve got the time, use it to have fun. It’s okay to indulge yourself and spend time doing things strictly because they make you feel good. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s an emotional and mental health necessity. Whether you treat a friend to a silly movie, take a walk on the beach, hop on a chaise lounge and listen to your favorite music, read a good book or grab a neighbor to go for coffee, the more you relax and enjoy, the calmer and happier you will be.
While meditation trains your brain to focus and improve your attention, it also decreases anxiety levels and helps manage stress. If meditation is too sedentary for you, try tai chi, or yoga. Namaste.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s never too late to try…whatever comes to mind that will finish that sentence! New experiences keep us interested and sharp while providing a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Take up a new language, try a musical instrument, or join a new club. As you broaden your horizons, you will also stimulate your brain, and contribute to your emotional health.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Experts advise taking a moment before bed to acknowledge three reasons to be grateful. Research suggests practicing gratitude for the gifts in your life can actually help manage stress and decrease depression.
Get Your ZZZZs
When it comes to aging and mental health, the impact of sleep is often overlooked. The truth is, getting enough sleep is not a luxury. Lack of it can affect mood, energy levels, mental sharpness, and ability to cope with stress. Strive for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Find a Purpose
Finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning is essential to our mental health and wellbeing. That can mean creating a masterpiece in the garden, building your dream model in a workshop, sharing a special interest with a group of like-minded peers, caring for a loved one, friend or pet, or volunteering your time for others. Any pursuit that boosts your spirits and your self-esteem supports your mental health.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Spending time outdoors in nature is mentally therapeutic. Whether you are hiking with friends, planting flowers, or just finding your bliss on a park bench, getting outside can help us appreciate the gifts of nature and the beauty in our lives.
Talk to a Professional
If after checking in with your emotional self, you find you are feeling overly anxious and depressed, or unable to deal with stress or grief, don’t ignore the signs. Your mental health may need the support of a professional who understands and can help you get back on an even keel.
The aging process presents obvious physical changes and challenges. We face them by working to keep our bodies as strong and fit as possible. The toll that advancing years takes on our mental health may be less obvious but is equally—if not more—important to address.