Prioritizing your mental health is just as important as prioritizing your physical health – especially when you consider the high rates of depression among seniors. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says that more than 6.5 million American seniors suffer from depression. So what are some steps you can take to look after your cognitive wellness? These tips for good mental health are a great place to start.
Tips for Good Mental Health
As we age, it often grows harder to actively seek out time with friends and family. However, those social ties are a key way of prioritizing your mental health. Numerous studies outline the mental health benefits of strong social ties, including those with family members. Find ways to stay connected with friends and family, including regular phone calls, family shopping trips, dinner parties, or vacations. You can also work to form stronger connections with neighbors and reconnect with old friends via social media or even handwritten letters.
Exercise keeps you fit and healthy, but it also offers serious mental health benefits. Fortunately, you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of physical activity. One 2014 study found that just one 60-minute dance class a week led to significant improvements in depression symptoms. Your exercise routine can be as easy as going for a daily walk or doing chair exercises if you have limited mobility. Keep in mind that outdoor exercise is also an ideal way to boost your mental health. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, which helps our brains release feel-good chemicals. Try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day – and make sure to protect yourself with sunglasses and sunscreen.
Keep Your Brain Sharp
If you find your mental health declining, your brain might benefit from a challenge. Keep your brain sharp and active with activities like crossword puzzles, Sudoku games, or jigsaw puzzles. If you’d like to get friends in on the fun, you can start a bridge club or challenge your neighbors to a chess tournament. Not interested in games but still want to challenge your brain? Consider taking a class at your local community college or through online resources.
Reach Out to Others
Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that mental health fluctuates from time to time. If you feel depressed or anxious, start by being gentle with yourself. Know that it’s okay to ask for help. Reach out to family members or friends, and talk to your doctor if your low mood continues. Although it may be tempting to hide your feelings, don’t suffer in silence.
As we get older, we often concentrate on keeping our bodies healthy – but keeping our minds healthy is just as important. Fortunately, the mental health conversation has come a long way in recent years, resulting in a wide variety of resources for seniors. So if you’re looking for more tips for good mental health, check out the National Council on Aging’s Behavioral Health Webinars and Behavioral Health Programs.
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