6 ways to take care of your mental wellbeing
The events of the past three years have been challenging for everyone, including seniors, so it’s more important than every to look after our mental wellbeing. Read on for 6 simple ways to help you age well and live fully…
1. Stay sociable
An 80-year Harvard University study, spanning different ages, genders, races, and economic status, found that there’s a direct correlation between social connection and mental health. Those who are more socially connected to family, friends and community tend to be happier, physically healthier, and live longer than those who are less well connected.1
Belonging to Virtual Village East is a wonderful way to enjoy a wide variety of activities and meet like-minded people. You could also consider joining a local club (e.g a book club or church group), taking up a new hobby, or taking a trip somewhere new.
2. Keep it positive
Having a ‘glass-half-full’ attitude can have numerous health benefits – and may even prolong your life! One recent study showed that a positive attitude to ageing can add an average of 7.5 years to your life, while another study showed that those with a history of heart disease were 13% less likely to have a heart attack if they were positive thinkers.2
Simply smiling more – even fake smiling – can help to reduce your heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations. Another tip is to practice ‘reframing’ – try to find the bright side of a stressful or anxious situation. Experts also recommend building resilience by accepting that change is just a part of life, and facing problems rather than just waiting for them to go away.
3. Find purpose
Having a purpose helps keeps life more rewarding and fulfilling and there’s growing evidence that it’s linked to better health and wellbeing in older adults3 Studies show that individuals are less likely to develop cognitive impairment including Alzheimer’s disease when they have a strong sense of purpose.4
So how can you create more purpose in your life? You could try volunteering at a local op shop, club or charity. Or take up a hobby that involves making or creating something, such as gardening, woodwork or knitting. Looking after grandchildren or pets also provides purpose (and companionship and cuddles!).
4. Keep mentally fit
Stretching your brain is as important as stretching your body – and you’re never too old to try something new! Exercising the brain not only strengthens neural pathways (the pathways where our memories live) but also builds new ones.
Keep your brain active by reading, writing, watching the news and enjoying conversations with others. Try doing puzzles every day to improve your mental speed and short-term memory, study a foreign language or learn a new word each day (Wordle is a popular daily online word game enjoyed by many).
5. Breathe deeply
Breathing deeply not only transports healthy oxygen to our brains, it also ignites electrical activity, which helps us remember things. Research shows that even just 30 minutes of simple meditation and breathing can increase the amount and density of grey matter in our brains – the part of the brain that’s most associated with learning.
Aim to stop and breathe deeply several times a day using the ‘rule of 5’ – try to take in deep breaths to the count of five, hold for five, and release for five – at least five times a day.
6. Sleep on it
Instead of lying awake worrying about a decision or problem, try ‘sleeping on it’. There’s actually a scientific basis for this advice – during REM sleep, our brain ‘remembers’ emotional experiences and removes the associated feelings. What’s more, many studies have shown that improving sleep over time can lead to less anxiety, depression, and stress, and increased life satisfaction.5
So, if something is weighing on your mind, try ‘sleeping on it’ – it’s a great way to help improve your emotional and mental wellbeing.